Friday, January 8, 2010

Now the Sikhs are in it too ...

So what is UMNO and Malaysian Muslims plan to do now? Attack Sikh temples?

For centuries, Sikhs have used the words ‘Allah’ and ‘Rahim’ to refer to God as well as the Arabic terms ‘iman’ and ‘ibadat’ for faith and worship. Following the government’s ban against the usage of purportedly ‘Islamic’ terms by non-Muslims, what will happen to the practice of the Sikh religion in Malaysia?

This was among the question raised today by Malaysian Gurdwara Council head Harcharan Singh following reports that the cabinet had decided against allowing the use of the term Allah by those practicing religions other than Islam.

“We have used the terms Allah and Rahim, for example, extensively in our writings and in our prayers to refer to the One God. The word Allah is used in our main holy scripture. Sikh gurus in India have used these terms for centuries, they have become part of the Punjabi language, and we are still using them today,” said Harcharan when contacted.

Sikhs also use the word ‘Khuda’ for God, he noted in reference to the term used, among others, by Bangladeshi Muslims.

“In addition to these words, we also use the terms iman and ibadat among the many other words (that are used by Muslims),” added Harcharan.

“If the word Allah has been banned for use by non-Muslims, what’s going to happen to Sikhs and the practice of their religion?” he asked.

Harcharan’s comments follow on the heels of a decision announced by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdulllah Mohd Zin yesterday that the cabinet had disallowed Catholic publication Herald from using the words Allah, Solat, Kaabah and Baitullah in its weekly’s Bahasa Malaysia section.

Abdullah, who oversees Islamic religious affairs, was reported today as having said the prime minister had directed him to clarify the matter so that the public would not be confused.

“One of the reasons given to uphold the restriction is because that it has long been the practice of this country that the word Allah refers to God according to the Muslim faith,” said Abdullah according to the Star.

It was only proper for other religions to use the word God and not Allah when referring to their God in respective beliefs, he added.

Poser for the government

Harcharan pointed out that the usage by Sikhs of Arabic and Persian terms normally used by Muslims is understandable given, among other facts, that Sikhism founder Guru Nanak had traveled extensively throughout Muslim lands.

Nevertheless, the issue raises a poser for the government, said Harcharan.

“I don’t know whether the basis of the government’s ban on the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims is political or religious. But if in today’s age of globalisation we are stopping people of one religion from using the words ‘belonging’ to another, I don’t know where we are heading”, he said.

Herald had earlier faced proscription following the Internal Security Ministry’s directive for it to refrain from using the word Allah in its weekly’s Bahasa Malaysia section.

Herald was later informed it’s permit had been renewed, with its editor Father Lawrence Andrew saying he had received a letter indicating it can resume printing without restriction on the word Allah.

Notwithstanding, the publisher has filed a writ of summons in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to seek declarations of use of the word Allah.

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