Wan Hilmi believes that Malaysians should not be wasting too much time fighting on something which is a non-issue in the first place, especially when it has a potential of setting us apart.


When a religious controversy arises, there will be a lot of hoo-ha among Malaysians – no matter how unproductive it is to debate about it. While our Primer Minister Dato Seri Najib Razak and his cabinet members are trying so hard to promote unity through their 1Malaysia concept, there is, arguably, zero tolerance amongst Malaysians when it comes to religious and/or racial issues, despite the fact that we have been living together for more than 50 years. Does this show that the 1Malaysia concept has failed to achieve its objective?

The most recent controversy is the usage of the word ‘Allah ’in Bahasa Malaysia Bibles. From my humble opinion, this so-called controversy is supposedly a non-issue provided you have fairness, justice, rationality, and reasonableness in mind. Despite the clear provision of Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion, there are still individuals and bodies acting against it, showing how childish and foolish can some be.  Majlis Agama Islam Selangor (MAIS), alongside with the Selangor Sultan’s decree, prohibited the usage of the word ‘Allah’ by all Christians.

There are also certain individuals who claim ‘Allah’ to be a term exclusive to Muslims only. The Perak Mufti stated, “Do not continue challenging, insulting Islam”. It is submitted that Christians should not be prohibited from using the word ‘Allah’ in their Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible because to do so would be limiting and restricting the right of Christians to manage and practise their own religion. Just imagine if Muslims were a minority in Malaysia – where they would be prohibited from calling the Adhan using a loudspeaker, prohibited from performing Friday prayers as it causes traffic congestion – would these prohibitions not be frustrating to Muslims, if they were to exist?

Freedom of religion, in my opinion, is not just about allowing any religion to be in existence. It also includes, but is not limited to, how religions are to be managed and practised by their respective followers. My argument is premised on two notions – the Constitutional point of view and the Islamic point of view.


From the Constitutional point of view, it is absolutely clear that Article 11 of the Federal Constitution guarantees and protects freedom of religion. Article 11(1) states:

Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it.

Furthermore, Article 11(3) stipulates that every religious group has the right, inter alia, (a) to manage its own religious affairs. Of course, it is admittedly true that this freedom is not absolute. The only restrictions are public order, public health and morality, as stated in Article 11(5). It would be an exaggeration to suggest that usage of the word ‘Allah’ in Bahasa Malaysia Bibles falls under any of these restrictions because I believe it is still within the scope of Articles 11(1) and 11(3) of the Federal Constitution.

Apart from Article 11, Article 3(4) is also a relevant provision in the context of this apparent controversy. This is because certain individuals purporting that the word ‘Allah’ be exclusive to Muslims had relied on Article 3(1) which states that Islam is the religion of the Federation. This was the basis of their argument that to allow Christians to use the word ‘Allah’ would be to make all religions equal. It is unfortunate to note that one of these individuals is our former Chief Justice.

These individuals also claim that Islam is far more superior to any other religion in the Federation by virtue of Article 3(1). It is submitted that Article 3(1) cannot be read alone, but must be read together with Article 3(4) which states that nothing in this Article derogates from any other provision of the Constitution. In other words, the constitutional right of freedom of religion in Article 11 is not extinguished notwithstanding the adoption of Islam as the religion of the Federation. It is also pertinent to note that the term ‘Islam’ in Article 3(1) only refers to the ritualistic and ceremonial role of Islam, as stated by Tun Salleh LP in Che Omar Che Soh v PP [1988] 2 MLJ 55. Thus, Article 3(1) does not bring any significant impact towards the other provisions of the Constitution, including the provisions on Fundamental Rights.


Now, looking from the Islamic point of view, I am certain that – although neither a religiously-trained ulama nor an al-Azhar graduate myself – Islam does not prohibit usage of the term ‘Allah’ by Christians, in spite of the differences between Islam and Christianity in terms of Aqidah (Faith). Islam believes in the concept that ‘Allah is Esa (One)’, while Christianity believes in the concept of the ‘Trinity’. Despite this fact, it is submitted that Christians should not be prohibited in using the term ‘Allah’.

