ICC Note: Christians in Malaysia are under fire once again for using the Arabic word "Allah" to refer to God. A legal organization has claimed that use of the word by non-Muslims is illegal and should be forbidden. Christians in Malaysia have used the word to refer to God for decades and it is also often used in a common Malay language translation of the Bible. The issue has sparked tensions in the past and led to Christian places of worship being attacked.
5/15/2013 Malaysia (UCA News) - An evangelical church group’s Facebook message calling Christians to pray for “Allah’s blessings” on the country has riled up a group of Muslim lawyers who are demanding state Islamic bodies act against what they have branded a “criminal” offence against their creed.
The Muslim Lawyers Society of Malaysia (PPPMM) today accused the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia (NECF) of committing “criminal” blasphemy against Islam by misappropriating the name of the Islamic god for their purposes, even as the dispute is being heard in the Court of Appeal.
“It is an offence for any party to deliberately and continuously use Allah and a few other words with roots from Islam in the context of a non-Islamic religious for any purpose.
“The NECF poster that has clearly misused the sacred name of Allah is obviously a criminal action and breaches the Schedule of (Section 9) Part I of the Enactment that forbids the use of the name of Allah as well as other Islamic terms by non-Muslims,” PPPMM president Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said in a statement.
While the Federal Constitution upholds the right to freedom of religion, nearly all of the 13 states have enacted legislation that allows for control and restriction of the propagation of non-Islamic religions.
A High Court had in 2009 ruled that the Catholic Church had the right to publish the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its newspaper, Herald, as the Arabic word was not exclusive to Islam, contrary to the belief of many Muslim Malaysians.
Issues concerning religion and race in this country of 28 million, where 60 per cent are constitutionally defined as Malay and Muslim, touch a nerve and have sparked violence in the past, leading to attacks on several places of worship nationwide in 2010 following the landmark judgment.
The Home Ministry is appealing High Court judgment and the Court of Appeal is currently hearing an appeal by several state Islamic councils to intervene in the case as well.