‘Allah’ causes uproar in Malaysia

By January 11, 2010

Malaysia (MNN) — Angry Muslims have attacked four churches since
Malaysia's High Court decided to allow Christians to use the Malay name for
God. Three were firebombed, and in one church building,
the incendiary device failed to go off. The
intent is clear.

We spoke with an MNN listener living in Malaysia, working in
ministry. For security purposes, we'll
call him 'David.' He lives in the same
metropolitan area as the churches that
were attacked. David says what happened
is alarming. "This is totally shocking to us Malaysians, because as far as
this generation can remember, this has never happened. We've always had
peaceful relations." 

Muslims contend the name "Allah" should be exclusive to
Islam. David counters that. He says "Allah" is used to translate "Elohim,"
and "Tuhan" is used to translate "Adonai" -but it is also applied to Jesus
Christ in the New Testament. The end
result: both of the terms are used often to describe the character of God in
the Malay Bible.

David says in the 1980s, the government made it illegal
for non-Muslims to use "Allah." Churches
quietly protested, and the government agreed not to enforce the ban but left
it on the books.

In recent years, they decided to enforce the ban and have
been confiscating Bibles because they use the word "Allah." 

The Herald, a Catholic newspaper, publishes in several
languages, including Malay. In keeping
with their other crackdowns, the government addressed the "Allah" issue with the
paper. However, they challenged the
government ban, and it went all the way to the High Court.

As ire over the most recent court decision broke, hackers attacked
the Herald's Web site as well as that of the Malaysian judiciary. Protestors gathered
outside mosques across the country, and there were significant concerns over
the safety of worshippers gathering for Sunday services in area churches.

Yet, there's another angle to consider.  Is this the sectarian conflict it appears to
be or is it a racial one tied to political power?  The majority of Muslims in Malaysia are ethnically
Malays.  Most Christians are ethnically  Chinese, Indian, or East Malaysian.   Could this be an issue of nationalism?

'David' sidestepped the point, but carefully noted,  "I think this is not so much a
Muslim-Christian conflict, per se, but political forces taking advantage,
perhaps even instigating, in a sense, artificially making this crisis for their
own ends." 

Jonathon Racho with International Christian Concern says
there's bigger concern. "The Malaysian government has sided with the
Muslims," which means the fight over who gets to use "Allah" is not over
yet.

The government has appealed the decision. The instability kicked up by this case has
been  disruptive to outreach. Racho says, "It's very difficult for
Christians to carry out their work, but we hope and pray that this thing will
come to an end very soon."

 

 

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