Political battle hides beneath religious pretense

By March 14, 2013

Malaysia (MNN) — There is tension in Malaysia between Muslims and Christians, but it's not all about religion.

"You've got the political, you've got the religious, and it becomes very difficult for those that may be suffering harm because of it," says Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

Malaysia's sultan recently made it illegal for any group except Muslims to call God "Allah." But "Allah" is the Arabic word for God, and it's used in the Malay translation of the Bible.

While the issue seems religious on the surface, Musselman suspects it has political roots. In early 2010, Muslims attacked churches on the pretense of being angered by a court decision that allowed non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" in reference to God.

"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," a listener in Malaysia told MNN at the time.

With elections currently forthcoming in Malaysia, Musselman says, "I kind of see this whole 'use of the word Allah' [issue] as a bit of a distraction here. And again, it could be used by those more militant aspects of Islam to try to cause problems for the Christians."

Though Musselman doesn't see the sultan's decree becoming a permanent law, it could become even harder for Malays to hear about Christ when this issue is combined with existing anti-conversion laws.

"Constitutionally, to be a Malay is to be a Muslim, and you cannot convert out of that religion," Musselman explains. "That becomes a very difficult thing for those that [want] to explore Christianity. They're bound to stay Muslim, and if they leave Islam, it leads off into persecution."

Pray for the upcoming elections. Pray that Malaysia remains peaceful and Christians there would not be attacked.

"I think we have to pray that the church there has wisdom in how they handle this, not to respond in the same spirit that's coming against them," says Musselman.

Also pray for the spread of the Gospel in Malaysia. Musselman says, "In some of the most restricted, hostile places in the world, where Christianity is being oppressed…, [those situations] cause people to go, 'If [the government is] coming against this Christianity so much and they don't even want us to use the word Allah, what's it about?'"

Pray that there would be openness to the Gospel in spite of political attempts to block it. Find more ways to pray for the Persecuted Church in Malaysia here.

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