No ‘Allah’ in Bible, priest says after Selangor decree

Herald editor Father Lawrence said the word Allah did not appear in the Bible per se. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Herald editor Father Lawrence said the word Allah did not appear in the Bible per se. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 —“Allah” does not appear anywhere in the Bible, Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew said today after the Sultan of Selangor’s repeated a royal decree banning the use of the Arabic word to all non-Muslims in the state.

Lawrence, the editor of Catholic weekly the Herald – which is at the centre of a legal tussle between the Catholic Church and the government over the use of the word for God – stressed that there is no reason to use the word “Allah” in the version of the Bible used in Malaysia as it is in English.

“I think there’s a misunderstanding. They think we are translating in the Bible, God to ‘Allah’,” he said when contacted.

“There is no word ‘Allah’ in the Bible, it never had. The Bible is an English language scripture,” he added referring to the version of the Bible used in Malaysia.

Lawrence, who has been a staunch proponent of allowing the use of the word “Allah” for the benefit of the Malay-speaking Christians, however, declined to comment further on the royal decree due to the Catholic Church’s pending appeal at the Federal Court on the use of the word.

Earlier today, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Al-Haj renewed his decree that the Arabic word for God be barred to all non-Muslims in the state.

Responding to the recent ruling by the Court of Appeal, His Majesty also called for an immediate halt to the word’s usage in the Bible and the Herald. The word “Allah” is currently used in the Malay version of the Bible, known as the Al-Kitab which is imported from Indonesia.

“His Majesty urges all citizens residing especially in Selangor to respect and follow the decision made by the Muzakarah (Conference) of the National Fatwa Council, the Selangor State Fatwa Committee, the laws and the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal,” said a statement from the state palace here.

The decision by the state Ruler comes after a discussion with the Selangor Royal Council on Monday, which decided that Selangor citizens should abide by the Selangor Non-Islamic Religion (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 which applies to every religion or race.

The move is set to complicate Putrajaya’s efforts to assuage non-Muslims, particularly Christians from Sabah and Sarawak, that the contentious Court of Appeal ruling last month was limited to the case of The Herald.

In October, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the use of the word in the Herald was justified, as the use of the word “Allah” was not integral to the practice of the Christian faith.

The ruling — which overturned an earlier High Court decision that the ban was unconstitutional — has since sparked confusion over the use of the word by Christians in their worship, especially with conflicting opinions within the government itself on how far the ruling would affect practising Christians.

Since the ruling, churches in Sabah and Sarawak have become more vocal in pressing for their right to use the term that they say is entrenched in the 20- and 18-point agreements with the two states, insisting they will continue their age-old practice of referring to God as “Allah” in their worship and in their holy scriptures.

The Catholic Church has since appealed to the country’s top court this week for clarity on the religious row that has drawn deep lines between Malaysia’s non-Muslim minorities and its 60 per cent Muslim population.

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