Wednesday 20 July 2011

Allah row drags on despite Najib-Pope meet

KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s historic meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Rome two days ago was a major step towards better ties with the Catholic Church, but a top Islamic scholar’s remarks today that the “Allah” dispute was meant to provoke Muslim anger suggests the row is a long way from resolution.

A Muslim discourse at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) today showed the issue is unlikely to go away soon without intervention from the government, even after the Vatican and Putrajaya agreed to establish formal diplomatic ties following the prime minister’s meeting with the pope.

In his paper on “Kontroversi Nama Khas ‘Allah’ Dalam Konteks Pluralisme Agama” (Controversy over ‘Allah’ in the context of Religious Pluralism) Dr Mohd Sani Badron insists that the “mistranslation” of the word “God” as “Allah” in Malay bibles must be dropped because it wrongly depicts the two religions as being equals.

The economic and social studies director continued today to push the argument that, if not corrected, the mistranslation could cause further confusion.

“The translation of ‘God’ as ‘Allah’ is very wrong, it should be properly translated... we interpret not just the word but the meaning and if the meaning is inaccurate, it is wrong,” Mohd Sani told The Malaysian Insider.

“Meaning, the accurate term for ‘God’ [in Christianity] is ‘Tuhan’ and the word ‘Lord’ is also ‘Tuhan’, not ‘Allah’,” he added, after presenting his paper.

Najib (right) established formal ties between Malaysia and the Vatican. — Reuters pic
Local Catholic newspaper, The Herald, won the right to publish the word “Allah” to also refer to the Christian god in its Bahasa Malaysia edition at the High Court two years ago, but is unable to do so pending the home minister’s appeal.

The case has been languishing in the Court of Appeal since.
The Malay-language bibles detained at both Port Klang and Kuching Port two years ago and only recently released have put a clear division between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Some 200 Muslim academics from several government agencies as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) attended the earlier seminar hosted by Ikimar on “Al-Quran dan Cabaran Pluralisme Agama: Pengajaran Masa Lalu, Keperihalan Semasa dan Hala Tuju Masa Depan” (Al-Quran and the Challenge of Religious Pluralism: Lessons from the Past, the Present Issues and the Direction Ahead).

In his paper, Mohd Sani highlighted that the Christian interpretation of “Allah” in the Alkitab — as the Malay-language bible is called — carried a “plural form”.

This, he explained, had corrupted the exclusive name used to refer to Islam’s supreme being and gave several pointed examples to back his claim that the term “Allah” was used in a godly and non-godly sense.

According to Mohd Sani, its use was therefore “twisted” into conflicting meanings.

“As a result and influence from this situation, the government and society should carefully calculate its next step.

“Opening space to the misuse of the term ‘Allah’ is the greatest disrespect to the word and a violation of the Malay language [on] grounds that there are two spellings, that is ‘allah’ and ‘Allah’, is not a satisfactory excuse,” he said.

Mohd Sani insisted that the issue had persisted because it was a provocative issue planned to stir the anger of Muslims.

“The term ‘Allah’ is a term of respect for Muslims and the court action has spread the perception that Muslims are oppressive, certainly it will raise the anger of the Muslim community,” he said.

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