Religious authorities in Malaysia insist 'Allah' only for Muslims
Federal religious authorities in Malaysia on Friday urged Muslims to preserve the sanctity of their faith by not allowing non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" in their scriptures.
The Malaysian Islamic Development Department warned that non-Muslims who do so are out to confuse Muslims.
"It is very clear that today enemies of Islam are seeking to divert and undermine the Muslim community's faith," the department said in Friday's sermon read throughout the country. "Muslims must be firm in protecting the sanctity and the identity of their religion."
But Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein urged calm after a call by a group in the northern state of Penang to burn Bibles at the weekend to protest an appeal by state Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to allow non-Muslims to use "Allah" in their scriptures.
The group, calling itself the Anti-Bible Bahasa Melayu (Anti-Malay Bible Action Force), has distributed pamphlets calling on Muslims to join the mass Bible burning Sunday in Butterworth town, 290 kilometres north-west of Kuala Lumpur.
"I urge all of us to be rational and to remain cool so to not ruin the harmony in our society," Hishammuddin said.
The controversy over the use of the word "Allah" first erupted in 2007 when the Home Ministry stopped a Catholic publication from using the word in its magazine.
The Church sued the government, and a court ruled in December 2009 that the use of the word "Allah" is not exclusive to Muslims in Malaysia, where 60 per cent of the more than 29 million people profess the Islamic faith.
The decision triggered attacks on some Christian churches and protests by Muslims throughout Malaysia.
The Home Ministry appealed the decision and is awaiting a ruling. In the meantime, state leaders have issued edicts that prohibit non-Muslims from using the world "Allah.