Sunday, February 01, 2009

This is a piece of news which to me is interesting in the bewilderment of the politics in Malaysia. The name Allah is a big issue here. It should not be but it is. For me limiting the use of Allah in Magazines(Bahasa Malaysia section) strictly for Christian use in Malaysia is enough no need to go overboard about it. I never do like Zahid Hamidi whom I lost respect since 1997 when he became the dog to Anwar Ibrahim. With his Islamic Credentials he should know the facts well and not paly with fire but again he did.

Differences over 'Allah' reach a new level

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 — Two members of the Cabinet appear on a collision course over the right of freedom of worship in the country and the use of the word "Allah'' by a Catholic publication.

Their disagreement is a microcosm of the percolating tension in the country among the Muslim authorities and non-Muslims over issues related to race and religion, and could pose one of the most formidable challenges which Datuk Seri Najib Razak will face when he takes over as president of Umno and prime minister next month.

But more immediately, the "Allah'' issue could have an impact on a by-election in Pensiangan, Sabah, which is likely to be called when a court rules on election irregularities soon.

At the centre of the controversy is the use of the world "Allah'' by the Catholic Herald, a weekly publication with a circulation of 14,000.

The Catholic Church said that it has used the word "Allah'' in the Bahasa Malaysia section of the publication for years but the Home Ministry disagreed, saying that the word was the preserve of followers of Islam in Malaysia.

The issue is now before the High Court with the Catholic Church seeking a ruling on the right to continue to use the word "Allah''.

In the interim, the ministry has ruled that the Herald cannot use the word and also directed the weekly to only publish an English section. Due to the intervention of the Cabinet, the Home Ministry withdrew the order preventing the church from publishing a Bahasa Malaysia section.

Since then, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, leader of the Upko political party in Sabah and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, has urged the authorities to wait until the court decision before laying down the law.

He also noted that the usage of the word "Allah" should be viewed from the historical perspective since the terminology had come about when Bahasa Malaysia was used by the people even before Malaysia was formed.

He said it was the language used by the people of the Borneo territories even though English was used in most schools.

Dompok said the usage of "Allah" became more pronounced, especially after the importation of Bibles written in the Indonesian language, which refers to God as "Allah". He said the terminology is widely used in Indonesia and also in Arab countries by Christians.

"So it is a universal terminology used in the Christian world when they are praying in their vernacular language. There is no reason for the Home Ministry to continue harassing the Catholic Herald," he said.

His Cabinet colleague Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi hit back at Dompok yesterday. He told Mingguan Malaysia: "There are some non-Muslim leaders who are asking that permission be granted so that the word Allah can be used, using Indonesia as an example.

"This is Malaysia. Do not equate us with another country. We are an Islamic country as stated in the constitution," he said, adding that there was a hidden agenda to use the word "Allah'' in the Herald.

In raising this issue, he said that a small group of non-Muslim leaders were trying to question the position of Islam in Malaysia. Islam is the official religion under the Federal Constitution while the right of non-Muslims to worship is also protected.

"Don't play with fire and challenge the Muslims. We are willing to do anything to protect our religion," he warned.

Muslims have long feared that Christian groups are bent on preaching and converting followers of Islam. They see the use of the word "Allah'' as a subtle way of spreading Christianity to Muslims — a charge church leaders have dismissed.

It is unlikely that both sides will back down. The Catholic Church has said that it will continue using the word "Allah" until the court decides on the case and Dompok is no shrinking violet.

One senses that when he speaks on this issue, he is representing the Kadazandusun community in Sabah, many of whom are Christian and many who believe their less religious landscape in East Malaysia is being polluted by the narrow-mindedness and chauvinism from federal authorities.

Their sentiment will be tested soon in Pensiangan. In March 2008, Tan Sri Joseph Kurup won the seat uncontested but in September, the Election Court ruled that the result was null and void. Kurup filed an appeal and the case is before the Federal Court. The apex court is expected to rule this month.

In the meantime, Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been meeting church leaders in Sabah to seek the support of the Christian community.

It is unlikely that Ahmad Zahid or other Umno leaders will back down and douse their fiery rhetoric.

