“Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah made a decision and decreed that the word ‘Allah’ is a sacred word specific to Muslims and it is prohibited to be used by any non-Muslim in Selangor,” the Islamic Affairs Council of the Selangor state said Tuesday. The body added "a stern action" was ordered against those questioning the new fatwa, but did not elaborate.
Christians in Indonesia and Malaysia also use ‘Allah’ to refer to God in their languages. This comes through traditional translations of the Bible made back in the 16th-17th centuries which put the Hebrew’s ‘Elohim’ (‘God’ in English holy books) as ‘Allah’.
But in 2007 the central Malaysian government decided to put an end to the old tradition and limited the usage of the term to the Muslim context only. This was revoked by the High Court two years later; the judges said the law was unconstitutional. The government appealed the ruling and the short-lived implementation of the 2009 court verdict has since been suspended.
Sultan Sharafuddin’s decree could not but create an immediate political standoff. It comes on the eve of a broad meeting called by Pakatan Rakyat, a national affiliation within the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). For the convention, Pakatan Rakyat allowed the use of ‘Allah’ to all groups, including non-Muslims.
Just minutes after the forbidding decree, PAS leadership endorsed by other opposition parties proclaimed they stand firm by their decision