Christians in Malaysia Ask Government to Stop Discriminatory Court Case Against Bible

ICC Note: In Malaysia Christians have been using the Arabic word for God, ‘Allah’, in their translation of the Bible since 1612. In recent years more radical Islamic groups have taken serious issue with this and demanded Christians stop using the word and discard any Bibles using the word as well. In 2009 a Malaysian court ruled that a Catholic newspaper could continue to use the word ‘Allah’ to describe God, setting off a series of protests and attacks on churches. Later it was discovered that the government has been impounding shipments of Bibles into Malaysia. The Prime Minister issued a “ten point plan” that Christians believe gives them the right to continue using their translation of the Bible, however the government is continuing in the courts to appeal the Catholic churches right to use the word “Allah.” In this article one Archbishop argues for why the government should drop its case. 

8/11/2013 Malaysia (themalaymailonline) – Putrajaya’s appeal against the 2009 High Court ruling giving the Catholic Church the right to use the word “Allah” is inconsistent with the Najib administration’s 10-point solution in April 2011, said Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam.

Pakiam noted that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had issued the 10-point deal despite knowing of the Home Ministry’s appeal in 2010, saying that the 2011 solution amounted to Putrajaya’s nod over the High Court’s landmark decision.

“I am advised by my solicitors and I verily believe that in light of the letter dated 11.4.2011, the Government of Malaysia (the 1st and 2nd Appellants) logically ought to have discontinued their appeal,” Pakiam said in an affidavit that was made available to The Malay Mail Online today, referring to the Home Ministry and the government.

In the affidavit filed in July together with an application to strike out the case, Pakiam laid down the arguments on why he considered the 10-point deal as rendering the government’s appeal as being an “academic” case.

Pakiam said the April 11, 2011 letter could be seen as a recognition and acceptance by the government of the Christians’ rights to use the word “Allah”, after the community was told it was free to print Bibles here in languages using the word.

“The letter dated 11.4.2011 demonstrates that the Government of Malaysia (the 1st and 2nd Appellants) recognises and accepts the rights of Christians to use the word ‘Allah’ by virtue of Christians being allowed to freely import and locally print Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia and in the indigenous languages of Sabah and Sarawak.”

Pakiam also argued that the letter acknowledged that the Christians’ use of the word would not threaten national security and public peace.

He went on to say that it purportedly shows the government’s acceptance of the Catholic Church’s right to use the Arabic word in Christian publications, including its weekly publication Herald.

“By extension, the letter dated 11.4.2011 is also therefore clear and unequivocal evidence of the 1st and 2nd Appellant’s recognition and acceptance of the Respondent’s right to use the word ‘Allah’ in Christian publications such as Herald-The Catholic Weekly which makes frequent references to these Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia.

“Finally, the letter dated 11.4.2011 amounts to an acceptance of the decision of the High Court dated 31.12.2009 which quashed the 1st and 2nd Appellants’ decision.

“In light of the unequivocal representation made to the Christian community permitting the use of the word Allah, there is no longer any legitimacy in the appeal,” said Pakiam, the Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

The letter was seen as a move to quell the Christian community’s unhappiness over the government’s impounding shipments of the bibles, due to the presence of the word “Allah” in its reference to the Christian God.

Last month, the CFM had urged the Najib administration to honour its 10-point solution, following reignited debate over the non-Muslims’ right to use the word “Allah”.

Christians are Malaysia’s third-largest religious population at 2.6 million people, according to statistics from the 2010 census, behind Muslims and Buddhists.

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