Respect the wishes of Sabahans and Sarawakians, don’t politicise use of the word “Allah”

Borneo Christians who speak Malay do use the word Allah such as “Allah Taala” in the Iban Language, “Tuhan Allah” in Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh and Kelabit and “Tuhan Alla” in the Bidayuh Language.

(Focus Malaysia) – I CALL on all politicians, political parties, the Madani community organisations, key opinion leaders (KOL) and fellow Malaysians to seek national reconciliation between the Peninsula and Borneo in the controversy related to the ban on the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims instead of deriving political advantage from it.

I also call on all quarters to accept the following realities:

Borneo Christians who speak Malay do use the word Allah such as “Allah Taala” in the Iban Language, “Tuhan Allah” in Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh and Kelabit and “Tuhan Alla” in the Bidayuh Language.

The use of the word “Allah” by Christians is certainly not to reproach Muslims and therefore has never been persecuted by Muslims in Borneo Province.

The use of the word “Allah” among Borneo Christians has become visible since the 1980s due to the success of the National Language Policy and also the migration of the people of Borneo to the Peninsula due to lack of employment and education opportunities in the Borneo Region.

Wilfred Madius Tangau

The freedom of Borneo Christians to use the word ‘Allah” should not at all threaten Islam but should be celebrated because of the success of Bahasa Malaysia as a national language that transcends religion as well as reflecting national reconciliation between the Peninsula and Borneo.

As many as 18 MPs, four Senators, 23 Sarawak state assemblymen and nine Sabah MPs from Pakatan Harapan (PH), GPS (Gabungan Parti Sabah), Warisan, PSB (Parti Sarawak Bersatu) and Bersatu had on March 15, 2021 issued a joint statement appealing to the Federal government led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to withdraw its appeal against the High Court decision on March 10, 2021 that a ban on the use of the word of “Allah” contradicts the Federal Constitution.

We are very grateful that our call was finally heard by the Madani Federal government led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. We hope the Federal government’s decision to withdraw this appeal is acceptable to all parties with an open heart.

Here is an excerpt from the original statement:

  • Christians who use the word “Allah” and similar religious terms alongside Muslims are mostly people of Borneo and Orang Asli who speak Bahasa Malaysia as a second language or mother tongue in a similar context as the Batak, Dayak, Ambon and Timor tribe Christians in Indonesia who speak Indonesian language as a second or mother tongue.

In Sarawak, the Iban language uses “Allah Taala”, the Bidayuh language uses “Tuhan Alla” to refer to God Almighty while the Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh and Kelabit use “Tuhan Allah”.

  • In Sabah and Sarawak, Bahasa Malaysia became popular among the Christian community due to the successful implementation of the National Language Act 1967, the National Language Policy and the National Education Policy that reversed a lack in the use of the Malay Language during colonial times.
  • Muslims in Borneo Province support and do not feel threatened by their Christian relatives and friends worshipping Allah who is deemed as the Almighty God of all revelations rooted in Prophet Ibrahim.

The people of Borneo truly believe that human beings are created differently for us to know and love one another, not to insult and sideline one another, and that the existence of various religions is the will of Allah Almighty’s who otherwise can unite mankind in a single religion.

  • Muslims and Christians worshipping Allah in their respective mosques and churches will not make Muslims apostates. The best evidence ever is that Muslims who make up almost or more than 90% of the population in both the Arab world and Indonesia have been sharing the word “Allah” and other religious terms with their Christian compatriots for 1,442 years and 476 years respectively.
  • The Federal Cabinet’s decision in 1986 to deny non-Muslims the right to worship Allah was a mistake under political pressure by some peninsula Malays who feel insecure, ignorant of the situation in Sabah and Sarawak or arrogant in thinking that have the right to determine how Sabahans and Sarawakians must live, either in their own states or in the Peninsula.

These Malays who act as if they are central to the world refuse to accept that Malaysia is a “stand at same height, sit at same low” partnership among Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.

  • The High Court decision simply corrects an injustice that hurts Sabahans, Sarawakians and the Orang Asli due to the anxiety, ignorance and arrogance of some Malays. It will not lead to preaching Christianity to Muslims or result in heresy, a baseless fear that some Malays still try to propogate.
  • The High Court decision is a victory for Malaysia and will strengthen our Federation. It will allow Christians among Sabahans, Sarawakians and Orang Asli to worship Allah freely, just like the freedom enjoyed by their Dayak relatives without any issue on the other side of the Kalimantan border.
  • The High Court decision is also a victory for Bahasa Malaysia as the national language and also all its speakers as well as a respect for the speakers of Bahasa Iban, Bahasa Bidayuh, Bahasa Lun Bawang/Lun Dayeh and Bahasa Kelabit, among the heritage languages in the Borneo Continent.