As the June 2011 school holidays approach and many churches in Singapore are planning to hold church camps in Malaysia, where there is more land and nature– to explore and enjoy and at almost half the cost than in Singapore, let us not forget that there are sensitivities we should be aware of as to sharing the Word in Malaysia.
There is a controversy in the use of “Allah” and in the Straits Times of 17 March, 2011. Under the headline of “Churches refuse to collect Bibles” we are told that there are two shipments (5,100 Bibles at Port Klang since March 2009 and 30,000 at Kuching port since Janaury 2011) of Bibles from Indonesia at two Malaysian ports which have remained unclaimed. They are imports owned by the Bible Society of Malaysia and the Sarawk branch of Gideons International respectively. It said that because “Allah” is used in the Bibles, the authorities are willing only to release the Bibles with a stamp marked “For Christians only” and numbered. This is unacceptable to some Christians in Malaysia
“The Minister in the Malaysian Prime Minister’s deparment, Idris Jala, who is a Sarawakian Christian discussed the matter with the Christian Federation of Malaysia on Monday. The church leaders who attended the meeting however, said they were not told that the Bibles were to be stamped “For Christians Only” and numbered. They believed the government would continue to just mark the books as “Christian Publications”, which was acceptable to them.
“The latest saga has re-ignited the “Allah” controversy, which raged at the end of 2009 when the High Court allowed a Catholic publication to use “Allah” to refer to God.
This enraged some Muslims, who wanted the word to be exclusive to Islam, causing some tensions in Malaysia when a church was fire-bombed and other religious places defaced. The court decision is under appeal. The matter is further complicated by state laws that prohibit “Allah” from being used outside the Muslim context.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz told a news website yesterday that the Bibles in Port Klang should thus rightfully not be released because of such a law in Selangor. Port Klang is located in Selangor state. Those in Kuching can be released as there is no such law in Sarawak, he said.
He insisted that Cabinet would decide on the matter only tomorrow, adding to the public confusion.
The controversy looks set to rage on for a while more, especially as many Muslims still disagree with the use of “Allah” by Christians. ..
Malaysian Ulama Association president Sheikh Abdul Halim Abdul Kadir told a news website yesterday that “Allah” was an exclusive term for Muslims. He said Malay-language Bibles are acceptable as long as they do not use “Allah”. “I will still defend this view, even though I agree that Christians should have the right to Bibles being printed in Malay, because Bahasa Malaysia is the national language.”
Please be advised as you are spiritually encouraged at your church camps and conventions in June 2011 whenever you are in Malaysia, in fact at all times and all places, to be aware of local sentiments.