Muslims who believe ‘Allah’ exclusive to Islam are ‘confused’, says scholar

October 22, 2014 by  
Filed under newsletter-world

Praying to AllahMalaysia, October 17, 2014: Indonesian scholar Ulil Abshar Abdalla has waded into Malaysia’s controversial “Allah” edict, saying Muslims who believe the word is exclusive to Islam were “confused” and noted that the Arabic term predates Islam.

Ulil, who was denied entry into Malaysia earlier this month for allegedly opposing its Islamic stand, said Muslims did not have a monopoly of the word “Allah” as it was a general term to refer to God.

Malaysia has declared “Allah” is exclusively for use only by Muslims, who make up the majority of the country’s 30 million population.

“The term ‘Allah’ comes from two words which are ‘Al’ ‘and ‘Ilah’ which means God. If we mention the word ‘Allah’, it is translated as God. The people of Mecca also used the word ‘Allah’ before Islam came,” he said in a recent telephone interview with The Malaysian Insider.

Ulil said it was wrong for people to claim that Muslims alone could use the word “Allah” as it had been in use among the Arabs during the pre-Islamic era.

“If Muslims now feel that the word ‘Allah’ belongs to them alone, I think that is incorrect. The Arabs before Islam also used the word ‘Allah’. (Those who hold the) view that Allah belongs to Muslims are confused.”

Ulil’s view of the “Allah” controversy echoes that of Muslim scholars and clerics, both locally and worldwide, who have criticized the ban of the use of the word among non-Muslims here.

Even the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, had said many Muslims said the court ruling undermined the credibility of Islam, in a reference to the Federal Court decision that the word “Allah” cannot be used in the Catholic publication, the Herald, on grounds it was not an integral part of Christianity.

Earlier this month, evangelical denomination Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) obtained leave from the Court of Appeal to seek a declaration that the word “Allah” could be used in Christian publications.

A three-man Court of Appeal bench, chaired by Datuk Rohana Yusof, said the Federal Court held that the September 14 finding that “Allah was not an integral part of Christianity” was a mere passing remark.

Among the groups which have defended “Allah” as exclusive to Muslims is Malay rights group Perkasa, which, along with Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), were described by Ulil as being similar to Indonesia’s hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

But, he said, unlike Isma and Perkasa, FPI was open to criticism.

“Fortunately in Indonesia, we have a more open system that has encouraged people to criticize,” he said. “Indonesia opens its doors for all parties to discuss among one another.”

Earlier Thursday, Ulil addressed an audience of 100 at the 3rd International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia via Skype.

He spoke on the dangers of labeling Muslims from different schools of thought as “kafir” (infidels) or “murtad” (apostates).

According to minister in charge of religion Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, Ulil was denied entry into Malaysia because his teachings contradicted the Shafie school of thought, to which Malaysia subscribes.

The government’s decision to deny Ulil entry was met with criticism from Malaysian Muslim groups such as the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) chief Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, who said it was an insult to their intelligence.

Former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim called the government “fundamentalist” and said the episode was just the latest event that showed how extremist Malaysia had become.

While Ulil has been blacklisted, no action has been taken against Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who had called for bibles to be burned last year for containing the word “Allah”.

Politicians from both sides of the divide have called for Ibrahim’s conviction under the Sedition Act 1948.

– the malaysian insider

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