KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — The Selangor Sultan today said that the use of the word “Allah” in reference to God in Christian publications or the Christians’ Bible in Bahasa Malaysia will not be allowed in the state.
Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah also said that the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) will be instructed to apply to join the federal government’s appeal against a recent High Court decision.
The High Court had on March 10 delivered its decision in Sarawakian Bumiputera Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill’s challenge against the home minister and the Malaysian government, with the court ruling that the federal government’s 1986 ban via a Home Ministry written directive on the use of the word “Allah” in all Christian publications is illegal and unconstitutional.
Having read the full grounds of the High Court judgment dated March 17, the Selangor Sultan stressed today that “the use of the word ‘Allah’ in the Bible (Bahasa Melayu translation) or printing of any Christian books and writings in any form which contain the word ‘Allah’ is still prohibited for use in the state of Selangor”.
In the lengthy three-page statement, the Selangor Ruler maintained his view that the word “Allah” is a word sacred to Muslims and can only be used to refer to the Almighty God in the context of the Muslim faith.
“However, if the word ‘Tuhan’ is used as a translation for the word ‘God’, I have no objection towards the use of the word ‘Tuhan’,” the Sultan said in the statement.
The Selangor Sultan said his view was in line with the Federal Court’s 2014 decision in the case of the local Catholic church against the home minister (in its challenge against the ban of the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its internal newsletter Herald), as well as a fatwa or Islamic religious opinion gazetted in Selangor on February 18, 2010 and which stated that the word “Allah” cannot be used or be equated with the gods for non-Islamic religions.
The Selangor Sultan went on to say that Muslims must block the use of the word “Allah” if there are any elements of misuse or insult towards the word “Allah”, stressing that it is the “responsibility of all Muslims especially Muslims in the state of Selangor to preserve the sanctity of the word ‘Allah’ at all times and in any situation”.
“I also decree that my subjects who are not of the Muslim faith in the state of Selangor are to always comply with the ban on the use of the word ‘Allah’ as provided for under the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) Enactment 1988 which was gazetted on July 7, 1988,” the state Ruler said, adding that this includes the ban on usage of several other words listed in the 1988 state law for commercial purposes and for the purposes of naming places of business or buildings.
The Selangor Sultan also said he will preserve the sanctity of the word ‘Allah’ as Selangor’s head of the religion of Islam, and as this is his religious obligation, further questioning what would be the purpose of him being the head of the religion of Islam in Selangor if he fails to protect the word “Allah” and the sanctity of Islam from being disparaged by those who allegedly have “their own agenda”.
The Selangor Sultan said that he has always stressed on Selangor residents being able to respect each other’s religion and not attempting to touch on their respective religious sensitivities that could affect racial unity in the state.
“If Muslims can respect the believers of other religions by not intervening in matters relating to their religion, then I also urge for believers of religions other than Islam to respect Muslims, especially in the use of the word ‘Allah’ that is the main belief of Muslims,” the Selangor Ruler said in the same statement.
The Selangor Sultan said he fully supported the Johor Sultan’s recent decree which had asked the federal government to appeal against the High Court decision in Jill Ireland’s case.
“I also decree for the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) to apply to the court as an intervener in that appeal and also ask that the same be done by the state Islamic religious councils of other states to preserve the kemuliaan (glory) of the word ‘Allah’ and the sanctity of the religion of Islam,” he said when asking other states’ Islamic authorities to also join the appeal in Jill Ireland’s case.
On March 10, the High Court granted three declarations sought by Jill Ireland, including a declaration that the government directive issued by the Home Ministry’s publications control division via a circular dated December 5, 1986 is unlawful and unconstitutional.
This December 1986 circular which banned the word “Allah” in all Christian publications was used by the government to justify the seizure of eight educational compact discs (CDs) — all containing the word ‘Allah’ in their titles — which Jill Ireland had brought back to Malaysia from Indonesia for her own use.
The two other orders granted to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Sarawakian of the Melanau tribe is that it is Jill Ireland’s constitutional right under the Federal Constitution’s Article 3, 8, 11 and 12 to import the publications — in the form of the eight CDs — in exercise of her rights to practice religion and right to education, and a declaration under Article 8 that Jill Ireland is guaranteed equality of all persons before the law and is protected from discrimination against citizens on the grounds of religion in the administration of the law ― specifically the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and Customs Act 1967.
“Allah”, the Arabic word for God, was adopted into the national language generations ago and used for hundreds of years by Malay-speaking Christians in the country, especially those living in Sabah and Sarawak. The word is also part of terms referring to God in the indigenous languages of tribes in east Malaysia such as the Iban, Bidayuh, Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh and Kelabit.
The local Christian community has previously explained that the word “Tuhan” could not be used as a substitute word for God, as they said it means “Lord” instead.