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Friday, February 28, 2014

Jakim again reminds Muslims to protect the use of ‘Allah’

Jakim reminded Muslims today to enforce the ban on the use of 'Allah' by certain parties. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 28, 2014. Jakim reminded Muslims today to enforce the ban on the use of 'Allah' by certain parties. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, February 28, 2014.The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) again reminded Muslims to enforce the ban on the use of “Allah” by “other parties”, a remark that usually refers to non-Muslims using the Arabic word for "God" in during worship.
In the past, Jakim was at the forefront of a campaign to ban the use of the Arabic term by non-Muslims. 
In its sermon today, Jakim urged all state Muslim enforcement authorities to enforce this ban through their respective state enactments.
“As Muslims we are required to strengthen and preserve our faith ... This includes ensuring that the use of ‘Allah’ is not tarnished by other parties.
“State Muslim authorities should also continually monitor the use of ‘Allah’ and ensure that it is not miused by other parties as stipulated in their respective state enactments,” the sermon said.
The “Allah” issue created a nationwide debate on the right of Malaysia’s non-Muslim minority to use the word freely, particularly among Christians.
Christians make up about 10% of the country's population or 2.6 million, with almost two-thirds of them being Bumiputera from Sabah and Sarawak. These indigenous groups describe God as “Allah” in their prayers and in their bibles.
However, each state has the power to enact its own laws concerning the practice of Islam. Most states in the peninsula have an enactment that bans the use Allah and a score of other Arabic terms such as “nabi”, “Kabaah” and “salawat” among non-Muslims.
These enactments were inspired by a 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Committee which ruled that non-Muslims cannot use the term “Allah”. For instance, Selangor’s enactment called the Control of non-Muslim religions towards Muslims was passed in 1988. 
Sabah and Sarawak, however, do not have such enactments.
Christian and Muslim scholars have argued that term had been used for centuries among Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak and among Orang Asal tribes in the peninsula. 
“Allah” is also used among Arab and Indonesian Christians in their Holy books and rituals.   
Malaysia’s “Allah” ban came into focus in 2007 when the Home Ministry suspended the publishing permit of Catholic weekly Herald that used the word in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.
The Catholic church had subsequently taken the government to court where the case is still pending at the Federal Court level.
In 2011, a consignment of over 1,000 Bibles headed for East Malaysia was confiscated by the Home Ministry because of the same reason. 
In January 2014, the Selangor Muslim enforcement authorities (Jais) raided the Bible Society of Malaysia and carted off over 300 Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Iban bibles.
Although both the federal and state religious agencies have been idely criticised over their actions, the authorities justfied their actions based on the respective enactments.
Malaysia’s inability to resolve the issue has been widely criticised by Muslim scholars the world over. They have argued that the term “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam.
Today's sermon also urged Muslims to combat the scourge of drug abuse and trafficking, which has been labelled as the country’s public enemy number one.
Muslims, the department said, had a duty to report instances of drug abuse in their community to the police. 

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