Some individuals argue that it is wrong to allow them to do so because Christians do not subscribe to the view that ‘Allah is One’. If this argument were to be propounded, it would mean we are trying to shove Islamic beliefs down the throats of Christians. This is completely inconsistent to Islamic values and evident from the Surah (Chapter) of Baqarah, verse 256:

Let there be no compulsion in religion.

On top of that, nowhere in the Quran is it explicitly stated that prohibition on usage of the word ‘Allah’ by other faiths, particularly those of Abrahamic ones (Christian & Judaism).  In fact, there is a verse in the Quran which permits it – in the Chapter of Hajj (the Pilgrimage), verse 40, for example:

Had not Allah Checked and Balanced the aggression and excesses of one set or group of people by means of another, there would surely have been destruction of monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundance…

Furthermore, ‘Allah’ is ‘God’ to the whole Universe – regardless of ethnicity, skin colour and most importantly, faith. This is evident from the Chapter of Fatihah (the Opening), verse 2:

Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

If ‘Allah’ is the God or Lord of the whole Universe, why then do some Malay-Muslims – purporting to champion and protect the ‘sanctity’ of Islam – claim exclusivity of the word ‘Allah’?

I find it safe to conclude that allowance of the usage of the word ‘Allah’ by Christians is in line with principles of the Federal Constitution as well as those of Islam, a religion of a Mercy to Mankind – Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin. Perhaps some Malaysians, particularly the Malay-Muslims, should open their hearts and minds so as to set themselves free from being unreasonably suspicious towards our Christian brothers and sisters.

Instead of spreading suspicion and hatred, would it not be better if we spread love and embrace the differences between us? Instead of building walls and preaching about the differences between Islam and Christianity, would it not be better for us to build bridges and find common ground between us, for the sake of Love, Peace, Tolerance and Humanity?


Wan Hilmi adalah seorang pelajar yang kini sedang menuntut di sekolah Undang-undang yang terletak di Ibu Kota Kuala Lumpur. Wan Hilmi merupakan seorang pencinta kucing, penagih coklat dan peminat kereta....

37 replies on “Freedom of Religion at Stake: So much for 1Malaysia”

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  10. I am really surprised Wan Hilmi, being a Muslim, does not even know that ‘Friday prayers’ (mentioned in Islam’s holy scripture, Al-Quran); and, ‘azan’ (mentioned so much about, in ‘hadith’) are compulsory religious practices, that cannot be compromised. How then can anyone equate this with an innovation & intrusion of a word only now in the BM translation of the Bible; when that word is not at all found in the translation in other languages?

    I can now sense a question being posed to me: “How is it then, the word ‘Allah’ is used in the translation of Al-Quran in other languages?” Good question; but posed without pondering. Al-Quran, in its originality is in Arabic language. All the translations of Al-Quran are from the original Arabic text. So, the translations have maintained the word ‘Allah’, which is the Arabic word to denote God, from its original script — Al-Quran.

    Perak Islamic Information Centre (PIIC)

  11. It is indeed a great pity that even Muslims do not understand the core of issue of using the word ‘Allah’ in Bahasa Malaysia (BM) translation of the Bible.
    Whenever there is any legal issue, the matter is taken to court, where experts in law argue, and then the learned judge passes a judgement. If any party is not happy with the judgement, the case is taken to higher court. If still not satisfied, it is finally dealt in Supreme Court (Federal Court), in which the decision by the learned judge, is final. No more argument!

    In the same way, the issue of whether the word ‘Allah’ can, or cannot, be used in the BM translation for the Bible, has been studied by the supreme body, the National Fatwa Council, consisting highly qualified Islamic scholars. Just as the decision by the Supreme Court can no more be questioned, the decision by the National Fatwa Council — the supreme body delivering verdicts of Islamic issues (fatwa) — can no more be questioned; because, the most qualified scholars have said so, that the word ‘Allah’ cannot be used in BM translation of the Bible. And, all other Islamic scholars in this country too have accepted & supported this verdict.
    When this be so, it would be insensible for people like me, and others, who are not at all qualified, to judge on matters of Islamic issues. We can only accept & support.

