‘Allah’ exclusive to Muslims, Jakim insists

PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar. He suggested a change in the members of the National Fatwa Council was needed if the ‘Allah’ row continues. — Picture by Choo Choy May
PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar. He suggested a change in the members of the National Fatwa Council was needed if the ‘Allah’ row continues. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — Amid renewed controversy, Malaysia’s foremost Islamic religious authority has insisted today that the word ‘Allah’ can only be used in this country by Muslims.

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has reiterated its argument backed by a National Fatwa Council decree in 2008 banning its usage by non-Muslims.

“From a ‘fatwa’ (religious edict) point of view, the National Fatwa Council has made a clear decision that the ‘Allah’ word is exclusive to Muslims.

“Its usage and gazetting are under the jurisdiction of each state,” Jakim Director-General Datuk Othman Mustapha told news portal Malaysiakini through a text message.

Othman, who is also the secretary for the council, however, was not reported to have commented on the conflict between the ‘fatwa’, Selangor’s Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988, and the 10-point solution mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s Cabinet on the issue of Malay-language bibles.

Islamist party PAS urged the council to revisit its edict, following a shocking raid by Selangor’s religious authorities against the Bible of Society of Malaysia last Thursday, which also saw over 300 Malay and Iban-language bibles seized.

PAS information chief Datuk Mahfuz Omar made the call on Monday, suggesting a change in the council’s members if the ‘Allah’ row continues.

It is understood that the action was taken by Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) under the 1988 Selangor enactment that prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases, including the word for God, “Allah”.

Last October, the prime minister said that a recent Court of Appeal’s decision on the use of the word “Allah” does not affect Christians in Sabah and Sarawak.

The 10-point solution was issued by the Najib administration shortly before the Sarawak state election in 2011.

The deal allowed for bibles in Malay and indigenous languages to be distributed freely in Sabah and Sarawak.

But last week’s raid on BSM, which holds distribution rights to the AlKitab in Sabah and Sarawak, has now thrown this into doubt.

Bumiputera Christians, who form about 64 per cent or close to two-thirds of the Christian community in Malaysia, have used the word “Allah” when praying and speaking in the national language and their native tongues for centuries.

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