Hornbill Unleashed

April 29, 2013

‘Allah’ is more than just a word

Bob Teoh

With the Perkasa duo, Ibrahim Ali and Zulkifli Noordin, entering the fray as Umno-sponsored parliamentary candidates, racism and religious bigotry is set to rear its ugly head again, especially over the ‘Allah’ controversy.

A manifestation of such extremism is the extent to which fringe Malay groups like Perkasa would go to advance their agenda. Cause for concern is their incendiary speeches over the controversy of the use of the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God by non-Muslims. Ibrahim even suggested recently an open season for burning bibles (pesta membakar Alkitab). Nothing can be more seditious and incendiary. Yet this was tolerated by the authorities.

Perkasa president Ibrahim AliPerkasa president Ibrahim (left) is seeking re-election as Pasir Mas MP in Kelantan as an Umno-friendly candidate against PAS. The Umno candidate has withdrawn by not submitting his nomination papers to make way for Ibrahim. Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not only patron of Perkasa but it was he who suggested that Ibrahim be fielded as an Umno-BN candidate in this general elections.

Perkasa vice-president, Zulkifli Noordin, has moved from his Kulim Bandar Baru MP seat in the north to challenge Khalid Samad of PAS in Shah Alam, Selangor, on the Umno-BN ticket. Like Ibrahim, he was previously elected on the opposition ticket but later crossed over to be BN-friendly Independent MPs.

On the surface, the controversy is deceptively simple. It boils down to one thing; can non-Muslims use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. Perkasa, BN and the Muslim establishment maintain that the word is exclusive to Muslims. Their opponents in the Pakatan Rakyat coalition say they have no problem with the issue as the word existed even before the arrival of Islam.

But in the battle for the Malay heartland, PAS, the Islamic party within the opposition coalition, was forced to back away under the onslaught by Umno and Perkasa.

But the truth is that the ‘Allah’ controversy is more than just a word. Indeed, all states and federal territories have not only passed fatwas covering more than three dozen words that non-Muslims are prohibited from using. These fatwas which are seemingly applicable only to Muslims have been gazetted by the respective state authorities. This in effect makes them applicable even to non-Muslims.

For instance, a fatwa was passed in Sabah under the Enakmen Pentadbiran Undang-Undang Islam 1992 and was gazetted on June 1, 2003 where 32 words are prohibited to non-Muslims. These included Allah (God), Ibadah (Worship), Iman (Faith), Rasul (Apostle or messenger), Injil (Gospel), Nabi (Prophet), Wahyu (Revelation) and much more.

The first of such fatwas was gazetted by the Terengganu state government under Umno in 1980. The following year, the Alkitab or the Malay-language Bible on grounds that it is a threat to national security by Mahathir. The ban has since been modified to a restricted ban but the Alkitab is still considered a threat to national security.

Two-thirds of Christians affected

The ‘Allah’ controversy is more than just a word. It is about freedom of religion and about unreasonable government policies and laws that seek to place non-Muslims under the scope of Islamic enactments and jurisdiction.

Two-thirds of the church in Malaysia is made up of bumiputera Christians in Sabah and Sarawak who use the Alkitab which contains the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. They view the prohibition on the use of the ‘Allah’ word and restricted use of the Alkitab as infringing on their freedom of religion.

NONESome of their leaders have pointed out that as bumiputera Christians, they are also accorded a special position by Article 153 of the federal constitution in much the same manner as Malays and other bumiputeras.

They also point to the Sabah 20-point and Sarawak 18-point Agreements signed with Malaya upon the formation of Malaysia. The first of these is freedom of religion.

The ‘Allah’ controversy attracted attention at the recent Association of Churches of Sarawak biennial general meeting in Kuching. In his address, ACS chairperson the Anglican Bishop Rev Bolly Lapok, who is also the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in South-East Asia, pointed out that, “It is a grave mistake to cuddle extremism even for a minor political exigency because to do so is to expose Malaysians to something so base and so evil.”

He said the time has come for the church to speak up and the “way forward is no longer found in the status quo which expects the church to remain keeping her mouth shut.”


BOB TEOH was formerly a senior court reporter. He authored the book ‘Allah – More Than A Word’ and was once secretary-general of the Jakarta-based Confederation of Asean Journalists.