    In support of this verdict, I would like to point out certain facts, which would support the verdict of the scholars; and demerit the Christians’ claim. Every language has a word to denote God.
    In English, it is ‘God’; in Tamil, it is ‘Kadavul’, and ‘Iraivan’; in Hindi, it is ‘Bagavan’; in Punjabi, it is ‘Wahai Guru’ & ‘Guruji’; in Japanese. It is ‘Kamisama`’; in Mandarin, it is ‘Shang Tee’, or ‘Shung’; in Urdu, it is ‘Huda’; in BM, it is ‘Tuhan’; in Arabic, it is ‘Allah’.
    So, when the Bible is translated into the other languages, logically, the corresponding word in that language should be used for ‘God’. Hence, if the Christians are sincere, with no hidden agenda, they should then only use the word ‘Tuhan’, to denote God; NOT Allah.

    When the Bible translation in other languages does not use the word Allah, why then the word Allah should be used only in BM translation; when, in actual fact, it should be only ‘Tuhan’? We Muslims can see their cynical plot, to poison the minds of naïve, unknowing Malay youths, to make them believe that there is not much difference between the Bible & Al-Quran; whereby, the Malay youths would then not feel ‘uneasy’ to read the Bible. Malay youths, who do not have analytical study of the Bible — thank God, I have — would then be easily made to believe in Bible! An easy way to brainwash the unknowing Malay youths, to draw them to Christianity! Even as ordinary Muslims too, we know it; and so, we vehemently oppose it.

    It is a pity that Wan Hilmi does not know what is ‘practising other religions’. He has quoted Article 3(1) of Federal Constitution which states: “Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.” All these years after independence, have the Christians had objection to their religious practices; going to churches; praying in their way of prayers; celebrating their religious festivals? These are practices which are freely allowed. All the Christians all over the world have been carrying all these religious practices peacefully, without using the ‘Allah’. Malaysian Christians have never been using the word ‘Allah’ until now; and there had been no problem — meaning there had been no hindrance to their freedom of practice. Why then only now? This is only an innovation. This is not even a practice in Christianity. It is just trying to insert a non-befitting word!

    It is not surprising that Bible translation in Arabic language uses the word ‘Allah’, to denote God; because, it is the word to denote God in Arabic language. The Arabs, even before the time of Prophet Muhammad SAW, and, before the revelation of Al-Quran, have been using the word ‘Allah’, to
    denote God, as can be seen by many verses in Al-Quran; e.g.:
    “Say, “To whom does the earth belong, and everyone in it, if you happen to know?” They will say, “Allah.” Say, “Will you not reflect?”
    Say, “Who is the Lord of the seven heavens, and Lord of the Splendid Throne?” They will say, “Allah.” Say, “Will you not become righteous?”
    Say, “In whose hand is the dominion of all things, and He protects and cannot be protected from, if you happen to know?” They will say, “Allah.”
    Say, “Then are you bewitched?” (23:84-89)
    Here you see, even the Mushrikins in Arabia used the word ‘Allah’, to denote God.


    Perak Islamic Information Centre (PIIC)

    1. "All the Christians all over the world have been carrying all these religious practices peacefully, without using the ‘Allah’. Malaysian Christians have never been using the word ‘Allah’ until now;.."

      Sorry, I have to correct your statement above. The Arab Christians, the Maltese Christians, the Indonesian Christians and the Malay-speaking Christians(mainly East Malaysians and Babas) in Malaysia have been using Allah for generations. And they have been using the Word peacefully without any problems until now. Perhaps, that is why you do not know.

      Please google to find out the truth. Here are 2 links:

    2. Isn't it true that Quran is only considered authoritative & holy in its original Jawi language?
      What language is "A L L A H"?
      I believe all sensible people would say "it is NOT Jawi."
      So, with all due respect, aren't the Muslims contradicting themselves when they say "A L L A H" is a holy word and exclusive to Islam?
      In actual fact, are we right to say that Muslims should not use "A L L A H" to address their god?

  12. err …Sorry Sayang,

    You dont think Mahathir Mohamad was the donkey Adam might have considered to raise a family, do you?

    Should read …

    You dont think Mahathir Mohamad was the donkey Adam might have considered to raise a family WITH, do you?

