‘Four Malaysian churches were attacked with firebombs, causing extensive damage to one, as Muslims pledged Friday to prevent Christians from using the word “Allah,” escalating religious tensions in the multiracial country.’
‘Many Malay Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the population, are incensed by a recent High Court decision to overturn a ban on Roman Catholics using “Allah” as a translation for God in the Malay-language edition of their main newspaper, the Herald.
‘The government says Allah, an Arabic word that predates Islam, is exclusive to the faith and by extension to Malays. It refuses to make an exception, even though the Herald’s Malay edition is read only by Christian indigenous tribes in the remote states of Sabah and Sarawak. At Friday prayers at two main mosques in downtown Kuala Lumpur, young worshippers carried banners and gave fiery speeches, vowing to defend Islam. “We will not allow the word Allah to be inscribed in your churches,” one speaker shouted into a loudspeaker at the Kampung Bahru mosque. About 50 other people carried posters reading “Heresy arises from words wrongly used” and “Allah is only for us.” “Islam is above all. Every citizen must respect that,” said Ahmad Johari, who attended prayers at the National Mosque. “I hope the court will understand the feeling of the majority Muslims of Malaysia. We can fight to the death over this issue.”
In this country, it’s “politically correct” to assume that a) both Christians and Muslims worship the same god and b) by extension, it’s permissible to call him by names common to both religions. This is the line encouraged by CAIR and other groups. However, I have seen this attacked in Muslim literature as Masonic, not Islamic. Evidently that, in a roundabout way, is the position of the Muslim protesters in Malaysia.
The court, on a factual basis, is correct. Christians in Muslim countries (especially Arab ones, but also in places such as Indonesia) routinely refer to God as Allah and this is reflected in Biblical translations. Conversely all English “interpretations” of the Qur’an before the last century translated the Arabic Allah as “God.” It was left to Marmaduke Pickthall to transliterate the term “Allah” because, in his opinion, “there is no corresponding word in English.” Evidently he felt that the Christian and Islamic conceptions of God were so different that different names were necessary.
The insistence on the “two Gods” of Christianity and Islam has been ascribed only to Christian fundamentalists. (There’s really only one; the serious question is how do we obtain access to him and properly worship him.) But this idea is mirrored on both sides, and politically correct platitudes only serve to obscure the issue and cloud our understanding of others.