Sunday, January 5, 2014

The difference of opinions between the Catholic Church in Selangor and the State of Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor, JAIS) have entered a new chapter today after the Islamic Department have raided the Bible Society of Malaysia, where 300 copies of the Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and iban were seized. The Church and the State's JAIS have been at odd especially regarding the question whether the Catholic Church in Malaysia could used the word 'Allah' to refer to the word God in the Malay translation of the Bible. The Catholic Church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in 2009, upholding its constitutional rights to do so. Putrajaya later appealed the decision and successfully overturned the earlier decision when the Court of Appeal ruled in October 2013 that 'Allah was not integral to the Christian faith'.

HRH the Sultan of Selangor is the Head of Islam in Selangor
In the Federation, the power of Islamic Affairs are in the hand of the States. 9 of them which have hereditary rulers, also known as 'the Malay States' have separate Islamic Religious Councils and Departments, including having each Monarch as the State's Head of Islam. In the case of Selangor, the Sultan of Selangor, His Royal Highness Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has also stated that the word 'Allah' are exclusive to Muslims and the other religions are prohibited to use it. One of the Catholic Priest in the State, Father Lawrence Andrew, openly against it and stated that all catholic churches in the State will used the word 'Allah' in their weekend services in Bahasa Malaysia, primarily attended by Sabahan and Sarawakian.

The question that usually arise is what authority that the Islamic Department has to prevent the other religion to use the word 'Allah'. The answer is simple, because the State Constitution has already been enacted about it by the previous BN government, and the State Islamic Council has the jurisdiction regarding the Islamic Affairs, as well as the other religious affairs in the State by the State's Selangor Non-Islamic Religion (Control of Propagation among Muslims) enactment 1988. Among the words and phrases that prohibits non-muslims to used in the State includes 'Allah', 'Nabi', 'Injil' and 'In Shaa Allah'.

JAIS, the Islamic religious affairs of Selangor

Personal opinion

It is more prudent for the other non-islamic religion to comply with the ruling regarding these issues. It is a sensitives issues I agreed and cannot be openly discussed. And among the Federation most prominent Ulama', among others Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz bin Nik Mat also against it (even though in favour of it earlier). And personally, I too feels there is the need to neglect the confusion between these two religions.

Nevertheless, I have in the past having professional discussion with one of my Iban friend regarding the matter, and both of us actually understand the problem that we face. But what he has stated also acted as the eye-opener for me, "Only those who doesn't read Al-Quran would have confused between the verses of Al-Quran and Al-Kitab". Previously, I too have been encouraged by one of the Ulama' in Malaysia to read an Al-Quran which have both Arabic and Malay Translation every time reading it, and now I see why.



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