BANGI, June 12 — Malaysia’s recent adherence to Saudi Arabia’s “literal Islam” is the cause of the Muslim-Christian tussle over the Arabic word for God “Allah” here, an academic said today.
Dr Mohd Faizal Musa, research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation, said the dominant religion in Malaysia grew stricter a decade or two ago and focused more on jurisprudence, due to influence from the Arabic country.
“It’s historically obvious that the usage of ‘Allah’ was already here since from the start,” Faizal told reporters after presenting a talk titled “An introduction to religious minorities in Malaysia” at UKM.
“The Nyonya Baba also used ‘Allah’ to refer to God. And how can we deny the usage of ‘Allah’ among the indigenous in Sabah and Sarawak? Literal Islam came to Malaysia 10, 20 years ago, promoted by Saudi Arabia,” he added.
Faizal called for Christians to be allowed to use the Arabic word “Allah”, and urged a different approach to interpreting Islam, saying that the religion has been institutionalised in Malaysia.
“There are many faces of Islam,” he told the audience.
“If Muslims are willing to let go of the literal Islam… this complicated problem will be resolved and there will be harmony,” Faizal added.
The academic also said that “literal Islam” has caused disputes and bloodshed in Islamic countries, unlike the “mystical Islam that promotes love”.
He said a priest from Syria recently told him that Christian Arabs call God “Allah” and that the man of the cloth was surprised by the ban on the Arabic word in Malaysia.
The Catholic Church in Malaysia is fighting in court for their right to refer to God as “Allah”, with the Federal Court set to decide on June 23 on whether the Church can appeal a ruling that upholds a government ban on the Arabic word in the Church’s weekly paper.
Faizal, who has written a book titled “Perempuan Nan Bercinta” under the pen name Faisal Tehrani that was recently banned for purportedly promoting Shia teachings, told reporters later that when Sunni Islam arrived in the region, the adherents were “mystical” in nature.
“When Islam first came to this region, it was Shiah Islam. Then Sunni Islam came and it was mystical,” he said.
Most Muslims in Malaysia belong to the Sunni denomination, the largest denomination of Islam in the world.
Malaysian authorities consider Shiah deviant, though the Islamic denomination is predominant in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon.