|Allah in Arabic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The Malaysian people and government forget that God belongs to the whole world. I would have thought the court ruling will soon be made unfinished, but it did not. Holding strong to this court ruling it is not only tantamount to the systematic destruction of the language and culture of the Bumiputera community in Sabah and Sarawak,but also does damage to all other languages where they use "Allah" as title for the the Divine Creator.
Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok said the word “Allah” has been part and parcel of the community’s language for generations and has become “embedded” in every aspect of their culture, including for the Bumiputera Christians, who make up the majority of Malaysia’s Christian population.
The government’s prohibition and the Federal Court’s denial for the Catholic Church to appeal for the right to publish the “Allah” in its weekly newspaper, had made the Bumiputera Christians feel they had been wronged, said the Sarawakian senior clergyman.
“We feel there has been a miscarriage of justice. It is insidious. It is tantamount to an act of language and culture genocide,” said Bolly, who also chairs the Association of Churches in Sarawak.Malaysia’s Bumiputera Christians are accustomed to praying in their native tongues and the national language, Bahasa Malaysia. Their bibles, scriptures and hymns too have been translated into their respective indigenous languages, many of which contain the controversial “Allah” word as reference to God.
In its landmark ruling on June 23, a seven-judge panel at the top court had in a majority decision dismissed the Catholic Church’s bid to overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision last year, which held that the word of Arabic origin was not “integral” to the religious practice of Malaysia’s Christians.
The Federal Court has however noted that the “integral” comment in the Court of Appeal was non-binding on other cases as it was just a remark made in passing.
The Catholic Church recently applied for a review of the Federal Court’s June decision while a Sabah evangelical church, Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), succeeded in clearing the first hurdle for its “Allah” challenge to be retried at the High Court, providing a glimmer of hope for Malaysia’s native Christians.
Those people should know that all people who speak Arabic or do have words in their language which came from Arabic, will have "Allah" for the title of "God", be it atheists, Hindus, Jews, Christians or Muslims. It is not a word which Muslims can claim only for themselves. In case such a thing happens all sorts of groups could claim singular words in any language claim for their own use, and forbidding others to use it in their own daily language.
Syed Putra Jamalull writes:
This whole problem can be traced to the home ministry directive way back in 1986 prohibiting non muslims from using certain arabic terms that snowballed malay intolerance. Who was the home minister then? It could either be Musa Hitam or Dr M. Just like books and ideas, words should never be prohibited from being used as its the foundation.Mark Beaumont, senior lecturer in Islam and mission at the London School of Theology, says that while there is controversy regarding the way that God and Allah are referred in Malaysia, in other parts of the world it's considered far less of a contentious issue.
"In the Arab speaking world there's no difficulty in calling God 'Allah' – they've been doing it in the Christian church and in the Bible for hundreds of years,"he explains. Which is logical, because it is a word like any other word in the Arabic language and is in that language also used to indicate other gods that the Most High Divine Creator of heaven and earth form the Abrahamic faiths. In the early days of Egypt Pharao was also called Allah.
Muslims also should be aware that in many countries is spoken about "Allah" in respect, presenting the Divine Supreme Being, Whose Name was also given to His People, the Israelites and should come to be known all over the world as Jehovah.
In several churches not always is used the Name, but more often the title of the Elohim, as such
"In the Coptic Church in Egypt, the church in Syria, Jordan, Iraq and even Iran, it's always been the practice to call God 'Allah' using the Arabic form. Although the Arabic Bible wasn't translated fully before Islam came, it's obvious that people were reading the Gospels using 'Allah' before the rise of Islam.Whatever people want to believe about creation and all that, accepting or not believing in a Divine Creator, they should know that in the ancient history of the Middle East, 'Allah' was the equivalent of 'Elohim', the Hebrew word for the Most High God.
While it may be mostly Malaysian Muslims who are offended by the Christian use of the word 'Allah', many Christian believers the last decennials also have been reluctant to use the Name of God (Jehovah) as well as His title "Allah". With the growing of non-trinitarian Christians and with the growing of the Islamic faith more Christians find the use of "Allah" to be controversial.
|in Arabic language. The book was written by the end of 16th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Lots of Christians and Muslims do think they have a different God. This makes that people wonder if it is really possible to reconcile the name 'Allah' with the God of the Bible?
"Anything is possible! You just have to think about the person who is saying 'I believe in Allah,'"Beaumont insists.
"When I lived in Morocco, there was a Christian man who was being interrogated by the police. He had grown up as a Muslim but came to know Christ and became a Christian. He was told to confess his faith, and he said:
Normally Jews, Christians and Muslims should have one and the same God, but I do agree with Jews and Muslims, in case certain Christians take Jesus to be the God of gods, than I as a Christian would also dare to question those trinitarian Christians if they have the same God as me.'There is no God but God, and Jesus Christ is my saviour and Lord'. He confessed it in Arabic, using the word 'Allah', and so he was quite happy to use the Muslim testimony of faith as a Christian because of course we also believe there is no God but God! He was able to affirm the basic statement of faith for Muslims – There is no God but Allah – but wasn't able to affirm Mohammed as God's prophet, which is the second part of it.
An other difficulty by Muslims is that they do get more and more a distorted image of Christians and cannot come to see that a person can really embrace a genuine faith in Christ Jesus, accepting this rabbi and prophet as their Messiah, but still believing in the Only One True God.
Beaumont also says:
"It's usually not that big a difficulty using the word 'Allah' and filling it with a Christian meaning. There are of course people in the West who worry about that – it makes some Christian missionaries feel uncomfortable, and I can understand that – but it's not my personal position."Beaumont contends that it is not only just possible to use Islamic terminology while offering a Christian meaning, but it is, in fact, a vital part of helping Muslims to understand the message of Christ.
"I favour beginning where Muslims are, with what they understand, and trying to draw them into another way of thinking," he explains.According to him
"The word 'God' came when the Bible was translated into Anglo-Saxon, and comes from a pagan name for a deity – it's a northern European understanding.and as such in our regions it is also used regularly for indicating higher or in the picture standing figures, like fashion queens, film-stars, sports-favourites, etc.
So when Christians have strict view on using the word 'Allah' but are very happy to use the King James translation of the Bible, or even more recent, I smile to myself,"Beaumont says.
"Language can take a word and change it – you can fill an old word with a new meaning, and that's what's going on here. Some people feel uncomfortable with that – they say 'you can't fill an old wineskin with new wine' but nobody says you can't use the Anglo-Saxon word for God.
"There's also a parallel with William Carey, who translated the Bible into Bengali and used the word 'Ishvara' – 'Ishvara created the heavens and the earth' – and that's the word Christians in India still use today.
"Ishvara is the God Hindus believe created the earth, and so Carey thought it would be best word for the Biblical creator – it's interesting to see how different translations use local deities to help explain the Bible, rather than 'Elohim'."
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