Herald editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew posed this question in an interview with Projek Dialog, an online social website.
"Ask these people making these claims how many Muslim persons have converted to Christianity."Ask Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak if he knows the 'Our Father' because he also studied at St John's Institution, a Catholic school."
"Ask the Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail what is the meaning of 'Our Father' and 'Hail Mary'. He will say that he studied in a Catholic school. Did he convert? No, he is still a Muslim,” said the priest, referring to two prayers which Catholics often say.
He raised these two examples to debunk one of the main assumptions behind the government's objection to Christians using the word Allah: that it will confuse Muslims and create the conditions for the conversion of Muslims to Christianity.
In the interview, Andrew rejected allegations that the Catholic Church was using the Malay language to spread its teachings to Muslims.
The Catholic Church had been using Bahasa Melayu as its main language before the British colonialists introduced English in Malaya, he said.
Andrew said the use of the language by the church dates back to the 16th century, when the printing machine was first used to print books. And English only found its way into churches after the British came and the people of Malaya received English education and started to converse in the language.
Even then, he said, English was used alongside Malay.
The interview comes on the heels of the Court of Appeal’s decision last month to uphold the Home Minister’s ban of the word Allah in the Herald.
The ruling has drawn a barrage of comments and opinions, including those from international observers, with many criticising it and saying it was oppressive.
Legal experts, meanwhile, pointed out that that the ruling was binding on all, beyond the Herald, but certain government ministers had attempted to cool tensions by saying it was not applicable to Sabah and Sarawak, where the people are free to use the word.
The church is expected to appeal the court decision.
When asked why some Muslims were sensitive to the use of the word by non-Muslims, Andrew questioned the credibility of those who were making it an issue.
"Who are they? Ibrahim Ali and Perkasa. Who are they?” he said.
He pointed out they were the ones who are anti-non-Malay and non-Muslim, saying they had labelled non-Malays as “pendatang” and had asked other races to leave the country if they were unhappy, and had also threatened to burn Bibles.
He said until now, he has not experienced a Malay acting in this manner, instead noting that when there was a conflict, the Malays were known to be able to sit down, talk and resolve issues.
"We respect the laws of this country. We are abiding by the court process and are willing to exhaust all legal means," he said.
According to Andrew, back in the old days, the Malay and Muslim community had no issue with the use of the word by non-Muslims.
He said it was accepted, in the same way the community accepted the Chinese, Indians and European who came to Malaya before Independence.
"They were all friends. Just ask your grandparents, in the old days, they would sit together and chat while drinking tea and eating nasi lemak with the Chinese and Indians, without any racial or religious disharmony.
"They would also visit each other's homes. Back then, my Malay friends would come to my house and we would eat together, but now Muslims do not want to visit the homes of non-Muslims."
On suggestions that the Muslim community would be confused if Allah was used by other religions, Andrew said: "It is an Arab word, Al-Ilah, it is not a Malay word.
“Just like 'suci' and 'dosa' are not Malay words. Ask a Malay what is 'dosa' in Arabic?
“These are Sanskrit words which originated in India. If we truly understand the background of the Malay language, you will find that it originates from various other languages."
He further said the word Allah emerged in pre-Arab times, before Christianity, and noted that Islam came after Christianity.
As such, he stressed that there should not be any confusion among the Malays, adding that the earliest dictionary in the country was the Latin-Malay edition published in 1613, in which Allah is translated from Latin to Malay.
"Interestingly, the Malay dictionary had not yet existed, but there was a Latin-Malay dictionary."
Andrew said in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, one would only see Malays today.
"Today, the civil service is made up mostly of Malays. If you are non-Malay and wish to apply for a government job, forget about it. Whoever it is that wants to get promoted has to convert to Islam," he added.
As such, he said it was not the spread of Islam globally that was influencing the Islamisation of the country, but rather the internal politics among the powerful.
"There is continuous friction between PAS and Umno who are competing to bring about Islamisation. As such, the ban on the word Allah by the Court of Appeal is a form of Islamisation in the country.” – November 7, 2013.
~ The Malaysian Insider