KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 — Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka can prepare an official Malay translation of the bible to correct Christians’ alleged error in using the word “Allah” for God, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) asserted in court today.
Mais lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla claimed that the Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak had wrongly used “Allah” for God in Bahasa Malaysia, arguing that they should instead use “Tuhan” and that this would not deprive them of their rights.
“That’s why we submit it should be sent to Dewan Bahasa. That will also be in line with para 2 of 2011,” he said, referring to the government’s 10-point solution issued in 2011 which had said bibles of all languages, including Bahasa Malaysia, can be printed in Malaysia.
“The government is also interested in allowing for Bahasa Malaysia publication of bibles. If Bahasa Malaysia publication of bibles is allowed, Dewan Bahasa would then prepare text to be approved by the Christian community, we would then not have this issue for generations to come,” he said.Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Datuk Nor Bee Ariffin then interjected to ask if Dewan Bahasa, as an authority in Bahasa Malaysia, would be competent to do a translation of the bible. Haniff asserted that Dewan Bahasa would be competent to do so.
The judge then noted the local BM-speaking Christian community saying that they have used the word “Allah” for a long time, asking if Dewan Bahasa would be able to say otherwise if the Christian community insisted on using the word “Allah”.
Haniff replied: “Of course. If language has been used in error, it must be corrected.”
Haniff was addressing the court on Mais’ behalf as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court, to assist in the understanding of how the word “Allah” is used in Islam.
Today is the hearing of a lawsuit by Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill — a BM-speaking Bumiputera Christian from Sarawak —- against the Home Minister and government to uphold her constitutional rights that were said to be infringed by a local “Allah” ban in Christian publications.
Mansoor Saat, a lawyer for Jill Ireland, told the High Court however that the word “Allah” is a “generic noun or root word of Semitic language concerning the concept of God, be it Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and so on”, basing this on four verses in the Quran that were previously cited.
Reiterating that the Quran allows non-Muslims to call their concept of God “Allah”, Mansoor also cited Quran verses which said there is no compulsion in religion and each to be left to their own religion.
“It doesn’t say they can’t use the word ‘Allah’ if they can live together and can worship the way they want to. Of course I won’t follow their religion, but surely you can’t impose your religion on them,” he said, citing the verses in the Quran from Surah 109 Al-Kafirun.
Lim Heng Seng, also a lawyer for Jill Ireland, had earlier today noted that the word “Allah” predates Islam and said it is used in multiple countries and by other religions.
“Christians use the word ‘Allah’ not because they want to offend but that is the word used by their forefathers,” he also said.
Lim had said the local BM-speaking Christian community have been using the word “Allah” for God for generations and even before Malaysia was formed, as well as citing historical Christian documents in BM dating back to the 1600s as evidence of the practice which he said was integral to their religion.
“There is no counter-evidence that no such practice has been done except for some fringe groups’ random opinions,” Lim said of the opinions by individuals cited by the government’s expert witnesses.
He said Jill Ireland had facts instead of opinions on the local BM-speaking Christian community’s practice of using “Allah” by three of its leaders — Sabah Council of Churches president Bishop Melter Tais, Association of Churches in Sarawak chairman and SIB Sarawak president Rev Datuk Dr Justin Wan, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Bahasa Malaysia and Orang Asli commission executive secretary Rev Alfred Tais.
Jill Ireland’s lawyers had also previously said that the substitution of the word “Allah” with “Tuhan” would result in translations that would run contrary to Christian doctrine and belief, citing as example how “Lord God” which is currently translated into “Tuhan Allah” would become different and blasphemous in meaning if substituted to be “Tuhan Tuhan”.
Jill Ireland is seeking two court orders, including a declaration that it is her constitutional right to have access to Christian publications in the exercise of her rights to practise religion and right to education, as provided for by the Federal Constitution’s Article 11 on the freedom of religion.
The Sarawakian native of the Melanau tribe is also seeking a court declaration that the Constitution’s Article 8 guarantees her equality before the law and protection from discrimination on grounds of religion in the administration of law ― specifically the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 and the Customs Act 1967.
Jill Ireland is also asking the court to declare the Home Ministry’s December 5, 1986 circular to ban the word “Allah” in Christian publications as unconstitutional and unlawful, arguing among other things that the government has failed to prove such use was a threat to public order.
The government had used the 1986 circular to justify its 2008 seizure of Jill Ireland’s eight compact discs containing the word “Allah” which were for her personal use.
The hearing concluded today, with the decision date yet to be fixed.