Friday, January 03, 2014

In Malaysia, Battle Over Christian Use of "Allah" Intensifies

As previously reported, last October Malaysia's Court of Appeal upheld a licensing condition imposed by the Minister of Security prohibiting the Catholic newspaper The Herald from using the word "Allah" in its Malay language edition to refer to God. The Federal Court has scheduled arguments for February 24 on the Catholic Church's application for leave to appeal the decision. (Malaysia Chronicle.) Meanwhile though the dispute intensifies.  According to yesterday's Malay Mail, The Herald's editor Father Lawrence Andrew has set off a firestorm of criticism by insisting that Catholic Churches in the state of Selangor will continue to use the term "Allah" in their Masses. His statement has led to calls for contempt of court proceedings, and even suggestions that Andrew has committed treason against the Sultan's decree banning non-Muslims from using the word "Allah."

Reuters and The Hindu report that the situation has been further exacerbated. Officials from the Selangor state Islamic Religious Department, aided by police, yesterday raided the Bible Society of Malaysia and seized 321 copies of the Bible that use the term "Allah". The Bible Society's president and its manager were briefly detained and then released on bail.  They say they are allowed to distribute the Bibles to Christians in West Malaysia (which includes Selangor) so long as the Bible has a cross and the words "Christian publication" on the cover.  The general secretary of the Council of Churches Malaysia said that Islamic authorities are not legally permitted to enter non-Muslim religious establishments to inspect or search them.