Malaysia’s Appeals Court denies Malay-speaking Christians the freedom to write “Allah”.

On Monday 14 October 2013, a panel of three Muslim judges of the Court of Appeal of Malaysia quashed the 2009 judgement of the High Court that the Catholic Church in the capital city could use the word “Allah” in its Malay language publications. The Malay language is used in worship and religious written materials mainly by the indigenous Christians in the Malaysians states on the island of Borneo, such as the Iban and Bidayuh in Sarawak and the Kadazandusun and Murut of Sabah. It is also used amongst aborigines in Peninsular Malaysia and also Christians from the two Bornean states residing in the peninsula. By law, Malay is the sole official language of the Federation of Malaysia.

The main reason for the Court’s decision was that it agreed that the Home Minister had the power to ban the use of “Allah” by the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur in the Malay language section of its weekly newspaper, Herald, in order to preserve public order. This would appear to be a reference to the resentment of certain groups among the majority Muslim population towards non-Muslims using “Allah”.

The main argument advanced by the Archdiocese, the respondents to the appeal by the Government of Malaysia against the High Court’s earlier ruling, was that “Allah” had been used by Christians in the region for centuries in the Malay/Indonesian language, long before there was ever a Government of Malaysia, or even a Malaysia. Another reason employed by the Archdiocese was that freedom of worship, being enshrined in the Constitution, prevents the Government from telling non-Muslims what words they may or not use in the practice of their religions. The Court of Appeal, however, has decided that the anger of Muslims is reason enough to prevent Christians publishing the word “Allah” in news publications prepared for those of their flock who regularly read religious materials in the national language, in fact the majority of Malaysia’s almost 3 million Christians.

Besides the Archdiocese’s historical and constitutional reasons for using “Allah”, another reason, not relied upon in Court, is that Christians need two words to refer to God, just as in all other languages. One is a way of expressing “Lord” and the other, of course, is for expressing “God”. In Malay/Indonesian Christian materials the word “Tuhan” has been mainly used for “Lord” and “Allah” has been used for “God”. Some Muslims have said that Christians should use “Tuhan” for “God” and not “Allah”, which they say is strictly the “personal name” of the Islamic God. However, they have not been so helpful as to suggest how Christians could then express the idea of “Lord” or “the Lord God”. If Christians say “Tuhan Tuhan” for “the Lord God” it actually means “Gods” in Malay, where the plural of a noun is formed by duplicating the noun. Saying “Tuhan Allah”, however, makes perfect sense.

Another interesting point is that even in the Qur’an it appears that the God of the Christians and the Jews is also referred to as “Allah”.

Father Lawrence Andrew SJ, editor of the Herald, has indicated that the Archdiocese will appeal against the recent decision in the country’s apex court, the Federal Court of Malaysia.


About GC

Poor sinner.
This entry was posted in Catholic Culture, Guest Authors, Interreligious relationship, Mahometans, The Persecuted Church, World Affairs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Malaysia’s Appeals Court denies Malay-speaking Christians the freedom to write “Allah”.

  1. Toadspitttle says:

    No problem.
    Instead of calling God “Allah,” Christians should call Him, “Cyril.”
    He’ll know what they mean.

    Classic case of pinheads dancing on a angel here.
    (Bad Toad. Of course, it’s disgraceful. What is the world coming to? Where will all this idiocy end? One never know, do one?)


  2. GC says:

    Well, Toad, some Malay Muslims believe that Allah is the “personal name” of the Islamic God. Sort of like Fred or Marsha (or these days Jayden or Madison?).


  3. GC says:



  4. Toadspitttle says:

    “Sort of like Fred or Marsha (or these days Jayden or Madison?)”

    In two words – Pre Cisely, G! You have put the whole linguistic fiasco in a nutshell – xactly where it belongs!

    It’s sort of like calling God by the personal name of ‘Cyril,’ or ‘Chelsee,’ isn’t it?

    Although even Toad draws the line at calling God “Chelsee.”

    (Being a Spurs fan, and all.)


  5. GC says:

    Oh, let’s just call God “Toots” then, Toad. Would Toad be happy then?


  6. Toadspitttle says:


    ‘Toots’ is a silly name,
    Cyril is not. Well, not always.

    Chelsee always is, though.

    (Spinoza thought God was called ‘The Universe.’
    Or contrairiwise.
    Makes no difference. Or so he thought. But he was a Jew.)


