KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 — An academic and a religious scholar reacted with incredulity today towards the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the word “Allah” was exclusive to Muslims, saying the decision was un-Islamic and portrayed Malaysia as “stupid”.
Dr Faisal Hazis, a political analyst from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), said that the appellate court as well as Malay and Muslim groups should not sow “fear and hatred” among Muslims against “our Christian brothers and sisters for wanting to exercise their religious freedom”.
“This itself is not Islamic. There is no compulsion in Islam,” Faisal told The Malay Mail Online today.
“Why are we worried that the Muslims would be confused over the use of ‘Allah’ by other religions? I would blame the Muslims themselves for being confused. Obviously, they lack knowledge about their Creator if they are confused,” he added.
Faisal also pleaded other “moderate and level-headed Muslims” today to speak up against “this fear-mongering and chest-thumping Islamic supremacy”.
“I fear for my children and the future of Malaysia... we should not let these minority groups speak on behalf of the majority of moderate and level-headed Muslims in this country,” added the academic.
The Court of Appeal ruled yesterday against a High Court decision allowing the Catholic Church to refer to the Christian god with the Arabic word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its weekly paper, the Herald.
The court adjudged the usage of the word “Allah” as not integral to the Christian faith and said that allowing such an application would cause confusion in the Muslim community.
Malay rights group Perkasa said in response that the word “Allah”, and 31 other words prohibited to non-Muslims by Islamic enactments in some states, should subsequently be removed from the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian bible.
Perkasa vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin also said that Sabah and Sarawak churches, which have been using the word “Allah” in worship and in the Al-Kitab for centuries, should emulate white Americans who had “changed”, after wrongly using the derogatory words “negro” and “nigger” to refer to African Americans for years.
Another Muslim group, Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA), told Christians yesterday to emigrate if they could not accept the sovereignty of Islam and the king in Malaysia.
Iranian-American religious scholar Dr Reza Aslan also weighed in on the controversial court verdict, pointing out the folly that it attaches to Malaysia in the eyes of the world.
“How stupid has Malaysia just become? This stupid: Malaysian court bans use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims,” Reza tweeted early this morning, referencing an Al-Jazeera news report on the court case.
“In honor of Malaysia banning the word Allah by non-Muslims I suggest US ban the word ‘twerking’ by anyone over age of 17. Your suggestions?” mocked the religious scholar and author of two books on Islam and one on Christianity.
Aslan, who has a PhD in the sociology of religions and a degree on the New Testament, shot to fame last July when an interviewer with US channel Fox News repeatedly ignored his credentials and focused on his motivations, as a Muslim, for writing a controversial book on Jesus Christ.
The interview by the US news channel was based on his latest book titled “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”.
The Allah row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s newspaper permit, prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its Constitutional rights.
In 2009, the High Court here upheld the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah”, shocking Muslims who considered the word to only refer to the Muslim God.