Friday, January 02, 2009

The Catholic Herald and the 'Allah' word

Malaysiakini - Malay-language edition of Catholic paper banned!

Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Herald, the Catholic newspaper punished with the ban, said the move was part of a series of restrictions put in place by the government when it renewed the paper's licence on Tuesday.

Malaysiakini image

Father Lawrence asked poignantly: "The constitution says Malay is the national language so why can't we use the national language in Malaysia?" … arguing that the ban has been senseless as many Malaysian Catholics (and 2 bishops as well) are bumiputeras who mainly speak Malay.

Aiyoh, as if he didn’t know why!

Dear Padre, I am not in the least surprised by the government’s decision.

If any of you have difficulty knowing why, well, Malaysiakini has kindly refreshed our memory on the sorry episode when it wrote:
The Herald, circulated among the country's 850,000 Catholics, nearly lost its publishing licence last year for using the word "Allah" as a translation for "God", with authorities saying it should only be used by Muslims.

It’s not about the use of the Malay language (Bahasa Malaysia) per se that has led to the restriction. It’s the Catholic newspapers’ insistence on using the ‘Allah’ word in place of ‘God’.

There have been lots of arguments from Christians on why the word ‘Allah’ has to, must be used in their scripture. I loved and enjoyed learning about quite a few which were eruditely explained by sweeties … but alas, I am not convinced …

… no doubt much to chagrin and even anger of some of those sweeties.

A year ago I wrote on this issue in
What in God's name ... - hey, I even have a poem written in it as well ;-)

No one can deny that both Islam and evangelistic Christianity are missionary religions, with an obligation on the faithful to convert the 'pagans' (like kaytee - wakakaka) into embracing the faith, to save them from eternal damnation … yadda yadda yadda

But precisely because of that, these are examples of what Malaysian Islamic officials fear …
Eight arrested in Jordan for Christian proselytizing and Crackdown on Christian Proselytizing.

OK, perhaps the above two links are blogs maintained by Christians who naturally disparaged the arrests.

Here’s a more balanced report by the Denver Posts on evangelistic proselytizing during the aftermath of 2004 Tsunami –
Proselytizing during relief efforts divides Christian groups, which explained why, at one stage during the relief work in Aceh, a much pissed-off Indonesian VP, Bapak Jusuf Kalla wanted to chase the Christian relief organizations out.

I am personally acquainted with an evangelistic Christian pastor in Australia who confided in me (post tsunami) that he made a ‘mistake’ in releasing all the aid money collected in Australia for Sri Lankans affected by the tsunami.

He bemoaned that those Sri Lankans spent evey cent of that large sum on food and medicine. He confessed he had learnt from that and would only give only part of the next batch of donations for food whilst retaining the larger portion to build a new church for the poor Sri Lankans’ salvation.

I was and am sure the pastor had been totally sincere in his Christian intentions to help the Sri Lankans but underlying the purity of his charitable desire was his evangelistic (missionary) duties … that the souls to be saved would be far more important than the physical bodies.

I provide this example to illustrate the missionary obligation … and with it, the consequential fear and suspicions of Malaysian Muslims that the Catholic Herald may have a sinister agenda ('sinister' in the minds of those suspicious Muslims) to proselytize Malaysian Muslims, especially those from Sabah and Sarawak.

Being neither a Christian nor a Muslim, I see the easiest solution towards restoring the right of the Catholic Herald to have a Bahasa Malaysia section (and hopefully containing translations of my good matey Lucia Lai’s many articles) being the simple act of the Catholic Church agreeing to disuse the word ‘Allah’ and instead referring to the Almighty as ‘Tuhan’.

If we are talking about Bahasa Malaysia, then the word for 'God' is 'Tuhan', as kaytee had learnt in the Methodist Boys' School in Penang.

But if the Church (both Catholic and Protestant) insists on its right to use ‘Allah’, then it must await the Court’s decision on this issue, due next month.

Now, what if the Court rules in favour of the government …?

Will the Church continue to deny its bumiputera parish the facility of a good Christian newspaper in Bahasa Malaysia?

As Friedrich Nietzsche reminded us: “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.”


  1. I'd like to add that the term "Allah" is not only restricted to Islam. It is an arabic word which has been used way before Islam. Plus, the Muslim countries of the Middle East accept the term "Allah" to be used my Arab Christians, so why the big fuss over here?

    The word "Allah" is not copyrighted. It is an Arabic word which clearly means "Allah". Now, what right has the government to tell the Christians here or to dictate to them on how to translate their Scripture?

    If the government fears the word may mislead Muslims, then perhaps they should first realise the title on the book which says "Kitab Injil" and not "Quran" to begin with. I'm sure they can read?

  2. Sorry, there is a correction on the second paragraph.

    ...It is an Arabic word which clearly means "God"...

  3. Noted the word "Allah" in Lagu Bangsa Johor. This song are sung everyday by thousands of non-muslim students in schools in Johor everyday. Doesn't this offends Muslims???

    Allah peliharakan Sultan
    'Nugerahkan dia
    segala kehormatan
    sihat dan ria
    kekal dan makmur
    luaskan kuasa
    naungkan kami
    rakyat dipimpini
    berzaman lagi
    dengan merdeka bersatu hati
    Allah berkati Johor
    Allah selamatkan Sultan.

  4. The african oso use Allah.

  5. There should be no problem if Malaysian Christians want to use the word Allah.But the problem comes when their English-speaking brethrens keep on stressing that Allah is the name of a moon-god, such as the Bible Believers of Australia.

    Christians should not behave like Barisan Nasional that tells different things to different people like how UMNO says to the Malays that PAS kowtows to DAP in hudud issue and MCA says to the Chinese that DAP kowtows to PAS on hudud issue.