  7. GC says:

    If any CP&Sers would like to view the Herald, the multilingual weekly of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, it can be found here:

    The offending Malay language edition is here:


  8. johnhenrycn says:

    What would the powers-that-be in Malaysia have to say about Christians using the words Dominus, Patri and Deus? Sounds like a win-win solution to me. The Muslims would have less justification for throwing bombs at our churches, and Catholics would have the pleasure of hearing the ancient language of our Faith, if only a smidgen of it. Personally, I would love the first words to spring from Father’s lips each Sunday morning to be: “In nomine Patri et Filii et Spiritus Sancti“, and I think most Catholics who go to Novus Ordo would be similarly thrilled to reconnect with their beginnings, even if the vernacular was used thereafter.


  9. GC says:

    If ever there was a case for using Latin in the Mass it would be in Malaysia, JH, where about 130 languages are spoken. Since Latin was dropped from Mass here, what happens is that there are separate Masses in different languages which speakers of those languages attend separately. Hardly ideal.

    However, most of these different language groups can speak either or English or Malay or both of them. Most Masses therefore are either in English or Malay, but many also in Mandarin or Tamil. Sometimes, for instance at Easter, a service will be in all the four main languages, Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil.

    The problem still remains about what to do in the indigenous areas and how to reach these people in written materials. This must be in Malay, as it is the only language they are fully literate in as they were schooled in it since it is the official language and used in nearly all schools and universities. So they have to use Allah as that is the Malay word for God, Theos, Elohim. The writer of the Qur’an knew that Allah meant also the God of the Christians and of the Jews and others.

    JH, the problem does not arise in Indonesia at all, the world’s largest Muslim nation, which is 20 minutes by plane from here and where the language is the same. There is also no problem in Arab countries either.


  10. kathleen says:

    “JH, the problem does not arise in Indonesia at all, the world’s largest Muslim nation, which is 20 minutes by plane from here and where the language is the same. There is also no problem in Arab countries either.”

    So what is it with the Malayan Muslims that they should take offense to Christians using the name ‘Allah’, when this is the word for ‘God’ in their language? I really don’t understand their argument; it just doesn’t make sense. Seems to me that the court ruling was wrong too, and biased against the Christians in Malaysia. The judges appear to have reached their verdict by a sort of blackmailing from the angry Muslim mob threatening violence and disturbances if they did not get their way.


  11. Toadspitttle says:

    ““In nomine Patri et Filii et Spiritus Sancti“, and I think most Catholics who go to Novus Ordo would be similarly thrilled to reconnect with their beginnings, even if the vernacular was used thereafter.”
    Absolutely agree, JH. To us English speakers it sounds ‘holier’ and more solemn, somehow. More sonorous and serious.

    Not so different in Spanish:
    En el nombre del Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo

    Incidentally, ‘Espiritu Santo’ sounds – to me at least – a good deal less ‘odd,’ than ‘Holy Ghost.’
    Subjectivity at work here, of course.
    But I have long been of the opinion that Mass in the vernacular is a good thing – always provided it is in a foreign language.


  12. Roger says:

    What is in a name? Well a great deal actually so much so that the Holy Early Martyrs gave their lives rather than worship false Gods.
    Malaysia well the arguments here are identical to those used to justify the Crucifying of Our Lord. The Church is Our Lords Mystical Body and here in Malaysia His innocent Body is being Persecuted. This is happening also in India and Syria. What happens in Malaysia should resonate with Us because we should and must feel this suffering, if we are One Body then the pain in any one member is the Pain of All.
    Petition and Pressure Internationally against this weak Malaysian Court.
    Persecution and Fatima and the Nations. This is a subject that isn’t considered or given enough weight. Persecution preceeded the parting of the clouds and the Miracle of the Sun.
    Our Lord expressly spoke of signs in the sun and the moon. and on earth distress of nations. Luke 21:24-25. The depth and significance of these words would fill up volumes.
    So Fatima is a sign of the distress of nations. 1917 had the Balfour Declaration (Jerusalem). WW I and WW II (distress of nations). Nations came into being through Babel and we are living within a Global version of Babel. But Our Lord restores All things.
    My prayers and yes fasting and penance for the Persecuted and All the suffering members of the Church.
    Understand that Fatima isn’t a Private Prophecy, because it directly connects to Our Lord and Public Prophecy! Our Lord fortold this sign 2000 years ago!


  13. Gargantua says:

    “Whats in a name” says Roger, and I agree. So does ole Willy Shakespeare- “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

    And those who know their signs and signifiers will chuckle at this abysmal nonsense.

    The language doesnt matter – it’s only a group of sounds.If some simpleton wants to ban the word “Allah” thats fine with me. Include halal, haram and fatwah too.

    Angels, dance, pins etc.