This is the election season in the ruling party and candidates are expected to flag their commitment to the race and religion. Ahmad Zahid is seeking one of the three vice-president's positions in Umno.

God's Name: Non-Muslims Calling the Creator "Allah"| Prepared by the Research Committee of IslamToday|

The name "Allah" is the Arabic word that refers to the one true God who created the heavens and the Earth – the God of all the Prophets from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses to Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

The word Allah comes from the Arabic word "ilâh" meaning "deity, god, divine being" combined with the definite article "al". Put together, they make "al-Ilâh" or literally "the God" which is then elided together as "Allah".

Essentially, "Allah" is the literal Arabic equivalent to the English word "God" with a capital "G" while the Arabic word "ilâh" is the literal equivalent of the English word "god" with a lower-case "g".

The Qur'ân uses the name Allah consistently when referring to the message of all of the prophets and to the various beliefs of all of the people.

Even when the Qur'ân quotes people of other religions saying false things about the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, the word Allah is used.

We have, for example, where certain Jews are quoted as saying: "And the Jews say: 'The hand of Allah is tied up!' Their hands shall be shackled, and may they be cursed for what they say. Nay, both His hands are spread out, He bestows as He pleases." [Sûrah al-Mâ'idah: 64]

We have the Christian doctrine of the trinity conveyed in the following verse: "They surely disbelieve who say: 'Lo! Allah is the third of three' when there is no god but the One Allah. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve." [Sûrah al-Mâ'idah: 73]

We also have in the Qur'ân: "And the Jews say: 'Ezra is the son of Allah', and the Christians say: 'The Messiah is the son of Allah'." [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 30]

These verses are in Arabic and use the Arabic name Allah. The fact that the Qur'ân does not shy away from using this word even when it speaks about the falsehood of the people of unbelief shows that the name "Allah" is truly universal, and can be used by anyone to refer to the true Creator of the heavens and the Earth.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) always referred to God as Allah when he discussed the beliefs of the Jews and Christians with him. They did so as well.

We have the challenge between the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to the Christians of Najran about their false belief in the divinity of Christ. The Arabs of Najran were Arab and were certainly speaking Arabic.

We read in the Qur'ân where Allah commands His Messenger: "If any one disputes in this matter with thee, now after (full) knowledge hath come to thee, Say: Come! Let us gather together, our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves: then let us earnestly pray. And invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie." [Sûrah Âl-`Imrân: 61]

The people of Arabia all referred to the Creator of the heavens and the Earth as "Allah", whether they were Jews, Christians, or pagans. This is the reason why, in pre-Islamic times, many people of all three faiths already carried the name `Abd Allah.

They included the Prophet's father `Abd Allah b. `Abd al-Muttalib who died before the Prophet (peace be upon him) was born, as well as the Prophet's cousin `Abd Allah b. Abî Umayyah who only accepted Islam shortly before the conquest of Mecca.

They included the prominent Jewish rabbi of Madinah, `Abd Allah b. Salâm, who became one of the most eminent of the Prophet's Companions. Of course, he had been given the name `Abd Allah by his Jewish family long before Islam.

The measures that have recently been taken in some countries to bar non-Muslims from referring to God as "Allah" in their religious publications are quite unfortunate. The publications is question are ones written in languages where the name used for the Creator of the heavens and the Earth is the name "Allah".

The purpose behind these restrictive measures is the fear that those publications will confuse Muslims who speak those languages and who might read those publications. Be that as it may, the confusion on a global scale which is being caused by the restriction is far worse.

Islamic workers who try convey the message of Islam to Jews and Christians have been struggling against the widely held belief idea that the god of the Muslims is some exotic deity other than the one who sent Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). It has been a long and uphill effort. These recent measures in some countries to ban non-Muslims form using the name Allah have resulted in confirming and entrenching those false suspicions among non-Muslims.

It is the duty of Muslims today to redouble their efforts to teach the people of the world that there is only one true God who created the heavens and the Earth; that all of the prophets and messengers were sent by Him with the same essential teaching: to worship the Creator alone and not set up partners with Him; that Allah is the God of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus – and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

And Allah knows best.


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