PETALING JAYA: A Christian group has called the suggestion by the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) for Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) to translate and publish the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia as “appalling and deeply disturbing”.
The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) was referring to a statement by Mais’ lawyer Mohamed Haniff Khatri Abdulla in court on Wednesday, in which he said the DBP could correct the Christians’ alleged error in using the word “Allah” for God in their BM Bibles.
Haniff had claimed that the Christian community in Sabah and Sarawak had wrongly used “Allah” for God in Bahasa Malaysia, arguing that they should instead use “Tuhan”, which would not deprive them of their rights.
Haniff made the suggestion while addressing the court during the hearing of a suit by a Malay-speaking Bumiputera Christian from Sarawak, Jill Ireland, against the home minister and the government to uphold her constitutional rights which she said were infringed by a ban on the use of “Allah” in Christian publications.
NECF pointed out that Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution protects the “fundamental right to profess, practice and to propagate one’s religion which includes the right to pray in the name of their God”.
“This includes BM-speaking Christians who use the word ‘Allah’. To them, that name for God carries spiritual meaning that has been passed down from one generation to another.
“This is born of centuries of usage of the word which has never harmed or caused any problem for people of other faiths,” NECF chairman Rev Eu Hong Seng said in a statement.
He added denying BM-speaking Christians the right to use “Allah” in their worship and publications also takes away the full spiritual identity of God from “every prayer, every baptism and every sermon”.
“Article 11(3)(a) makes it clear that every religious group has a right to manage their own religious affairs including the translation of their Holy Scriptures, subject only to public order, public health and morality.
“Therefore, no one, including DBP, can rename the God of that particular religion for whatever reason or claim the right to translate the Holy Scriptures,” Eu said.
The Christian leader added it was wrong to consider this an issue of mere language translation.
“The Holy Scriptures used by Christians must be translated accurately, without loss, change or distortion of the meaning of the original text.
“The literary forms in the original text such as poetry, prophecy, narrative, exaltation, doctrines, beliefs, tenets of faith must be translated faithfully to the original historical and cultural context with understanding of the political, ideological, social, cultural and theological thinking at the time when those Scriptures were written or given.”
Therefore, Eu said, this was a job for highly-qualified Christian scholars who also believe in the inspiration that comes forth from the Holy Scriptures.
“More importantly, any translation can only be done by those who are recognised and authorised translators of the Christian religion represented by the Body of Churches.
“So, Mais’ attempt to deny the use of ‘Allah’ by BM-speaking Christians is already very upsetting to the Christian community and going on to suggest that a government agency like DBP should translate the Holy Scriptures only adds insult to injury,” he said.