KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 — An influential US Muslim scholar has urged the Malaysian government to stop barring non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” to refer to God, labeling the decision a “tragic mistake.”
Writing in the online newspaper The Huffington Post this week, Muhammad Musri, who is president of the American-Islam and of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, argued that words are often borrowed when cultures overlap and because of Islam’s predominance in Malaysia, the word “Allah” became the standard term used by Malaysians to refer to God.
“I am a Muslim scholar and an Imam who has memorized the Qur’an. And I’m fully convinced that the Malaysian court’s decision runs counter to the core values and spirit of Islam,” he said.
In his opinion piece titled, “Besmirching Allah’s name by trying to protect it”, the religious scholar called for the reversal of the ban, urging the local court system to “correct” the “tragic mistake.”
He did acknowledge, however, that he was no an expert in the “local dynamics” surrounding the ban.
Musri said his understanding regarding the situation in Malaysia was that some non-Muslims in Malaysia have been accused of trying to “woo” Muslims away from their faith by using the word “Allah” to refer to their God.
“To the degree that the accusations are true, such behavior should be condemned—not because other faith traditions don’t have the right to engage Muslims in religious dialogue in the hope of converting them, but because misrepresentation is always unacceptable,” he said.
But Musri also reminded that non-Muslim faiths have been using the word “Allah” in their spoken liturgies and printed materials, and that the word has been used in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, Turkish, and in many translations of Hebrew and Christian scriptures.
“Punishing for the use of a word that’s so ingrained in the daily life and worship of non-Muslims guarantees a backlash,” he said.
He expressed concern that the word, which he said should symbolise “the ultimate in love and justice”, could instead symbolise “hate and oppression” for some.
The “Allah” row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Catholic Church’s weekly the Herald’s newspaper permit.
The paper won a judicial review of the then Home Minister’s decision on the grounds that its constitutional rights had been violated, triggering an appeal from the federal government.
In October last year, the Court of Appeal ruled that the constitutional rights of the publisher had not been infringed.
In its ruling, the court said the word “Allah” as not integral to the Christian faith and said that allowing such an application would cause confusion in the Muslim community.
Last week, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department raided a bible importer’s premsies in Petaling Jaya and confiscated over 300 copies of the Bible in Malay and Iban. The raid was based on a 1988 state law that bans non-Muslims from using the word “Allah”.
After all that is said and still saying,
Mr. Narinder Singh, a FMT(Free Malaysia dated 9/2014) team member has this to say, “Please stop confusing God further”.