The confusion with the illegalising the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims has to do with a gross misunderstanding by the Muslims on the meaning of the word. It is just the Arabic for God.
Different religious faiths have different words for God, depending on the language used. Some people here seem to think that only they have the exclusive right to the use of the Arabic word. But if they believe that there is only one unique God then they should not worry about what name He goes by.
The Arabs have been using Allah ’for centuries, even before Muhammad’s time. What next? By legislation non-Muslims are to be barred from having Arab names, wearing the songkok, hijab, etc., where do we draw the line?
During Prophet Muhammad’s time you could not tell by one’s language or dress whether one was Muslim or not, by the beard maybe. But by his inspired guidance and dakwah the prophet was able to persuade people to embrace Islam by the droves.
The current government approach in illegalising the words Allah, ka’abah etc is defensive, more worried about the local Muslims getting confused and even attracted to other religions.
Seeing from the non-Muslim point of view I cannot and do not see the Muslim Malay leaders and Islamic terrorists as persuasive of the faith. They are either hypocrites or ignorant, hardly inspiration for religious and virtuous life. On the other hand, the young Muslims are easily deterred by them and if had their way would be happy to join the seemingly more virtuous and better behaved non-Muslim friends. Indeed some may have done so.
It is unfortunate that we use human names to describe God and His majesty. We use words like He, Him, Great, All-seeing, All-knowing etc, when God is not a person with human qualities or faculties. God is not physical and is therefore not subject to time and space and is not restricted to the human senses. The nearest description I can think of is Super Intelligence. The popular passages of the Qur’an 2:255 (ayat kursi) and 59:22-24 give a good idea of what or who God is. I am sure every praying Muslim knows them by heart especially the ayat kursi. It would be great if non-Muslims know and appreciate them too.
Since there is no compulsion in religion (2:256) one is a Muslim by his own free will and by his own conviction. Any reasonable person, if directed to the right portions of the Qur’an (e.g. 2:177) can be made to ponder the Truth that the holy book tries to convey. He should not be distracted by the multitude of Hadith, which an Ustaz is so fond and proud of reciting. Practice charity and justice, lead a righteous life in relation to all others (Muslim or not) and lead by good example, then and only then talk about persuading others to be Muslim. One is a Muslim in the eyes of God not by his name or dress or by how pious he seems. Appearances can be very deceptive. (See surah Al-Ma’un 107:1-7).
During Prophet Muhammad’s time, indeed during any of the prophets’ time, people were divided simply into believers and non-believers, the belief referring to the divine message that the prophets try to convey. Belief in God has much more to do than how we worship and exalt Him. Since by definition God is complete and has nothing whatsoever wanting, whatever we say or do does not add to or subtract from Him and make Him any greater or less great. Obviously the beneficiary is other than Him, that is the worshipper or exalter and fellow creatures. Everything in nature is governed by rules. The Promulgator and Enforcer of the rules is none other than God the Creator. It is He who causes things to happen or not to happen entirely by His will. But He is no dictator. In spite of His prerogatives, God allows man choice and will of his own. Since He knows all and knows best (seen and unseen), we are judged not by how we are seen by fellow humans but by Him. And His justice is simply divine. That is why His most cited qualities are Rahman and Rahim (Merciful and Compassionate), qualities that true Muslims try to emulate. It’s a pity that we who claim to be true followers of Muhammad have still not truly understood his message.
SH Mohd lives in Kuala Lumpur.