  13. Not all Christians believe in the Trinity. Many might think idea of Trinity was a spun job. However, it wont disparage Christians or Muslims. The spun job was done by some crazy European robbers who stole the Gold from the Holy Land which, according to some is now held by the Bilderburg group.

    Muslims and Christians must now take heart in their monotheistic values. That as much as the Holy Books carry the nuanced wisdom of human desires for survival, the Adam and Eve story might be regarded as as pure nonsense but nontheless as the centuries enlighten, dont you think for all his ego, Eve did not come from Adam's ribs?

    A more coherent story would be – ….after God told Adam that Eve came from his ribs…He remarked aside to her that She bore "Adam" from her womb so as not to belittle him; that were he to become upset, he might raise a family with some plentiful donkeys around!

    You dont think Mahathir Mohamad was the donkey Adam might have considered to raise a family, do you?

  14. In this modern age of knowledge, democracy and freedom, there must be freedom of thought and belief. Muslims must reclaim their right to complete freedom of belief. As the Sudanese Islamic scholar Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im has said: “If I don’t have the freedom to disbelieve, I cannot believe.”

  15. The ayat 22:40 of Al-Hajj refers to those people of the book and muslim being mistreated under tyranny during the times of Noah, Lot, Moses, Abraham, Jesus etc where their God was obviously Allah. Islam already existed at that time. This is prior to Muhammad SAW. Allah in the Quran is arabic. The old testament was never in arabic. It was originally in aramaic and not hebrew. So the christians and jews later rejected the Quran and Muhammad. Why is Wan Hilmi presenting something they christians rejected? Why is the ayat taken out of context? Qul huwa Allahu ahad – Say, "He is God, the One. " Not trinity. Should the Christian accepts Qul huwa Allahu ahad?? Trinity does not even exist during the time of Noah,, Lot, Moses, Abraham, Jesus. Trinity in christianity was a doctrine created centuries after Jesus. So LGE rejected Islam and the Quran but hypocritical in translating the word God as Allah. Linguistically, it is wrong. If he wants to use proper name, use aramaic instead. And btw, LGE is totally out of touch coz in Indonesia, the christian indons found it hypocritical to use arabic Allah and have started to use the word Yahweh instead according to their own priest Jahja iskandar. Yahweh is more popular in Indonesia now. Maybe christians Indons are getting confused too. Soon, Christians in Malaysia will get confused too? Wan Hilmi is just a student. Check out from the real expert on the Malaysian Constitution and the position of Islam

    1. Carlos, you do not understand the real issue here. This is not about the origins of the word Allah. This is not even remotely about religion. This is what every minority in Malaysia is concerned about, that people like you are using religion to marginalise our existence and way of life which is protected by the Constitution.

      The Constitution has made it very clear that every believer has a right to profess his faith freely without interference. So if Christian decides to use the word Allah to describe a Trinity God, you sure as hell have no fucken business to tell them otherwise. That is basically the gist of the Constitution without the vulgarity.

  16. Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, "Be," and he was. (ali–imran 59).
    The truth is from your Lord, so do not be among the doubters. (ali-imran 60).
    Then whoever argues with you about it after [this] knowledge has come to you – say, "Come, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then supplicate earnestly [together] and invoke the curse of Allah upon the liars [among us]." (ali-imran 61).

    what/how do we understand (tafsir?) the above verses which were specifically addressed to the najran christians?

    allah is an arabic word, elohim is in hebrew, ella is aramaic (all these are semitic dialects) and what is allah in malay? however, when someone is baptised, is allah ever mentioned? so, the question is why did lim guan eng re-visit this issue? why now?

      1. this is just like a cat (lge) and pigeons (malay/muslims) situation. kena korek sikit, the latter run amok among themselves. so, who is/are making a fool of himself/themselves?

        1. They are politician. LGE or Katak, they have their agendas.

          But regardless of politics, the constitution and the court of the land (an impartial ruling based on facts and evidence) has made it pristine clear: non-malays are allowed to use the world Allah. To deny that would tantamount to a blatant disregard to the law. Unless you are an intellect, I do not expect you to comprehend why that one ruling from the appeals court in 2010 is more than enough to set a precedent.

