By Al Arabiya
One of Malaysia’s leading religious authorities, PAS Syura Council, decided to ban non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” when describing “God” in their religious publications, a local website reported Monday.
While the word “Allah” was universal and had been used by pre-Islamic Arabs, PAS Syura Council ruled that it could not be translated in non-Muslim publications to denote for the word “God.”
“Therefore, translating ‘God’ or ‘Lord’ from any non-Muslim religious book into the word ‘Allah’ is forbidden because it is wrong in terms of meaning and use, does not fulfill the actual requirement and can bring confusion,” The Star website reported the council saying in a statement signed by PAS spiritual adviser, Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, and his deputy, Datuk Haron Din.
“Therefore, it must be prevented,” the statement confirmed.
The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, PAS, has responded to a re-ignited debate surrounding the use of the Arabic word for God, ‘’Allah’’, as Christian groups claim the right to use the term in their own religious scripts.
The Islamist political party has defended its exclusive right to use the word “Allah.”
They suggest that non-Islamic minority groups could use the Malay word for God “Tuhan” in their Malay-language Bible, PAS newspaper Harakahdaily reported late December.
PAS information chief Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man said: “There are sensitive elements such as the Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) and Allah, which must be used in the correct context, otherwise there could be unease in a multi-religious society in view of the present situation.”
Referring to the various editions of Bible, Tuan Man said that manuscripts referred to a ‘God’ or ‘Lord’. He added that the Christians in West do not refer to God as ‘Allah’ in their religious texts.
The debate was revived after the Malaysian Multi-Racial Democratic Action Party’s secretary general, Lim Guan Eng, broadcast a Christmas message urging the Federal government to permit Malay-Language Bibles to publish the word ‘Allah’.
Malaysian Catholics and the ongoing debate
In early May 2008 Malaysian Catholics secured the right to initiate a legal battle against the government ban on the use of the word ‘Allah’ in their Herald Malaysia Catholic news publication, AFP reported.
In 2007 the Muslim-dominated government declared that ‘Allah’ could only be used by Muslims and threatened to close down The Herald newspaper if it defied the prohibition.
January 2008 saw the Herald Malaysia battle to keep its publishing license.
The Newspaper won out as High Court judge Lau Bee Lan overruled government objections, saying they were “without merit and therefore dismissed”.
Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of The Herald, welcomed the decision which paves the way for a judicial review of the government ban.
“I am very pleased that we can now proceed. We will see what will happen at the next stage,” he said.
The argument is being conducted in an environment of increased inter-ethnic tensions.
Malaysia is dominated by Muslim Malays, many minority ethnic Chinese and Indians have become concerned over the growing “Islamization” of the country.
In recent months there have been controversies over a ban on the construction of a Taoist statue on Borneo Island and the destruction of Hindu temples by local authorities.