PUTRAJAYA, Oct 14 — Borneo churches should stop using “Allah” in their worship and within the Al-Kitab after the Court of Appeal ruled today against allowing the Catholic Church to use the Arabic word for god in its newspaper, Muslim groups insisted today.
Perkasa vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin said that the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian bible, could continue to be distributed in Malaysia, but stressed that the holy book must not contain 32 words, including “Allah”, prohibited to non-Muslim by Islamic enactments in some states.
“I have no problem if they want to publish that without those words, not just ‘Allah’, but 32 words in the Syariah Criminal Enactment,” Zulkifli told reporters after the court decision here today.
Former PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa said that the appellate court ruling clearly indicated that the word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims, when asked if Bumiputera Christians in Sabah and Sarawak could continue using the word in their church services.
“So, everyone should stick to that decision,” Nasharuddin told reporters.
Zulkifli also stressed that the Sabah and Sarawak churches should be educated on today’s court ruling that found that the word “Allah” is not an integral part of the Christian faith.
“For all these years, the white American has wrongly used the word ‘negro’ and ‘nigger’. Suddenly they found out it’s been wrongly used, so they changed. Why not you emulate that?” said the Malay and Muslim right-wing group leader.
When pointed out that Bumiputera Christians have used the word “Allah” long before Malaysia was formed in 1963, Zulkifli said: “They’ve been using it during the colonisation by the Western world on the Muslim country.”
“You can’t colonise people, use their word, and then you claim it’s yours. I mean, that’s ridiculous, isn’t it?” he added.
Borneo churches said in a statement last Friday that prohibiting Christians from calling their god “Allah”, which has been part of church practice for centuries, violates the 1963 Malaysia agreement.
The East Malaysian church leaders also noted that the 10-point solution issued by the Najib administration in 2011 allows the printing, importation and distribution of the Al-Kitab that contains the word “Allah”.
Zulkifli, however, noted today that Christians in Indonesia stopped referring to God as “Allah” after the song “Allah Peduli” (Allah Cares), by Indonesian singer Agnes Monica, was banned by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council in 2009.
“The Indonesian Christians dropped the word ‘Allah’ and they changed it with ‘Elohim’, so why can’t they do it here?” said Zulkifli.
“They revised the whole bible, the one called Al-Kitab, and you can’t find the word ‘Allah’ there. It’s replaced with the word ‘Elohim’,” he added.
Elohim is a name for God that is often used in the Hebrew bible.
The Court of Appeal ruled unanimously earlier today against allowing the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” in its weekly publication the Herald, saying that the government did not impugn on the Church’s constitutional rights in banning the use of the word.
Justice Datuk Seri Mohamed Apandi Ali, who read out a summary of the judgement, said the home minister had acted well within his powers to disallow the Herald from using the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia section.
Following the judgment, Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali said that it is up to Putrajaya to interpret the court ruling and determine whether other Christian publications should be barred from using the word “Allah”.
“It is up to the government to interpret, whether it’s confined to the Herald or other publications,” Ibrahim told reporters.
When asked if Borneo churches should similarly stop calling God “Allah”, he said that it was up to individuals to “respect the law”.
The Allah case returned to the courts last September, over three years after Putrajaya filed an appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision in favour of allowing Catholic weekly the Herald to continue using the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia section.
The Catholic Church had in July this year moved to strike out the government’s appeal after patience ran out with the lack of progress in the government’s challenge on the decision, which has contributed to festering interfaith ties in the country.
The “Allah” row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s newspaper permit, prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its Constitutional rights.
The 2009 High Court decision, which upheld the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in the Herald, had led to a string of attacks against houses of worship, including the firebombing of a church.