Prohibition of ‘Allah’ and Other Words: Forcing Christians to Dishonor God
The Malaysian government’s recent decision to prohibit non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’ is not an ad-hoc decision made on the spur of the moment. It is only the tip of the ice-berg in a move to steadily enforce policies that restrict the freedom of Christians. This is evident if we look at the matter in a wider, historical perspective.
The beginning of the crisis occurred in the 1980s when Church leaders received a directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Bahagian Kawalan Penerbitan, Kementerian Dalam Negeri Malaysia) stating that the following words (listed in the first column) are not to be used in the Al Kitab (Bible). The authorities also suggested that the Church should use alternative words (second column) to replace the prohibited words.
Prohibited Words // Alternative Words
Al-Kitab // Baibel (Bible)
Allah // Tuhan (God)
Firman // Berkata (Say)
Rasul // Utusan (Massanger)[sic.]
Iman // Percaya (believe)
Ibadah // Amalan (worship)
Injil // Baibel (Bible)
Wahyu // Revelasi
Nabi // Propet
Syukur // Terima Kasih
Solat // Sembahyang
[Note: For a full list of words prohibited by various State Enactments download Kairos Legal Handbook, Doing the Right Thing and refer to pages 51-55]. Admittedly, the final list of prohibited words does not include ‘doa’ but the thrust of the action of the state is clear. The state of Johor prohibits the use of any “words (and expressions) of Islamic origin.” In the absence of a definition of the term in the Enactment, this phrase clearly intends to cover all possible terms that may be associated with the Islamic faith.
It should be evident to anyone who knows Bahasa Malaysia that the government’s action effectively undermines the Christian’s sense of identity. Astonishingly, Christians are told they cannot use words such as ‘Injil’ or ‘Wahyu’ which they have long used to convey basic Christian beliefs. In effect, the prohibition of the above words from being used in the Al-Kitab amounts to banning the Bible.
The government directive also emasculates Christian religious language and strips it of a sense of sacredness that helps to usher the worshipper into the presence of God and enables the worshipper to relate to God. For instance, surely there is no way we can compare ‘memohon’ (making requests of a fellowman) with ‘doa’ (supplication; praying or bringing our petitions to God; appealing to the divine).
The government seems willing to go where angels dare not tread. It is prepared to invent/coin words just to deny Christians the right to identify and express what God has said/revealed to them: Wahyu should be substituted with ‘Revelasi’, ‘Nabi’ with ‘propet’ and ‘Al-Kitab’with ‘Baibel’ (note that these words are not even found in the Kamus Dewan).
It is bad enough if these actions are merely a display of arrogance of power. It is actually worse than that. In effect, the government is not respecting Christianity; and is asking Christians to commit sacrilege, that is, to dishonor their God.
Revelation 22: 18-19 – I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.