          This topic is virtually non-debatable unless the Federal Court determines otherwise. As a civilised democratic-consitutionalised society, we have high regards of the law. If you want to live in a country where Islam plays a pivotal aspect of your life then Malaysia is not the place for you.

    1. LGE brought up the issue as it is not yet resolved and the appeal has been pending for so long. The Malay-speaking Christians in East Malaysia and the Peranakan Christians have been using the word for generations long before independence. Of course, they baptise in that Name. The ban on the word was made by some states in the 80's but could not be enforced for obvious reasons. Life went on peacefully until thousands of Alkitab were banned and confiscated and the Herald was also banned from using the word in their Malay section. That stirred up the court action which dragged on for years. Now you know. Read more and you will know more.

      1. You are misguided. It has been resolved by the Appeals Court in 2010. Until the Federal Court rules otherwise, this Allah issue is binding on everyone in Malaysia. You have been a victim of deceit. a deceit properly orchestrated by the government (the executives) to fool people that they are the only single force in Malaysia that has the final say in everything. This is far from reality.

        But little did you know that the government and in principal everyone in Malaysia including those who call themselves Kings are subservient to the Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia and the laws made by the Parliament. These laws are interpreted by the Court thus as silly as it may sound, the Courts may inevitably make law thus displacing the "true" intentions of the Parliament. This is a trait of most Common Law legal system: a remnant of our colonial past.

        In the Allah case, the government is simply being belligerent and refusing to acknowledge the Herald decision in 2010. And worse of all, we have dipstick Muftis who think that they are above the law by playing a dicey game of "Who want to incite religious tension?"

        This is life. It aint fair especially if you are a minority in Malaysia.

        1. Perhaps, we have been misinformed as you say but many news articles on the issue have stated that the judgement has been suspended pending the appeal by the government, meaning the ban is still on. But you seem to imply that the judgement is binding until the Federal court rules otherwise. So, which is which? How did the Appeals Court resolve the matter in 2010? Please elaborate. Thanks.

          1. I apologise. I thought the judgment was made in the appeals court but instead it was a high court ruling. That means the next appellant court would be the appeals court of the High Court division? (Sorry I dont practise in Malaysia).

            Regardless, until a higher court in the judicial hierarchy overturns the High Court's decision, the High Court's ruling is as good as the law and cannot be suspended.

            To put is simple Adam, the constitution provides 3 bosses: the judiciary (the court), the executives (the government) and the legislative (parliament which also means more often than not, the executives because your BN lawmakers are also the one running the government). Each acts as a check and balance to the other. Each has specific roles to perform to ensure the smooth running of the country.

            So you have your parliament who makes law, then the executives who executes the law (provide funding and civil servants to run departments to execute of the law). The judiciary (the courts) is usually out of the picture unless there is a fuck up. And this Allah thing is a pit of fuck ups.

            Although there are 3 bosses, there is a godfather: the constitution. A rule above all rules. One ring to rule them all. Use any movie reference as you please but the gist is – a law made by the parliament must not contradict with the Constitution.

            Sometimes the executives thinks that they are all high and almighty because they have the backing of the parliament (as I wrote above, your BN lawmakers are also running the government). They want to play godfather but they can't because the judiciary (the courts) act as a check and balance.

            So when the Herald case made its way to the Courts, the Court did what it was mandated – interpret the constitution ie what is the meaning of a specific provision in the Constitution.

            The gist of the Herald ruling in 2010 – the government cannot prohibit the use of Allah because the constitution provides for religious freedom (ie the government cannot make laws to regulate religion and religion are free to practise their religion free for any curtailments from the government). What that means in a practical sense is that if Christians want to call God as Allah, they can do so as long as it is not used to convert Muslims to Christians (which is against the law). So you can use the word Allah so long as you don't use it to break any laws.

            By saying, "Hey Government, you are not allowed to do this!" the Court has essentially made law. Get what I mean? Thus it is binding on the government (by virtue of the check and balance doctrine) until the matter is to be heard by an appeals court. If is has the same effect on the government, of course it has the same effect on the population.

