Wednesday, 21 January 2009

court case over the use of 'Allah'

for all malaysian christians who are following the case of the government's ban on the use of the word 'Allah' for God.

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January 19, 2009 PETALING JAYA, Malaysia (UCAN) --

Parishioners here have held all-night vigils the past two weekends to pray for a favorable outcome to a long-running battle between their Catholic weekly and the government on the use of the word Allah.

For the past few years, Herald has been engaged in a dispute with the government on the use of the Arabic word for God in the section of the weekly printed in Bahasa Malaysia, the national language. The Home Ministry has maintained that Allah refers exclusively to the God of Islam.

Parishioners of the Church of St. Francis Xavier in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur, have prayed overnight in the church on Saturdays, from 7.45 p.m. until 6 a.m., starting on Jan. 10.
One parishioner, who requested anonymity, told UCA News their action intends to show not only the government but also Catholics that all people have the constitutional right to call God Allah.
"It is like forbidding us to call our father 'Daddy,'" she asserted.

In its Jan. 11 issue, Herald informed readers that on Dec. 30, 2008, the eve of the expiry of its publishing permit for that year, the ministry prohibited the printing of the Bahasa Malaysia section until the case is resolved by the High Court. The court has set Feb. 27 for the hearing.

The front-page article said the weekly's publisher, Archbishop Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur, notified the ministry in a Jan. 2 letter that the restriction is in "clear contravention of the spirit and intent of the National Language Act 1967."

According to the report, the archbishop warned that the Church "shall be constrained to seek legal redress in the courts" in the absence of any response.

Published on behalf of the bishops of peninsular Malaysia, Herald is available also in Sabah and Sarawak, the states comprising eastern Malaysia.

In its Jan. 18 issue, it reproduced a Jan. 7 letter from the Secretary of the Quran Publication Control and Text Division of the Home Ministry, addressed to Archbishop Pakiam. The letter said the ministry had reviewed its earlier decision and would allow Herald to print its Bahasa Malaysia section provided the word Allah is not used until the matter has been decided in court.

In the meantime, Archbishop Pakiam has applied for a judicial review of the ministry's directive.
Jesuit Father Simon Yong, the St. Francis Xavier parish priest, responded by e-mail to queries from UCA News. "We are praying that God will be favorable to us in the sense that we feel our right to practice our religion has been curtailed," he said. "We are not happy and we've spoken, but it does seem that our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. God can move hardened hearts. When Jesus wanted to select the 12, he spent a night in prayer."

The priest added that that the prayer vigils show Catholics' resolve in asking God for help after depending for too long on their own strength.

According to 2008 government estimates, the country presently has about 27.7 million people. Previous government figures have indicated that about 60 percent are Muslims, 19 percent are Buddhists, 9 percent are Christians and 6 percent are Hindus.

The Jan. 11 issue of Herald put the number of Catholics in the country at nearly 900,000. It said at least 600,000 of them are from Sabah and Sarawak, and "communicate mainly in Bahasa Malaysia."

4 comments:

Dr. Claude Mariottini said...

Anthony,

I may misunderstood the article but why does the Catholic Church wants to use Allah for the name of God?

Claude Mariottini

anthony said...

it is not just the catholic church in malaysia that is using the word Allah but all churches in malaysia. we have a national language which is bahasa malaysia or malay. the government, on one hand, has a national policy on the language and wants every citizen to use the national language. yet, on the other hand, they realize that if christians use Allah, muslims may be 'confused' according to the government's reasoning. the malays, who are also muslims, also want to claim the term Allah exclusively for Islam only.

but the word 'Allah' has been used a long time ago in our region as the proper malay translation for 'God'. to translate 'Lord', we use the other word 'Tuhan'. the government wants christians to use 'tuhan' and not 'Allah'.

there is a long history of the usage of 'Allah' for 'God' without any objection from the muslims in the past 400 years in our country (Islam came to Malaya in the 15-16th century AD). it is only in the last 20 years that the muslims in the country are objecting to its use by christians out of the fear that our malay bible with the word 'Allah' in it may be used to 'convert' malay muslims to christianity.

Paul said...

Is the court case only on the word "Allah"? Is there still an objection ban on some other words?

anthony said...

the present court case is brought by the catholic church on the ban of the word 'allah'. because the catholic magazine herald was asked not to use the word, the catholic church took it upon herself to fight it out. other christians are lending moral support to the court case as it involves the larger christian body.

there is still a ban on certain key words but this ban is effected at the state levels. each state has its own list of words which christians are banned from using e.g. allah, iman (faith), rasul (apostle) etc. after operation lalang 1987 (the use of the ISA), at least 7 states in malaysia enacted their own state laws on banning certain words.