The executive government had said "no". Then the High Court said "yes". And now NGOs in Kuala Lumpur are protesting and saying "no".
- Protests in KL, Penang over 'Allah' ruling
Protests were against the use of the word "Allah" in the Herald, a Catholic weekly.
-New Straits Times, Jan 04, 2010
KUALA LUMPUR: Thirteen non-governmental organisations protested here yesterday against the use of the word "Allah" in the Herald, a Catholic weekly.
Ten police reports were also lodged by the NGOs to express their disappointment over the use of the word in the publication. About 100 protesters gathered outside the Sentul district police headquarters about 3pm before 10 representatives were allowed in.
The entourage was led by Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia secretary-general Datuk Dr Ma'amor Osman.
In his police report, Dr Ma'amor said the NGOs requested for an investigation into the publisher and that the publication stop using the word.
"We are acting based on the Rukun Negara, where Kepercayaan Kepada Tuhan (Belief in God), is a general way of describing God in the context of a multiracial country."
Dr Ma'amor said "Allah" was generally used by Muslims to describe Him exclusively.
"The issue is very sensitive, especially for Muslims in the country and has to be dealt with in a proper manner to avoid unnecessary racial tension."
..... On Thursday, High Court judge Lau Bee Lan granted approval to the Herald to continue using the word "Allah", after dismissing the home minister's prohibition on it.
In her decision, Lau declared that under Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, applicant Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam had the constitutional right to use "Allah" in the Herald in the exercise of his right that religions other than Islam might be practised in peace and harmony in the country.
On Feb 16 last year, Pakiam filed for a judicial review on the usage of the word "Allah" in church publications, on the basis that the word was not exclusive to Islam.
The church publishes the Herald, a weekly which is available in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil.
It had challenged the home minister's order to stop using the word "Allah" in a non-Muslim context which was made on Jan 7 last year.
In George Town, a crowd of about 250 people gathered in front of the Penang High Court at Lebuh Light yesterday to show their unhappiness ....
No doubt some Catholics and Muslims might disagree with my preceding statement. If they do, it's because they don't know the religions very well.
The respective stories of Christianity and Islam (and Judaism) are inextricably intertwined, featuring many of the same figures and places in the Middle East. All three religions can be traced to the same common origin.
Historically, Judaism was first. Christianity came next, followed by Islam. But when a Muslim prays, when a Christian prays, when a Jew prays, each of them is praying to the one and the same God that Abraham worshipped.
That's why the three religions are known as the Abrahamic religions. And what does Wikipedia tell us about the word Allah? An excerpt:
- Allah is the standard Arabic word for God. While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, in reference to "God" ...
.... Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, use the word "Allah" to mean "God". The Christian Arabs of today have no other word for 'God' than 'Allah'.
There you go.
In one sense, you could say that the Malaysian controversy is a contest to establish who's entitled to use what word, to refer to the same thing. However, the usefulness of such a contest is unclear to me.
If I were a Muslim, I would probably say, "Oh never mind, let the Catholics go ahead and use the word Allah."
If I were a Catholic, I would probably say, "Oh never mind, let's just drop the word Allah and use the word Tuhan instead."
But then I am neither Muslim nor Catholic. So instead as a member of the human race, I can only say, "Sigh, here we go again, yet another religious spat. Another fine example of love, peace and harmony."
At this point, I can't help but be reminded of Eckhart Tolle. He hails from Germany and is a non-religious spiritual teacher (and no, that is not a oxymoron). Tolle stopped using the word God, because he found that the word means too many different things to different people. Too much historical, social and cultural baggage is attached, and he found that most of it is unhelpful.
So Tolle does not use the word God anymore. Instead he uses the word Being. A new word, a fresh word, a marvellous starting point for rediscovering man's relationship with the divine.
Best of all, with a word like Being, you won't accidentally break anybody's rules about what you can say or think, or cannot say nor think, about ... God.