Jakim again reminds Muslims to protect the use of ‘Allah’

Jakim was at the forefront of a campaign in the past also to ban the use of the Arabic term by non-Muslims.

March 03 2014, 3:20 PM
Jakim again reminds Muslims to protect the use of ‘Allah’
Muslims in Malaysia protesting against the use of 'Allah' by non-muslims.

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) again reminded Muslims to enforce the ban on the use of ‘Allah’ by “other parties”, a remark referring to non-Muslims using the Arabic word to denote God during worship.

Jakim was at the forefront of a campaign in the past also to ban the use of the Arabic term by non-Muslims.

“As Muslims we are required to strengthen and preserve our faith... This includes ensuring that the use of ‘Allah’ is not tarnished by other parties… State Muslim authorities should also continually monitor the use of ‘Allah’ and ensure that it is not misused by other parties as stipulated in their respective state enactments,” Jakim’s sermon last Friday said.

Jakim urged all state Muslim enforcement authorities to enforce this ban through their respective state enactments. Each state has the power to enact its own laws concerning the practice of Islam.

Inspired by a 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Committee which ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the term ‘Allah’, most states have an enactment that bans non-Muslims from using a list of Arabic terms, including ‘Allah’.

Sabah and Sarawak, where Christians use ‘Allah’ in their prayers and bibles, do not have such enactments. Christians make up 2.6 million, about 10% of the country's population, with almost two-thirds of them being Bumiputera from Sabah and Sarawak.

The ‘Allah’ issue created a nationwide debate on the right of Malaysia’s non-Muslim minority, particularly Christians, to use the word freely.

Malaysia’s ‘Allah’ ban came into focus in 2007 when the Home Ministry suspended the publishing permit of Catholic weekly Herald that used the word in its Bahasa Malaysia edition. The Catholic Church had subsequently taken the government to court where the case is still pending at the Federal Court level.

Malaysia’s inability to resolve the issue has been widely criticised. Muslim scholars agreed that the term ‘Allah’ is not exclusive to Islam. The term had been used for centuries among Sabah and Sarawak Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia. The Orang Asal tribes in the peninsula and Arab and Indonesian Christians also use the term in their Holy books and rituals.  

In 2011, the Home Ministry confiscated a consignment of over 1,000 Bibles headed for East Malaysia. In January 2014, the Selangor Muslim enforcement authorities confiscated over 300 Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Iban bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia.

Although both the federal and state religious agencies have been widely criticised over their actions, the authorities justified their actions based on the respective enactments.

Source: The Malaysian Insider