14 Comments »

  1. Is BN Clean and Just as claimed by SUPP? Sibu voters must know that very recently the Sibu Prison has confiscated all BM version of the Bibles meant for Christians who are serving prison sentence in Sibu Prison.

    Comment by Patricia Linggam — April 30, 2013 @ 10:19 AM | Reply

    • BN Clean and Just is for a good laugh. Its a joke to lighten up the tense atmosphere during this campaign period.

      And do not forget who are claiming to be clean and just and what do they actually do to the natives.

      Confiscating bibles meant to reform and change a prisoner is totally unjust an unclean act by the prison authority. They should also confiscate quran which also contain the word ALLAH from that prison if they are to be fair and to up hold the LAW!!

      These Ass Hole idiots running the prison should know that SIBU is in SARAWAK not Malaya and we Sarawakians are allowed to use the WORD even in our prisons!

      Comment by brian — April 30, 2013 @ 2:28 PM | Reply

  2. What a low IQ to disallow non-muslims to use the word Allah. Pening!!!???

    Comment by sslk — April 29, 2013 @ 9:29 PM | Reply

    • TOTAL UMNO IQ DOES NOT HIT THE ZERO MARK!

      Comment by AH LAH — April 30, 2013 @ 2:02 AM | Reply

  3. Tan Kai has ran out of issues and wanted to debate about the implication of Hudud laws on non Muslims with YB Chong Chien Jin. First of all, Tan Kai is not a Muslim and he knows nothing about Islamic laws and Hudud and so is YB Chong. Islamic laws should be debated by Muslims themselves and not between non Muslims.

    Comment by Ahmad Madon — April 29, 2013 @ 12:43 PM | Reply

    • Tan kai will certainly speak the name Allah and many others. JAIS should take note and charge him. Ahmad Madon is right, Islamic Laws and Hudud should be for muslim only to debate and talk on, and for the others it’s just isn’t applicable either to debate or implement.

      Comment by ringo — April 29, 2013 @ 2:14 PM | Reply

    • “Islamic laws should be debated by Muslims themselves and not between non Muslims.”

      If that is the case then put it into law that we non muslims will not be subjected and binded by it when it is legislated and implimented as law. Tell and inform us non muslims that we will only be thrown into prison instead of having our hands or some other body parts chopped off if we did something bad even to muslims. Guarantee us the freedom to do what we non muslims does best like rearing pigs and eating pork openly and engage in other non halal activities including the production and consumption of beers and liquors,just to name two popular vice of the non muslims!

      Now,why can’t we non muslims debate about Islamic laws and hudud again?

      Comment by brian — April 29, 2013 @ 3:46 PM | Reply

      • Hudud law is the Islamic criminal law right? I think so and I am glad there is not a single Malaysian in Kelantan who has lose his limbs and head. So Brian, do not be brainwashed. It will be better to read about Hudud than assumed it will bind non Muslims. Selamat Ubah.

        Comment by Richard Lee — May 1, 2013 @ 7:35 AM | Reply

    • WHERE IS RIDHUAN TEE WHEN WE WANT HIM TO GIVE VERBAL SUPPORT?

      Comment by AH LAH — April 30, 2013 @ 2:03 AM | Reply

      • Dia sudah masuk ketuanan, darah dan daging saja belum masuk!

        Comment by brian — April 30, 2013 @ 2:14 PM | Reply

  4. Finally, the church has spoken! NO longer silence is golden

    Good for you Rv Bolly Lapok. First they ban the word “Allah”. Next thing they may burn the Bible for real and then move to demolishing churches in the near future.

    Praying to God is one thing but we as humans, need to play our part as well.

    Comment by dyakz — April 29, 2013 @ 10:36 AM | Reply

  5. An idiot will always remain idiot..Ibrahim Ali and UMNO’s idiocy is unbearable.

    Comment by Pemerhati — April 29, 2013 @ 10:29 AM | Reply

  6. No institution in the world has the right to ban the universe from using the word Allah.

    Comment by Peter Sawai — April 29, 2013 @ 9:42 AM | Reply

    • Only the Ketuanan champions from racist Perkasa, maybe?

      Comment by brian — April 29, 2013 @ 3:49 PM | Reply


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