By Clara Chooi
Assistant News Editor
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 – It is unconstitutional to ban anyone from using the word “Allah”, the Malaysian Gurdwara Council (MGC) said today, insisting that the National Fatwa Council’s 2010 edict on the word could not apply to non-Muslims.
In a statement here, MGC president Jagir Singh pointed out that the council does not have direct jurisdiction over non-Muslims and could not issue fatwas to bar the community from using a specific word.
He also cited Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, which he said does not allow such a restriction against non-Muslims.
“Fatwas are advisory in nature and do not apply to non-Muslims. Moreover, any fatwa issued that contradicts the supreme law of the land (the federal constitution) would be illegal and void,” he said in the statement issued yesterday.
The latest polemic over the use of the word “Allah” by Christians to refer to God hit media headlines last week when Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (picture) spoke on the issue in his Christmas message.
The DAP secretary-general triggered uproar when he urged the federal government to allow the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian Bible.
He pointed out that this has been allowed in Sabah and Sarawak for the last 50 years and practised in the Middle East for more than a thousand years.
But DAP’s partner PAS leapt into the fray immediately to dispute Lim’s call, insisting that Christians should not use it in the Alkitab as it does not reflect the actual meaning of “God” in the original text.
PAS also said that using the word “Allah” in the Alkitab will confuse both Christians and Muslims.
In Penang, state Mufti Hassan Ahmad berated Lim for raising the issue and reminded him of the council’s 2010 edict, where it had banned the use of the word by non-Muslims, along with 39 others.
But DAP chairman Karpal Singh came out to defend his party comrade yesterday, reminding Muslims that those of other faiths apart from Christianity also use the word “Allah”.
As an example, Karpal said that the word “Allah” appears 37 times in the Sikh bible, while the orang aslis, the babas in Malacca and even the Bengali language uses the word.
Jagir also reminded today of the 2009 High Court decision on the Catholic publication Herald’s use of the word where it was ruled that laws restricting non-Musims from using the word would be “unconstitutional”.
Yesterday, former council chairman Datuk Dr Ismail Ibrahim was reported as saying that non-Muslims should stop demanding to use the word “Allah” as the Arabic word is fundamental to Islamic belief and therefore exclusive to Muslims.
“Enough is enough, enough with all the other policies, including the ones enshrined in the Constitution that has been claimed for equality, to be granted equal rights... therefore the right to recognise the concept of the divinity in this religion, don’t grab, challenge and manipulate so. The name ALLAH is still something basic and fundamental to Islam.
“The name Allah, from a philosophical point, its definition and concept is not equal with the name Tuhan, God, Lord and so on in the usage of other religions,” he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian in its front-page report yesterday.
Christians form 9.2 per cent of Malaysia’s 28.3 million-strong population, with many of them in east Malaysia using the Malay language and the word “Allah” to refer to their God.
In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim God.
A legal tussle over the use of the word “Allah” remains unresolved, with the Catholic Church still barred from publishing the word in its weekly newspaper, despite winning a High Court decision on December 31, 2009.
This is due to the Home Ministry filing an appeal in January 2010 against the High Court’s decision, which have since stagnated in the courts as no date has been set for its hearing.
Last year, shipments of the Alkitab, the Malay-language Bible catering to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Bumiputera Christians, were blocked or confiscated at ports, before the government finally bowed to pressure and released them.