Church Leaders Explain Use Of 'Allah'

The use of the word “Allah” to refer to God among Christians has been widely practised for generations in many countries and it is not meant to offend or confuse the Muslims, Christian leaders said on Sunday.

Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of local Catholic weekly The Herald, told theSun that its Bahasa Malaysia segment catered to the many Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Catholics in the country.

“The newspaper is only circulated among Catholics and not sold at newsstands and neither is the paper issued to Muslims,” he stressed.

He said The Herald was informed by the Internal Security Ministry in a letter dated Dec 10 to stop its Bahasa Malaysia segment.

He added that the letter said this would be so when the publication permit is granted.

The annual permit expires on Dec 31 and the publication has yet to receive the renewed permit.

Lawrence said the term “Allah” used by Christians or in Christian literature was not intended to offend Muslims or create confusion.

We follow the Bible, he said. “The Malay-language Bible uses ‘Allah’ for God and Tuhan for Lord.”

He said since the early 19th century, Catholics in Malaya had prayer books in the Malay language and “Allah” was used to refer to God.

The Maltese Catholics also use the term “Allah” to refer to God and so do Christians in Indonesia, Pakistan and the Middle East.

There are more than 850,000 Catholics in Malaysia, and The Herald has a circulation of 12,000 and a readership of 50,000.

Other than the English segment, it also has sections in Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and Tamil to cater to the multi-racial and multi-lingual make-up of the Malaysian Catholic population.

Hence it is common for some Catholic religious celebrations to be conducted in Bahasa Malaysia during the Sunday worship, and even on special national occasions such as Merdeka Day.

Lawrence said the ministry had no right to interfere in the internal management of the church, in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

Quoting Article 11 (3) A, he said the constitution allowed every religious group to manage its own affairs.

He said the ministry’s decision to abolish The Herald’s Bahasa Malaysia segment was unconstitutional and had no legal standing.

The weekly is still in talks with the authorities to renew its permit, and would appeal if the government refuses to issue the permit.

The general-secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia Rev Herman Shastri told theSun each religious community was endowed with the right to translate its respective holy scriptures.

“Christians living in Muslim-majority countries are using the term ‘Allah’ in reference to God during their liturgical celebrations. Even if the authorities disallow the use of certain words, the churches will continue to use them because it has to do with our sacred scriptures,” he said.

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