The Sultan of Malaysia's Selangor state has decreed that non-Muslims in the region have been barred from using the word "Allah," saying it is a sacred word exclusive to Muslims.
Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had expressed shock and regret over opposition DAP party's Secretary General Lim Guan Eng's recent remarks urging the Malaysian Government to allow the word "Allah" to be used in the Malay version of the Bible, a statement from Selangor Islamic Affairs Council Secretary Mohd Misri Idris said on Tuesday.
Lim, who is the Penang state Chief Minister, had made the remarks in his New Year message.
"The Sultan 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, as stated in a 'fatwa' and gazetted on February 18, 2010," Mohd Misri said.
He said the Sultan had stated that stern action could be taken against anyone who questioned the 'fatwa' that was issued according to state laws.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that Sultan Sharafuddin had every right, as head of the State's Islamic affairs, to issue the decree.
Hours after the Selangor Sultan issued the decree, opposition PAS and its allies took a common stand that the word "Allah" could be used by anyone as long as it was not misused against the Muslim community.
Malaysia's Council of Churches (CCM), meanwhile, said it will continue to use the word "Allah" in the Malay version of the Bible.
In a statement issued today, the council noted that Malaysian Christians had been using the word in their Malay Bible and devotional life for centuries.
"Also, many indigenous communities in our nation have incorporated this word in their everyday language. That being the case, we shall continue this practice, and call on all parties to respect this fundamental right," the statement said.
The CCM said the practice was a right "guaranteed to them in the country's Federal Constitution" under Article 11, which addressed freedom of religion.
Muslim majority Malaysia has an ethnic mix of 60 per cent Malays who are all Muslims, 25 per cent ethnic Chinese who are Christians and Buddhists and 8 per cent ethnic Indians, a majority of whom are Hindus.
All ethnicities are free to follow their faith in the country.