I read in “Selangor Sultan calls on state Islamic councils to intervene in ‘Allah’ case appeal” that His Majesty Sultan Sharafuddin of Selangor said, “If Muslims in Selangor can respect those of other religions by not interfering in their religious matters, then I also urge non-Muslims to respect Muslims, especially on the use of the word Allah”.
I believe His Royal Highness has been misinformed regarding this situation. It is not that non-Muslims are interfering in Islam, but rather, that Muslims are effectively interfering in non-Muslims’ practice of their religion in this case.
Malaysian Christians are a minority in a relatively small country. So the amount of Christian materials produced here is relatively small.
I am an English-speaking Christian. I have no problems getting Christian materials and music from overseas for my own religious education and for the religious education of my children. Similarly, for Chinese-speaking and Tamil-speaking Christians.
The situation is much more difficult for our Bahasa-speaking Christian brothers and sisters. The biggest source of Christian materials and music in Bahasa is Indonesia.
In Indonesia, they follow the centuries-old practice of translating the word “Elohim” as “Allah”, because “Elohim” is a Hebrew cognate of the word “Allah”. Another word in the Bible for God, “Yahweh” or “Adonai” is translated “Tuhan”. Therefore, the phrase “Yahweh Elohim”, which appears in the Bible many times, is translated “Tuhan Allah” in Bahasa. In English translations, it is usually rendered as “LORD God”.
Therefore, if Bahasa-speaking Christians were forced to only use the word “Tuhan” and not “Allah”, they would have to say “Tuhan Tuhan” for “Yahweh Elohim” which would sound as if they were worshiping “gods”, rather than the One True God, Creator of the Universe.
By making it illegal for the word “Allah” to be used by Christians, it has become impossible to legally obtain Bibles, Christian teaching materials, worship songs, etc. from Indonesia. This cuts Bahasa-speaking Christians off from the biggest source of Christian material in Bahasa.
Bahasa-speaking Christians seek to uphold the sanctity of the name “Allah”. That the word “Allah” is used by Bahasa-speaking Christians is a testimony of the resounding success of Bahasa Malaysia being taught as the national language. Many Orang Asal are literate only in Bahasa and, hence, use the word “Allah” for God Almighty just like their counterparts in Arab countries and Indonesia. For further explanation on this, please refer to the letter “Berkenaan kalimah Allah”.
Therefore, I urge Selangor Islamic authorities to recognize that this law is being unjustly restrictive on the free practice of religion by Bahasa-speaking Christian Selangorians.