Christians using 'Allah' strategy to convert Muslims, Islamic group alleges

Muslims take a group photograph while waiting for the Court of Appeal decision on the Catholic Church’s ‘Allah’ appeal in Putrajaya on August 22, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Muslims take a group photograph while waiting for the Court of Appeal decision on the Catholic Church’s ‘Allah’ appeal in Putrajaya on August 22, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — The Catholic Church's fight to use "Allah" is part of a failed colonial-era strategy by Christians here to proselytise Muslims, an international Muslim NGO alleged today ahead of the impending legal dispute that will hit the courts again next week.

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.

"IMCA views that the Malaysian Christian churches demand to use the name "Allah" is part and parcel of this contextualisation strategy long used, a strategy used to influence Malay Muslims to convert," IMCA said in its letter here.

The NGO also accused the churches of condoning acts of brutality and oppression by recognising that "Allah" had been used in the Malay bible published by their colonial masters 272 years ago.

As an apparent disclaimer, however, the IMCA said it was not its intention to belittle the Christian belief.

"This argument is an affirmation of the acts of an oppressing colonial power who did not consult or respect the local Muslims, who as colonisers, did as they pleased including raping the country pillaging Malayan national treasures and literary works and artifacts," said the NGO.

By insisting to use "Allah" to refer to their God, Malaysian Christians are being "disrespectful" and are allegedly polluting the word, IMCA said.

"To use this name without qualification, when the usage carries another meaning is tantamount to pollution to the name itself and disrespect to the Almighty Lord of all beings, for it is His Name that one is polluting," it said.

"It is also disrespect [sic] to the adherents of those who subscribe to the sanctity of that Name. To our mind, how everybody calls their Lord, is based upon what is divinely instructed and not what they choose."

The NGO claimed that Muslims would not have objected if Christians had used "Allah" to refer to the same monotheistic god worshipped by Muslims mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy, instead of the Trinity.

The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of Torah, or the Hebrew Bible, which is widely accepted by Muslims as one of their holy books besides the Quran, Zabur (the Psalms), and Injil (the Gospels).

In the Christian faith, the Trinity refers to the three divine personifications of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

"We are sure that if the Christians revert back to this original concept that God is One, He begets not, nor is He begotten, and this is consistently held in the Christian faith, no Muslims would object, as it is a Reality," ICMA explained.

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.

"We are confident that Christians believe in the strength of their faith, and the righteousness of their faith, they should present it as it is, without packaging it into more palatable terms and concepts for non Christians," said IMCA.

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.

The local Catholic Church however failed in August to strike out Putrajaya’s appeal against the 2009 landmark High Court ruling that upheld Christians’ right to refer to God as “Allah”.

With the decision last month, the church will have to duke it out in the courtroom with Putrajaya again this month, prolonging the over four-year-long legal tussle over the Arabic word.

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