KUALA LUMPUR: Restricting non-Muslims from using the word 'Allah' will turn 1.6 million Bumiputera Christians into criminals, charge Sabah and Sarawak churches.
This is because these Christians, who make up two-thirds of the Church goers in Malaysia worship in Bahasa Malaysia and their native languages and refer to God as 'Allah'.
"With greatest respect to the governing authorities...we ask that religious bigotry, racism and extremism not be perpetuated and allowed to fester and poison our Malaysian nation.
"Specifically, with regard to the use of the word 'Allah', proscribing the use of the word would instantly turn these native bumiputera into law-breakers in the very land of which they are the sons of the soil," they said.
Calling this "abhorrent" and "unacceptable", the Association of Churches in Sarawak and the Sabah Council of Churches in their joint statement said a ban will not stop the churches from using 'Allah'.
"The bumiputera church will continue to use the Bahasa Malaysia (Bible) al-Kitab together with the word 'Allah', both of which are fundamental to all aspects of the profession and practice of the Christian faith," they said.
They added that this has been the "common practice" of the Sabah and Sarawak churches for "hundred of years" and by several generations even before the 1963 formation of Malaysia.
'Breaking Malaysia's foundations'
In fact, they pointed out that Malaysia was formed after consent was struck that there will be no hindrance placed on religions other than Islam.
Barring the use of 'Allah' by Christians, they said, would be a "most serious breach of the foundational pillar (of Malaysia) pertaining to religion and religious freedoms".
They also cited Sarawak government paper 'Malaysia and Sarawak' published Jan 4, 1962 where it states the following:
"Although Malaysia would have Islam as the official religion of the enlarged federation, there would be no hindrances placed on the practice of other religions.
"Complete freedom of religion would be guaranteed in the federal constitution. Sarawak has at the present has no established religion and it would not be required to accept Islam as its state religions. -- Malaysiakini