Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Are "God" and "Allah" the Same?

From time to time people ask that question. It has at least two variants. They could be asking if God and Allah are the same Being. Or, they could be asking if the words are simply interchangeable.

James White posts a short article from Malaysia, where Christian Bibles were confiscated because they use "Allah" as the term for "God," which in Malay, like Arabic, is the term for God. Apparently, some Muslims in Malaysia have decided this is a silly question and have taken the discussion out of the public realm. I'm not sure which is more remarkable: that such a thing happens, or that there is so little outcry unless professing Christians were to do such a thing.

The story:

(CNN) -- Authorities in Malaysia have seized more than 20,000 Bibles in recent months because they refer to God as "Allah," Christian leaders said Thursday.
The seizures have fed fears among minority groups, which see signs of encroaching Islamic fundamentalism in the predominantly Muslim but multi-racial country.
"There is a growing sense of Islamic assertion, yes," said the Rev. Hermen Shastri, general-secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia. "There is some concern."
The Bibles were written in the country's official language, Malay -- in which the word for God is "Allah," as it is in Arabic.
However, Malaysia's government says the word is exclusive to Islam.
Its use in Christian publications is likely to confuse Muslims and draw them to Christianity, the government says. So it has banned use of the word in Christian literature.
"Malay has borrowed from Arabic, just as it has from Sanskrit and Portuguese," Shastri said. "We have maintained the community has the right to use the word.
"But I think this has ignited a cause in the Muslim communities, who are interpreting it as a siege on Islamic beliefs."
A Home Ministry official directed requests for comment to the ministry's Publications and Quran Text Control Department, which enforces the ban. An employee there redirected calls to a spokeswoman, who in turn asked CNN to call the Home Ministry back. Calls to other departments were similarly redirected.
A Roman Catholic weekly newspaper, The Herald, is challenging the ban in court after the government threatened to revoke its license for using the word in its Malay edition. Hearings on the case have gone on for two years.
"We quote it as it is. We cannot change the text of the Scripture," Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew told CNN last year. "I cannot be the editor of the Bible."...

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