  14. Gargantua says:

    “sonorous, serious, solemn”,

    But the bloke above is right – it’s all subjectivity, except the alliteration.
    To captives being chucked to the lions in the Roman arena, Latin would sound distinctly different.

    Hic haec, hoc.

    I have a hankering for the Latin Mass, but I know that the language means nothing.



  15. Roger says:

    A name? Well names have meaning. Word flow from the Word and hence names come from God. Adam had infused knowledge and named the animals. We are Baptised with a name and a religious is given a name. Kings and Queens are named. Popes after their Accepto are asked their name. Pure Masonry this juxtaposition over names! Saying one thing and meaning another! We really do need a new Inquisition to seek out the wolves from the shepherds.
    What is wrong with Father, Son and Holy Ghost? The Muslims do not believe in the Trinity and Allah clearly is different from The Trinity!
    St Paul dealt with precisely when disputing with the Greeks. One thing dealing with the pagans and another dealing with the Faith.


  16. GC says:

    “In the beginning was the Word”, “and God said, let it be”.

    A bit more respect for words please, besides otherwise lawyers like JH will instantly become penniless. I fear not so for other less worthy occupations such as media persons, like Mr Toad.

    But after the solemn words of their Lordships of the Court of Appeal last Monday, Christians in the pretty equatorial land concerned will have no way of writing “The Lord gave the Word” in their own national language.


  17. GC says:

    We can also hear that in Korean words, with the added bonus of witnessing gates lifting up their heads in Korean.

    Great effort really, with the customary great precision of the North-East Asian races in most everything. Buy a Hyundai motor vehicle indeed.


  18. GC says:

    Mistaken again, I think God said “let there be , , , etc. etc. . . .”


  19. Toadspitttle says:

    “A bit more respect for words please, besides otherwise lawyers like JH will instantly become penniless. I fear not so for other less worthy occupations such as media persons, like Mr Toad.”.

    Toad is as respectful of words as the next man. Especially when the next man is Pope Francis.


  20. Toadspitttle says:

    ..But (ex-media person) Toad is less respectful of his typographical commands, alas.

    And he must point out, yet again, that – as GC cunningly demonstrated above – words mean exactly what we want them to mean – no more, no less.

    This results in what Roger rightly calls “Babel,” and is the result of our sins. It seems.

    As Popper gloomily points out, “It is impossible to speak in such a way that we cannot be misunderstood.”
    So, it’s all a bit futile, isn’t it? And it’s why God-fearing people kill one another over a bit of “dogma” in a book.
    Of course, no-one will understand this, anyway.


  21. kathleen says:


    Certainly there can be a misunderstanding of another person’s “words” if they use the wrong words (by the double meanings some words possess, or by mistake) and if they express themselves badly (as is often the case), and if the words are written rather than spoken (hence without the useful expression, emphasis, accent etc. which can help stress a point).
    This has happened quite often to all of us here from time to time, as you well know! 😉

    However, to trivialise the importance of words is really rather comical and backfires when it is clear that is by words – no more, no less – the whole endeavour of CP&S and other like-minded Catholic blogs is based. Unable to evangelise by the witness of actions (over the internet) our whole mission is through words.

    When St. John in the opening sentence of his Gospel proclaims: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1) and later on those monumental words: “And the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14), there is no debasing of the vital importance of words. He calls Jesus, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, THE WORD.

    Our whole Faith is based on The Word (Jesus Christ), in His words and those of His followers passed down to us by the Apostles, through the spoken words of Tradition and the written words of the Bible.


  22. GC says:

    kathleen, Toad seems to be quite agnostic towards “words”. . . .it’s all a bit futile, isn’t it?, as Toad says, and words mean exactly what we want them to mean. A bit like Toad’s kindred soul, Gargantua, above. A shame then that we depend on words entirely for our emotional and intellectual lives.

    Of course, there are misunderstandings when we use words with each other, but I think we understand each other quite well if not perfectly in the end with a bit of effort. We even understand words more more when we read them again and again and ponder them.

    As for God’s words or Word, it seems we can be quite confident of those:

    As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
    and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
    and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
    so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
    but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.


  23. Toadspitttle says:

    “Our whole Faith is based on The Word (Jesus Christ), “

    Yes Kathleen, exactly, and succinctly, put.
    And so is the Faith of the Anglicans, and the Lutherans, and and the Calvinists, and The Quivering Brethren, and The Baptists, and The Methodists, and The Nineteenteth-Day Pentacostalians of the Living Word of Jesus Christ The Everlasting Almighty (of Alabama.). (Note: I just made the last lot of Christians up, before anyone starts leafing through Wikki.)

    All their faiths are based on The Word.
    Of course, we on CP&S all know that only the Catholics really have The Genuine Word.

