Friday, October 17, 2014

Muslims who believe ‘Allah’ exclusive to Islam are confused, says Ulil

BY HASBULLAH AWANG CHIK

Banned Indonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla defied Putrajaya’s entry ban and appeared on screen via Skype to address an audience on human rights yesterday. Ulil says Muslims do not have a monopoly of the word ‘Allah’. – The Malaysian Insider pic, October 17, 2014.

Banned Indonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla defied Putrajaya’s entry ban and appeared on screen via Skype to address an audience on human rights yesterday. Ulil says Muslims do not have a monopoly of the word ‘Allah’. – The Malaysian Insider pic, October 17, 2014.
Banned Indonesian scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla has waded into Malaysia's controversial "Allah" edict, saying Muslims who believe the word is exclusive to Islam were “confused” and noted the Arabic term predates Islam.
Ulil, who was denied entry into Malaysia this month for allegedly opposing its Islamic stand, said Muslims did not have a monopoly of the word “Allah” as it was a general term to refer to God.
Malaysia has declared “Allah” is exclusive only for Muslims, who are the majority among the 30 million population.
“The term ‘Allah’ comes from two words which are ‘Al’ ‘and ‘Ilah’ which means God.
“If we mention the word ‘Allah’, it is translated as God. The people of Mecca also used the word ‘Allah’ before Islam came,” he said in a recent telephone interview with The Malaysian Insider.
Ulil said it was wrong for people to claim that Muslims alone could use the word “Allah” as it had been in use among the Arabs during the pre-Islamic era.
“If Muslims now feel that the word ‘Allah’ belongs to them alone, I think that is incorrect. The Arabs before Islam also used the word ‘Allah’. (Those who hold the) view that Allah belongs to Muslims are confused.”
Ulil’s view of the “Allah” controversy echoes that of Muslim scholars and clerics, both locally and worldwide, who have criticised the ban of the use of the word among non-Muslims here.
Even the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, had said many Muslims said the court ruling undermined the credibility of Islam, in a reference to the Federal Court decision that the word “Allah” cannot be used in the Catholic publication, Herald, on grounds it was not an integral part of Christianity.
Earlier this month, evangelical denomination Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) obtained leave from the Court of Appeal to seek a declaration that the word “Allah” could be used in Christian publications.
A three-man Court of Appeal bench, chaired by Datuk Rohana Yusof, said the Federal Court held that the September 14 finding that “Allah was not an integral part of Christianity” was a mere passing remark.
Among the groups which have defended “Allah” as exclusive to Muslims is Malay rights group Perkasa, which, along with Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), were described by Ulil as being similar to Indonesia’s Front Pembela Islam (FPI).
But, he said, unlike Isma and Perkasa, FPI was open to criticism.
“Fortunately in Indonesia, we have a more open system that has encouraged people to criticise.
"Indonesia opens its doors for all parties to discuss among one another,” he said.
Earlier yesterday, Ulil defied Putrajaya’s ban and addressed an audience of 100 at the 3rd International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia via Skype.
He spoke on the dangers of labelling Muslims from different schools of thought as “kafir” (infidels) or “murtad” (apostates).
According to minister in charge of religion Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, Ulil was denied entry into Malaysia because his teachings contradicted the Shafie school of thought, to which Malaysia subscribes.
Putrajaya’s decision was met with criticism from Malaysian Muslims such as the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) chief Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, who said it was an insult to their intelligence.
Former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim called the government “fundamentalist” and said the episode was just the latest event that showed how extremist Malaysia had become.
While Putrajaya has blacklisted Ulil, no action has been taken against Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who had called for Malay and Iban Bibles to be burned last year for containing the word “Allah”.
Politicians from both sides of the divide have called for Ibrahim’s conviction under the Sedition Act 1948.
However, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri said in a written parliamentary reply last Tuesday that police had decided not to take action against Ibrahim as he was defending Islam.
She said police concluded that Ibrahim’s words were only directed at specific individuals, and were not a threat to the larger society. – October 17, 2014.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/muslims-who-believe-allah-exclusive-to-islam-are-confused-says-ulil#sthash.m7joenLV.dpuf

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