Archbishop: Political consistency needed to end ‘Allah’ impasse


(MM) – A senior Anglican archbishop berated government leaders for shying away from the 10-point deal they had mooted previously to solve an interfaith stalemate over use of the word “Allah”.

Rev Datuk Bolly Lapok, chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, said he wished the country’s leaders had taken a firm stand and showed “moral courage” to uphold the Federal Constitution in the face of growing religous tensions that have drawn deep lines between Malaysia’s Muslim majority and its Christian minority.

“We expect steadfastness in our political leaders to uphold the constitution—the supreme law of the land—and a governance that is godly, fair and just,” the Kuching-based archbishop for the Anglican Church in Southeast Asia told The Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

The prime minister said on Friday the 10-point solution is subject to existing state and federal laws and pointed out that Sabah and Sarawak do not have enactments prohibiting non-Muslims from referring to God as “Allah”.

Lapok’s remarks echo earlier views by other senior clergymen and Christian leaders who called on the prime minister to take the Cabinet’s 10-point policy to the next step and make it into law.

Ten out of Malaysia’s 13 states have similar legislation banning non-Muslim usage of “Allah” and other Arabic words.

The exceptions are Penang, Sabah and Sarawak, and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan.

The Selangor Islamic religious authorities had seized over 300 Malay- and Iban-language bibles from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) on January 2 on the basis of the state’s 1988 enactment that prohibits non-Muslims from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faiths, including “Allah”.

BSM has said that they distribute most of their Malay-language bibles to churches in Sabah and Sarawak, but also cater to Malay-speaking Christians in the peninsula, including the Orang Asli and those who come from East Malaysia.

Lawyers have denounced the Selangor state law as unconstitutional as its blanket ban on non-Muslim usage of “Allah” and other Arabic words is too broad, and not confined to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution that prohibits non-Muslims from proselytising to Muslims.

The Catholic Church is currently appealing to the Federal Court to be allowed to print the word “Allah” in its weekly paper, after the Court of Appeal reversed last October a 2009 landmark High Court ruling that the Arabic word for God was not exclusive to Muslims.

Malaysia’s highest court will hear arguments on March 5 before deciding if the Church can appeal.