The 'Allah' Journey in Malaysia

THE Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) recently released a chronological outline of the Alkitab and the 'Allah' issue to help Christians understand the beginnings of the use of the term 'Allah', the publication of the Alkitab from earliest times, and the subsequent ban on the use of 'Allah' in the Catholic weekly, Herald, and the Alkitab under the Internal Security Act along with its restricted use in the Federation of Malaysia. We highlight here the key developments from the four-page fact sheet which may be viewed in its entirety at the NECF Malaysia website.

 

'Allah' from birth to death

Word used by East Malaysian Bahasa-speaking Christians throughout life
East Malaysian Bahasa-speaking Christians have been using the word 'Allah' in all aspects of their faith throughout their lives - from the moment they were born to the second they die.
'Allah' is used in the full spectrum of life - from the time the baby opens his eyes to the time he permanently closes them.
The word is used in all the rites and rituals from baptism - including child baptism - to marriage, confirmation of baptism, ordination and commissioning of leaders, right down to funerals.
"We use 'Allah' from the time we open our eyes at birth to the time we close our eyes at death," said Alfred Tais, NECF Malaysia Executive Secretary (Bahasa).
Alfred presented the various books in Bahasa Malaysia used by the Sabah Anglican Diocese for the different services and every book is heavily laden with the word 'Allah'.
These books have been around and used by the East Malaysian churches since pre-Merdeka, he said.
"The word 'Allah' is deeply ingrained in every aspect of our lives. How can anyone forbid us from using it? " asked Alfred, a Sabahan Kadazan.
  • 1629 A. C. Ruyl translated the Gospel of Matthew into Bahasa Melayu. 'Allah' is used.
  • 1733 First complete Malay Bible published. Translation of Genesis by M. Leijdecker. "Pada mulanja dedjadikanlah Allah akan swarga dan dunja." (Gen. 1:1).
  • 1879 Second complete Malay Bible. Translation of by H. C. Klinkert. "Bahwa-sanja Allah djoega salamatkoe." (Isaiah 12:2).
  • 1938 Translation of Gospel of John. "Maka pada awal pertama adalah Firman, dan Firman itu bersama-sama dengan Allah." (John 1:1).
  • 1981 The Alkitab banned by order under the Internal Security (Prohibition of Publications) on Dec 2.
  • 1982 The Alkitab banned by order under the Internal Security (Prohibition of Publications) on March 22.
  • 1985/1989 Heads of Malaysian Churches meet in Kuala Lumpur (1985) and Kuching (1989) where they unanimously decide to keep 'Allah' and the Bible Society of Malaysia honour this decision when it publishes the revised Malay Bible, the Alkitab Berita Baik (1996).
  • 1986 Circular letter to all Christian publishers from the Publication Control Division of the Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN) stating four words which are not allowed to be used in Christian publications: Allah, Kaabah, Baitullah and Solat. The prohibition is to maintain public order and prevent any misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians.
  • 1998 First letter (an admonition) to the Catholic weekly, Herald, from KDN not to use 'Allah'.
  • 2002 Second letter to Herald (a show-cause letter) to be answered within 14 days. Subsequently through appeal and Cabinet influence, Herald was granted the use of 'Allah' in its publication.
  • 2005 Letter dated Dec 22 from Kementerian Keselamatan Dalam Negeri allowing Christian publications to be distributed on condition that the front page has a cross with the words "Penerbitan Kristian" (A Christian Publication). This is to prevent confusion among Muslims in Malaysia.
  • 2006 Letter from Kementerian Keselamatan Dalam Negeri allowing the publication of the Bible in Bahasa Melayu in Malaysia with the conditions that it is stamped with the cross and the words "Untuk Penganut Beragama Kristian" (For Christians) and that the BM Bible is to be sold only in Christian premises or shops. The is to prevent confusion of Muslims in Malaysia.
  • 2006 Third letter to Herald (a reprimand). Fourth letter to Herald (a warning). Fifth letter to Herald (another warning).
  • 2006 Home Minister sets condition against the use of 'Allah' on Herald in renewing its publication licence. Herald seeks redress through the courts against the power of the Home Minister to set conditions on the use of the 'Allah' word. Sixth letter to Herald (a showcause letter).
  • 2007 Herald files A Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim on Dec 5. An Application for Judicial Review on the condition cited above.
  • 2008 Customs officers and Home Ministry officials detain the Alkitab at ports of entry and confiscate publications, Sunday School children's books and CDs belonging to Sidang Injil Borneo and Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill. Both parties initiate judicial appeals against the Home Minister.
  • 2008 An Application for Judicial Review for Herald 2009 permit condition is filed.
  • 2009, Dec 31 Herald wins court case against the power of the Home Minister to set conditions on the use of 'Allah' in the Herald publication. Government appeals the court decision.
  • Present Awaiting Appeals Court to hear the case.

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