  6. OK. Leave it to the Court to decide on the word Allah.... even that can be argued as who has the right to control a language. But to ban the whole BM section! Which country in the world bans the use of its own national language? Only Malaysia.

  7. As a christian and one with many Arab Christian friends where the usage of Allah causes no heckles amongst their Muslim brethren, it never ceases to amuse me how our local holier than all other Muslims of the world Muslims always are in a state of 'kecemasan' in trying to increase their numbers by whatever means and cull the opportunity for non religiously aligned to have an option to choose.

    Pretty mind boggling to me - but I suppose their constant state of 'kecemasan' (which incidentally means panic - which tells you in a state of emergency we should all exit via the panic door not be rational and sensible) is obviously their constant state of flux - if they feel threatened, they panic and they react like all panic stricken - paralysis of the mind and common logical sense.

    It's a word for crying out loud. Really people God is but one at the end of it all, whatever name you call him, He is one God, leading to one heaven/nirvana whatever.

    Can we please begin to first understand each other's faiths better instead of panicking and creating unnecessary divisions ... the world is already in a mess without Bolehland trying to take lead in total pitiable foolish behaviour.

  8. I spent my entire school days from Primary 1 until Form 6 in Johor. Every school Assembly day, we sang the State Anthem "Allah Peliharakan Sultan" in addition to Negaraku.

    I remember my father was mildly concerned that making non-Muslim children sing "Allah" was a form of Islamic proselytising, and questioned the headmaster about it once. The good Headmaster, who was a Muslim, bless his soul, gave an answer which put my father's fears to rest. Yes, Malays normally consider Allah to mean the Muslim God but if you really take to total meaning of the Name, it also means God, the Supreme Being, in the wider meaning of the word.
    I think you are a Believer, too, even though you are not a Muslim ?

    Most of us here are Believers (except maybe Ktemoc :-) in the wider meaning of the word.

    To this day, I think it is the correct, erudite and enlightened answer.

    Its very unfortunate the Home Ministry, in the Herald case, and also the case of Bahasa Malaysia Bibles, has chosen the narrow, "kampung" interpretation.

  9. Why must the Catholic church demand using ALLAH in the BM section of the Herald to refer to GOD? I would not hesitate to support the Herald's use of ALLAH if in the same issue they also use ALLAH in the English, Chinese and Tamil sections of the Herald. Do they have any problems with that? In Islam, ALLAH is universally used in Malay, English, Mongolian, Swahili, Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Thai, Eskimo, German, French, Iban, Kadazan, Arabic, Hebrew, etc, etc, etc.

    Islam does not refer to ALLAH as SUBRAMANIAM in Tamil for eg. All Muslims refer to GOD as ALLAH.

    Can anybody enlighten me what is the term for GOD in the Tamil and Chinese version of the Herald, the Bible, or similar Christian news bulletin in the Philippines.

    Sri Hartamas

  10. To ANONYMOUS 1.26 pm

    ALLAH does not mean GOD in Arabic. ALLAH IS GOD in ISLAM.

    Sri Hartamas

  11. UMNO Sri Hartamas ?

  12. Everyone seems to forget that while Allah is an Arabic word, the Bumiputera Christians of Sabah and Sarawak who make up more than half of the Catholics in Malaysia use it.

    They've been using it long before Merdeka and the Government has no right to suddenly say that Allah belongs to Muslims.

    If you go to Indonesia, the Christian in Indonesia refer to Allah rather than Tuhan.

    If Allah were just an Arabic why, why is it in the Selangor state song? Are they any other Arabic words in our national songs.

    If Christians have been calling God Allah for so many years, what right have you to stop them from using it.

    Remember there are more Catholics in Sabah and Sarawak then there are in Peninsular Malaysia. Most of them speak Malay as their first language and refer to God as Allah. That was the way they were thought to call God.

    Furthermore these Bumis were not Muslim before they converted, they were animist. Yet the spoke Malay and refer to God as Allah. Bahasa is derived from many Arabic words, and no one has any right over any language must less one word.

  13. I concur with KT. The quote in this post resounds with the situation...

    “Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal"

  14. There will be no problem at all if Malaysian Christians start praying with the word "umno" instead of "allah"

    Our Father in Heaven,
    UMNO be Thy Name...

  15. at the zoo ,
    aku : " which binatang is most susah & bahaya to handle ah !?"
    keeper : " manusia lah, apalagi !? "


  16. Christian Indonesian students in Australian universities always put up posters of bible study camps using the word 'Allah.' No Muslim I've met has objected to it, be they Indonesian, Malaysian or from the Middle East.

    I must disagree with Ktemoc here-the Herald publishers should be stubborn here-once we give these imperialist Ketuanan Melayu proponents an inch, they'll steal a yard. I hope if the courts backs the govt that the Catholics will simply ignore the ruling and continue using the word Allah-its use in Sabah by Catholics predates the Federation of Malaysia. What right does the govt have to stop them from using it?

    If the Herald backs down now, wait for the next attack. I don't believe that all laws must be respected when they are CLEARLY unfair and discriminatory. This could well be the case here. This isn't about proselytising to Muslims a sthe govt fears-it is about allowing Bumi Catholics in Sabah and s'wak the right to refer to their God as Allah as they always have.

  17. Hai,in bahasa malaysia and bahasa indonesia, tuhan is use for the english word god. Since Herald is publishing in bahasa malaysia, then tuhan is the most appropriate word. If Herald is planning to publish in arabic, then i think it should be okay to use Allah. Allah can also be use in any publications by anybody when the user believe and confess THERE IS NO GOD I PRAY TO, EXCEPT ALLAH.

  18. ‘Allah’ was already being used by Arab pagans long before Prophet Mohammed raised Islam. Therefore it is wrong to say that ‘Allah’ belong to Islam only.