Malaysia (MNN) — Who gets to call God “Allah”? The Allah battle has pitted Christians and Muslims in Malaysia against each other for years, because “Allah” is the Malay word for “God.”
Voice of the Martyrs USA reports yet another delayed decision in one of this issue’s many legal cases.
“The use of the word Allah by Christians could confuse Muslims and could lead to disharmony and even violence,” says VOM spokesman Todd Nettleton, explaining the government’s official stance on the issue.
However, what they REALLY think is a little more biased.
“They don’t want to see more Muslims come to faith in Christ,” Nettleton reports. “They don’t want to allow ANY Muslims to come to faith in Christ.”
The Allah battle: a brief history
Malaysia’s primary religion is Islam. By constitutional definition, all ethnic Malays–who compose about 60% of the total population–are Muslim.
However, Malaysia’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, and Christians in certain parts of the country have been calling God “Allah” for decades. As the Islamization of Malaysia increases, so does the Allah battle.
Last week, Malay Christian Jill Ireland petitioned Malaysia’s Court of Appeal for the right to call God “Allah.” The court’s three judges punted, giving no reason for their indecision.
The Malay government confiscated eight Christian CDs from Ireland back in 2008, citing national security and public order.
“She has been in the legal process since then,” explains Nettleton, “not only [to] get the CDs back but get the government to say that as a Christian, she had the right to bring those CDs in.”
A judge ordered the CDs to be returned last July, but the Malay government intervened again and appealed the order. No court date has been set yet for further action on Ireland’s case.
Why the Allah battle matters
The Allah battle is more than a war on words, Nettleton observes.
“The issue of the language, the issue of the word choice, goes [toward] trying to end outreach, trying to end Muslims coming to faith in Christ,” he states.
The atmosphere in Malaysia “is getting very unfriendly towards Christians, particularly Christian converts.”
It’s especially difficult for Muslim-background believers (MBBs). Nettleton says they are sometimes sent to “re-education centers,” where people try to forcibly re-convert MBBs to Islam.
What you can do about it
There IS a silver lining to the Allah battle, Nettleton says. Despite government efforts to stop evangelism and conversions, “we see it happening. We see Malays coming to Christ, choosing to leave Islam behind.”
Financially supporting persecuted Malay Christians through VOM is good–and necessary. But surrounding them in prayer is the best thing you can do.
“Pray that they will be encouraged. Pray that they will continue to be courageous in their witness,” Nettleton requests. “Pray [also] for Muslims to come to faith in Christ.”