            However, there is nothing much the Courts can do if the government doesn't adhere to its ruling because the police and the army are essentially under the control of the executives (government).

          2. Nothing to apologise for as you have not been around. Through the last 30 years or so, our 3 pillars of good governance have already been comprised.

            You should know that in Malaysia boleh, many things are possible and in this case, the AG has, citing national interest, appealed for a stay of execution which has been granted. Please see one of the news report at… . And the ban has been suspended pending the appeal which has now been delayed for 3 long years. Where is the justice?

            But fret not as the Allah issue has simultaneously being kept alive through the various blogs and Christians have the opportunity to explain the concept of their Trinity doctrine. I believe the message of salvation through grace has now been spread far and wide. I could see that you are also contributing towards this awareness.

            With the appeal now postponed to 14 March 2013, we will see what happens next. News report at: . Cheers.

          3. Hi Adam. I now understand what you meant by saying the decision was suspended.

            The stay of execution meant that Herald was refrained from publish any articles in Bahasa Malaysia that uses the word Allah until an appeal of the HIgh Court's decision is heard in an appellant court.

            The stay of execution does not mean that the reasoning of the High Court in its interpretation of the constitution was overturned (that non-Muslims can use the world Allah so long as it does not offend any laws ie. not used to convert Muslims to Christianity). So long as the High Court's decision is not overturned, its reasoning is still a good precedent.

    2. Isn't it true that Quran is only considered authoritative & holy in its original Jawi language?
      What language is "A L L A H"?
      I believe all sensible people would say "it is NOT Jawi."
      So, with all due respect, aren't the Muslims contradicting themselves when they say "A L L A H" is a holy word and exclusive to Islam?
      In actual fact, are we right to say that Muslims should not use "A L L A H" to address their god?

  17. All this talk of love, peace, tolerance, and humanity is good, but freedom of religion does not exist until people can freely profess or not profess whatever religion they choose? What does the author think of people leaving Islam to embrace another faith, or even perhaps agnosticism or atheism?

    I find that people seem to think that religion is above criticism. And that Muslims is particular tend to view another leaving the religion as some sort of insult.

  18. Its simple fundamental logic.

    The Quran says there is only Allah. There are Angels and Devils.

    The Devil being a creature of God does believe in Him. He is just playing truant. But God is Allah. Another name means He's not Allah and the whole thing falls apart on monotheism.

    But the Devil still acknowledges God or Allah or so it goes, within Judaeo-Islamic belief. Otherwise, who would he have anyone to dissent with?

    DO YOU WANT to godify the Devil? (To some, very bright people its possible. Its just a substitution phenomena)

    However, God or Allah is generous. There is no thing you can do about Him. You can dissent and take your place as the ….Devil !

    You really dont have to believe in Allah. Because you'll end up as the Devil, anyway.

    But…Ha!!! But but ….can you REALLY run away from Allah???

    Anyway according to the Devil, you would be some kind of god, or a rival, if you have half a dozen oil wells, a few in Kelantan and some more elsewhere or …if you put Petronas in your saku! :-)

  19. Kudos for a well-reasoned piece, Wan Hilmi. If only there are more Malaysians – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – who have the same maturity as you. The way I see it, the "fanatics" do recognise that Allah is God to the Universe, but the God that Christians and Jews pray to is not the same God.

    In their minds, the Christians and Jews are "sesat" and worshipping a different God while claiming He is the same God of Abraham and therefore is also Allah. They are perhaps fearful that given a choice between Islam and Christianity's interpretation of God, Muslims may choose the latter and thus "leave the faith".

    I find it amusing that some quarters even argue that the "Malay word" for God does not have to be "Allah" since there are many alternative names that can be used. Alas, to be true to the Abrahamic faiths – that they all worship the same God – then the Malay word for God (which is Allah) should then be translated accordingly in a Malay Bible.

    Anyway religion is not the cause of strive – it is the misguided thoughts and deeds of its adherents that cause the mess. And everybody goes blaming God and/or religion instead of the idiots who claim to represent God and religion.

  20. actually religion causes people to get screwed up.
    The law of the land must be upheld above any religion. Otherwise, the country will be screwed as well.

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