By Fr Lawrence Andrew, SJ
Kuala Lumpur: A Malay- Arabic word has been politicized and it has become the bone of contention for some people. The Kuala Terengganu UMNO delegate Datuk Zubir mbong at their recently concluded UMNO General Assembly said that he was “very suspicious why Christians want to translate the word God into ‘Allah’. I think they want to confuse young Muslims.”
To begin with, the Christians object to the statement of Datuk Zubir. Second, we have not translated the word ‘God’ into ‘Allah’ recently. To say that we have done so only now is to ignore history. We have historical evidence that the word has been in use even before the first Malay-Latin Dictionary was printed in 1631. To be more precise, the word ‘Allah’ was used even before the Sultanate of Johore and the neighbouring States became colonies of the Dutch and the British kingdoms.
So how could we be translating the word ‘Allah’ from the English word ‘God’ when the British had yet to colonize Malaya? The Catholic Church has been using the word ‘Allah’ translated, if you like, from the Latin word ‘Deus’ long before the formation of the Federation of Malaya!
It is unfortunate then, that some people in our country are confusing the Muslims and non-Muslims by stating that Christians have been using the word ‘Allah’ only recently! This is a lie and truth is being suppressed! Why are historical facts being falsified by some people in responsible positions in our country? These people are not only indulging in unethical practices but they are also being malicious to the point of paving the way for subtle discrimination and marginalization of citizens. This is gross injustice!
This unjust situation is becoming evident in certain school assemblies where non- Muslim students are being silenced by their peers while singing the State anthems because those anthems contain the word ‘ALLAH’. Why should non-Muslim children, whose parents have loyally sung their respective state anthems without any victimization during their school days, today be told not to sing those state anthems which contain the word ‘Allah’? Though this is not a widespread practice in the country, it is sufficient to warrant attention and concern that some social engineering that is unconstitutional is taking place in our country.
This is made disastrously frightening when some prominent politicians behave like rabble rousers and stir the emotions of the listeners towards hatred for other races and religions by daring to utter seditious speeches in public places. So, who is confusing he people, especially when Christians have no control over the mainstream printed and digital media? Who is sowing discord in the country? This country of ours does not need provocateurs but bridge builders.
So where is the Christian’s hidden agenda to confuse Muslims when our translation of the word ‘Allah’ is NOT from the English word ‘God’ but from the Latin word ‘Deus’ which came about in the sixteenth century? The word ‘Allah’ is found in a Dictionary that was printed in the seventeenth century!