Fresh after the Catholic Church’s failure to strike out a government appeal over the banning of the usage of the word ‘Allah’ by Christians, the Christians are inviting Malaysians to see their point of view through a fact sheet on the matter. 

Released to media by the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) yesterday, the 4-page fact sheet first released for distribution to churches last May was appended to a press statement on the court decision today. 

“We pray that this matter will not be be politicised but that the Court of Appeal be allowed to fairly adjudicate over the matter. 

NONE“With sincere intentions and in order that the public may better understand our position, we attach the CFM fact sheet on ‘When, why and how Christians use the term 'Allah’,” CFM chairperson Reverend Eu Hong Seng (right) said.

He added that the fact sheet is release in hopes that the church’s “factual perspective on the issue will prevail in the courts of our land”.

In the three-page fact sheet which addresses why Christians use the word ‘Allah’, CFM touches on the issue through the historical and linguistic perspective.

It also explores the consequences of substituting the word ‘Allah’ with ‘Tuhan’ for the “more than 60 percent” of Malaysian Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and mostly reside in East Malaysia. 

“Some Muslims have claimed repeatedly that the Christians in Malaysia refuse to stop using the word ‘Allah’ because they want to confuse and convert Muslims, thereby posing a threat to national security. 

“This claim is groundless as there has been no evidence offered of any threat to security. These remain unfounded accusations,” it said. 

From a historical perspective, it said, the word ‘Allah’ has been used by Christians in Southeast Asia for “centuries” without opposition, with the oldest evidence found in 1514. 

It said the ‘Kitab Salat as-Sawai’ or Christian catechisms in Malay written in 1514  was published around 1545.

It added that the ‘Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam’ and the ‘Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World’ also support that the word ‘Allah’ was a term “used for the supreme god in a pantheon of gods, before the revelation of Islam”. 

Shameful to allow edits to scripture

According to CFM, the al-Kitab (the Bahasa Malaysia-language Bible) was not translated into Bahasa from English, but from Hebrew and Greek. 

The word ‘Allah’, it argued, is a word rooted in the Semitic languages dating back to the 5th century.

“In the Hebrew language the word ‘God’ has the same root as the Arabic languages. So when the word ‘God’ was first translated into Bahasa Malaysia, the translators merely followed the Arabic Christian usage and retained the word ‘Allah’,” it said.

It said that substituting ‘Allah’ with ‘Tuhan’ in worship would cause confusion as some chapters of the al-Kitab has the words ‘Tuhan’ and ‘Allah’ in the same sentence. 

These two words correspond to the English ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ respectively, it said, and as such substituting ‘Allah’ with ‘Tuhan’ will mean terms like ‘Lord God’ would be translated to ‘Tuhan Tuhan’.

“The repeated words ‘Tuhan Tuhan’ indicates plural in Bahasa, creates the impression that Christians believe in many Gods, which is unacceptable.”

It added that Tuhan Yesus refers to Jesus Christ and is used to “affirm the deity and teach the doctrine of trinity”.

It said that by replacing the word ‘Allah’ with something else, the church would also be allowing a secular government to edit the scripture. 

“This would be shameful and an unprecedented development for any religion and government.”