Religious tension is rising in Malaysia over the Christian community`s use of the Arabic word `Allah` for its own god.
KUALA LUMPUR — Non-Muslims should drop their demand to use “Allah” for their gods as the Arabic word is fundamental to Islamic belief and, therefore, exclusive to Muslims, a former senior religious official was quoted as saying.
Dr Ismail Ibrahim, the former chairman of the National Fatwa Council, Malaysia`s top Islamic body, was weighing in on the latest debate over the Arabic word for “god”, in a row between the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia and its secular ally, the Democratic Action Party.
The issue appears to be a hot-button topic in the run-up to the coming general election.
“Enough is enough, enough with all the other policies, including the ones enshrined in the Constitution that has been claimed for equality, to be granted equal rights.
“Therefore the right to recognise the concept of the divinity in this religion, don`t grab, challenge and manipulate so. The name `Allah` is still something basic and fundamental to Islam.
“The name `Allah`, from a philosophical point, its definition and concept is not equal with the name Tuhan, God, Lord and so on in the usage of other religions,” Dr Ismail was quoted as saying by local newspaper Sinar Harian in its front-page report yesterday.
Dr Ismail added that those who insisted “Allah” be allowed for use in Malay bibles should desist due to linguistic and cultural differences.
He gave the example that Arabs could swear by the word “Wallahi” hundreds of times in their daily conversation. But Dr Ismail noted that the oath cannot be compared to what Muslim Malaysians understood by the term in the local language and that this difference between an ordinary oath and the Syariah term was explained in the Quran.
“The same, therefore, with the use of the name `Allah` that is being attempted to be compared with other languages, especially Arabic, even though this comparison should be understood from a linguistic and cultural angle between Malay and Arabic,” Dr Ismail said.
He urged the parties to not look for petty reasons to justify the usage of “Allah” for the Christian god.
Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia`s 28.3-million population, with many in East Malaysia using the Malay language and the word “Allah” to refer to their God.
In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug of war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.
But the legal tussle over the use of the word “Allah” is unresolved.
The Catholic Church is still barred from publishing the word in its newspaper, despite winning a High Court decision on Dec 31, 2009.
© 2012. MediaCorp Press Ltd.