KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — Just days before the "Allah" row returns to court, Islamic authorities today slammed their opponents for deigning to challenge for the use of the term, and called upon Muslims to unite in a "holy struggle" against enemies of the faith.
In today's Friday sermon read out at mosques nationwide, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) also laid claim to a list of words asides from "Allah" that it purports to be exclusive to Muslims and prohibited to non-Muslims.
"It is only natural in life, something which is renowned and staunch will always suffer from threats and attempts to shake its superiority," said the sermon uploaded online.
"Such as the position of Islam and its adherents today, threatened from every corner whether in social, jurisprudence or faith, including the use of the word Allah."
Last month, the local Catholic Church failed to strike out Putrajaya’s appeal against the 2009 landmark High Court ruling that upheld Christians’ right to refer to God as “Allah”.
The appeal will be heard on Tuesday next week.
JAKIM stressed today that the ultimate goal of the group, which it failed to name, is to confuse Muslims and put every religion on equal terms, which will then lead to a "sea of apostasy".
"The words Allah, solat (prayer), tauhid (oneness of God), Rasul (messenger), Kaabah, Haji (holy pilgrimage) are the rights of Muslims which cannot be invaded by any quarters as it will affect the thoughts and belief of Muslims," it added.
Non-Muslims are barred from using up to 35 other Arabic terms, besides "Allah", in every state except for Penang, Sabah, Sarawak, and the Federal Territory.
Malacca has reportedly banned the most number of Arabic words and phrases compared to the other states.
In Selangor, the Non-Islamic Religion Enactment 1988 (Control of Propagations Among Muslims) listed 25 words that cannot be uttered by non-Muslims either orally or in writing, including "Allah", "firman Allah" (God’s decree), "solat" (daily prayers), "Rasul", "mubaligh" (missionary), "mufti" (cleric), "iman" (faith), "Kaabah", "Qiblat" (the direction in which Muslims pray), and "Haji".
Non-Muslims are also banned in Selangor from using 10 other phrases such as "subhan-Allah" (Glory be to God), "insha-Allah" (God-willing), "astaghfirullah" (forgive me God), "masha-Allah" (God has willed it) and "Allahu Akbar" (God is great).
Non-Muslims found guilty of using the words may be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed for up to two years, or both.
These phrases are commonly used by Christian Arabs, and also by Christians in the Balkan nations which were previously ruled by the Ottoman Empire.
Yesterday, an international Muslim NGO had alleged that the Catholic Church's fight to use "Allah" is part of a failed colonial-era strategy by Christians here to proselytise Muslims.
In an open letter addressed to "Malaysian church bodies and Christians", the International Muslim Consumer Association (IMCA) said that by using "Allah", the church was attempting to package Christianity into "more palatable terms and concepts" for non-Christians in the country.
It then asked Malaysian Christians to "walk the path of Christian righteousness" and retract their request to use the word "Allah" to prevent any conflicts.
Last month, Muslim activists had alleged a global Christian evangelical conspiracy behind the “Allah” row, as they described a clandestine agenda to colonise Islamic souls and countries.
In a feature run in Malay daily Utusan Malaysia’s weekend edition, Mingguan Malaysia, they claimed the Christian insistence on using the Arabic word “Allah” was out of a desire to proselytise to Muslims, even challenge the Federal Constitution and the Malay rulers.
Religious tensions have been long been simmering in Malaysia in recent years, with the latest controversy surrounding a proposed law on child conversions to Islam deepening divisions between the Muslim majority and religious minorities.
The “Allah” row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s newspaper permit for its reference to God as “Allah”, prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.
Christians subsequently argued that the word predates Islam and that their right to use “Allah” in a non-Muslim context was affirmed by the government’s own 10-point solution issued in 2011.
The 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah” had shocked many Muslims that consider the word to only refer to the Islamic God.
It also led to Malaysia’s worst religious strife, with houses of worship throughout the country coming under attack.
Muslims are Malaysia's largest religious group, followed by Buddhists. Christians are the third-largest at 2.6 million, according to statistics from the 2010 consensus