International (MNN) – Earlier this week, MNN covered the court decision in Malaysia that the word ‘Allah’ is exclusive to Islam.
In the Malay-language, “Allah” is the common term Christians have used for God for hundreds of years. However, non-Muslims , mainly the Malaysian Christian community and press, have been banned from using it. That means already printed Bibles fall under the ban, as do other printed pieces of Christian literature and education curriculum emphasizing the Christian faith.
The decision inflamed tensions between the minority religious community and the Muslims who pursued the case. Greg Mussleman is a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs Canada. He shared one concern: “I think you’re going to cause even more tension between the Muslims and the Christians there. This is one of those kinds of decisions that opens the door to go further down the road in exclusivity.”
In other words, this case could be setting legal precedence. Mussleman agrees. “I think it could very well effect other countries like Indonesia and some of the other neighboring countries there, or even some of the Muslim world when they start to look at ‘we’re going to take exclusivity to the word ‘Allah’, especially to the Arab-speaking nations where that is the word for ‘God’.” He goes on to say, “This could be the very first step towards anti-conversion type laws in places like Malaysia or other countries. We already see it, not always in Islamic countries, but in places like Sri Lanka, with the Buddhists, trying with these anti-conversion laws, and we see them in India.”
The decision also takes into question national identity. Certain protections are extended in
the constitution, if you’re Muslim, but not if you’re a Christian. “This is more like on the discriminatory side, but it does lead to situations, if there are those Christians who are saying ‘no, we’re going to use this bible. This is the bible we have.’ I would suggest that that will probably happen.”
As noted in the earlier story, one of the main reasons for the ruling is attributed to the fast growth of the Church. From a court transcript on the case, one of the judges was quoted as saying: “It is my judgment that the possible and most probable threat to Islam, in the context of this country, is the propagation of other religions to the followers of Islam.”
In countries with active anti-conversion laws and anti-blasphemy laws on the books, they’re often used as weapons to settle old scores. Accusations are harmful to ministry. Mussleman says, “We see that in Sri Lanka, we’re you’ve got these pastors there tied up in court with these anti-conversion laws. Again, this is just another obstacle for the gospel, but I believe that our brothers and sisters there will use wisdom in how they do this.”
Other thoughts to ponder on this story: Why don’t other Muslim-dominated nations don’t seem to have the same issue? How far away from an anti-conversion law is Malaysia? Time will tell, says Mussleman. Meanwhile, “The believers there really need wisdom in how they’re going to go to the next step. Some believers will say ‘we’re not going to back down from this. We’re going to continue to move forward and if they put us in jail, we’ll face that.’”
Pray for guidance for Christians in Malaysia as they face opposition. “I would pray that there would not be disharmony or disunity within the Christian community.” Still, increased persecution usually results in increased boldness among believers in Malaysia. “I think it goes right back to what the Bible tells us. We need the wisdom of the Lord.”