    “As for God’s words or Word, it seems we can be quite confident of those..”

    Of course we can! The only problem is deciding which God to be confident of, and what Words!
    Simples! (As Gertrude might say.)

    Toad Agnostic toward “words” ?
    Read the Popper quote again.
    But then, Karl was a Jew and probably an Agnostic, if not an actual Atheist. I don’t know..

    Does nobody see what Toad is ‘getting at’ here?

    No? Then he’s clearly using the wrong words.


  24. GC says:

    No, Toad, we can only misunderstand you, because you are using words.

    Try and use something else in the Toad repertoire to see if that’s any better.


  25. Toadspitttle says:

    Such as what, G? There is nothing else in the Toad repertoire. What else do you have in your repertoire, that is “better,” or effectively substitutes for – Words?
    Pictures? That might work.

    And I can only misunderstand you, by the same token.
    It seems to me you are endorsing my argument.
    But then, I’m probably just misunderstanding yours.

    All very complicated and obscure.
    We were all happier, and comfier, with Paedophile Priests and Eternal Damnation.
    Of that, I’m sure.


  26. kathleen says:

    “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I shall build my Church“.

    No matter how many translations are used; no matter how the Proddies might start off saying, “Oh yes, but what Jesus really meant was…. blah, blah, blah”, they cannot get round those powerful words, pronounced by The Word.
    No other explanation can logically make sense of them except the obvious fact, that Jesus Christ intended to build a Church – a body of men who would continue on His Mission – and that Peter (and after him, his successors) was appointed the Head of that Church. He guaranteed that the “gates of Hell” would not prevail against it.

    So try as you might to twist and wriggle out of admitting it Toad, or any of our Protestant brothers for that matter: that Church is the Catholic Church.
    All other Christian faiths are breakaways from the One True Church.


  27. Toadspitttle says:

    Why should I feel it necessary to “…twist and wriggle out of admitting it” Kathleen?
    It may actually be true. Matter of opinion. We have, of course, no “proof” Christ said those words. But then, we have no proof of anything much. As to what he meant, if he did say them, well we are back to Humpty Dumpty, aren’t we?…

    What you seem to fail to grasp is that other religions – Christian ones in this case – are not “getting round,” Catholicism – they, at least many intelligent members of Protestant churches, (and they do exist – our old mutual pal C.S.Lewis, for example) are well aware of what Catholics stand for. They just genuinely believe Catholics went wrong, and lost the plot.
    They might very well agree their churches are “breakaways,” just as the American Colonists decided, consciously and rationally to break away from England. And clearly did not regret it.
    But that’s all forgotten now, isn’t it?

    Either way it’s not a problem for me.
    I’m not advocating Lutheranism, any more than Muslimism.
    I’m a lapsed Catholic, not a lapsed Lutheran.


  28. Toadspitttle says:

    …Incidentally, and more seriously – on an issue arising out of this topic: If Christ did indeed say, “If you are not for me, then you are against me,” then he has a good deal to answer for.
    Because that is the language of the Islamicist, or Nazi, or Stalinist, or any other fanatic.
    And inevitably reaps a bloody reward.

    Nor is it true.
    You might as well say, ” If you are not for vegetarianism, or jogging, or Manchester United, or the music of Mahler then you are against it.”
    But then, maybe Christ didn’t say it: or else – if he did – maybe he meant something else by it. So that would be all right.

    Interesting. What do others think?

    (Too much comment. Sorry.)


  29. GC says:

    Although we do hear these days, even to the point of nausea, such things as “if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem”, don’t we, Toad?

    Given who Christ was, I can see the point. Although I see many of our “liberal” friends appear to play those verses down.

    Even if you’re only “lukewarm”, a tad tepid in Faith, you get “spewed out” too, Toad. (Revelation 3)


  30. Gargantua says:

    The post of 05.54 has an inescapable logic. It raises serious questions too, about the authenticity of Christ’s reported words.

    So few responses to an important comment. Does no-one even oppose this view?

    The for/against statement has ominous reminders of Bush and his ‘crusade’. It is unsustainable.


  31. Gargantua says:

    Yet in 05.15, the same contributor makes a howler of inaccuracy. He asserts that the American colonists wanted to break away fron England. WRONG!

    On what other issues is he WRONG?

    However, he may have had a nonCatholic education, which may account for this.


  32. Gargantua says:

    GC of 12.34 opines on language and meaning. GC may not have had the benefit of study in language and lingistics and prefers an organic approach to language.

    He speaks for “most of us” in this respect, he says. But maybe he is a she, and I have made a word mean what I want it to mean.


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