Media Statement By Centre For A Better Tomorrow (CENBET) Co-President, Gan Ping Sieu On The Ban On Non-Muslims Using Words Related to Islam
Friday, November 21, 2014
It is time the respective state authorities throughout the country review the ban on non-Muslims using words related to Islam. This comes as the Kedah government recently amended the state’s law to increase the number of words non-Muslims are prohibited from using from 24 to 55. While this latest amendment has resulted in a flurry of debate online, many state governments also have a similar list of words non-Muslims can’t use.

A blanket ban on the use of such words is counter-productive in a plural society like ours. The ban should only be restricted to curb attempts at proselytizing among Muslims or for other ill intents such as a non-Muslim calling himself a haji or referring to his place of worship as masjid. CENBET respects Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution and the respective states’ laws which bans attempts to propagate other religions to Muslims.

But a catch-all ban not only makes a mockery of our national and Arabic languages, it also serves to build more barriers among the different ethnic communities in this country at a time when we need to enhance national unity. A blanket ban will further create impediments for non-Muslims to have learning access and a better understanding of Islam.

No groups should have monopoly over words in any language, especially the Malay, long regarded as a language for national unity. How else could non-Muslims converse in Malay without using common words like syariah, masjid, surau, ulama, Quran, Haji, and solat? What about non-Muslims whose state anthem contain the word Allah? In any case, it is doubtful if such laws can be enforced against non-Muslims.

With these in mind, the respective state authorities should immediately review the blanket ban on the use of such words. In fact, some Muslim scholars do not see any problems with non-Muslims using Assalamualaikum (another banned word). Allowing non-Muslims to use the greeting and other “banned” words for communication and reference purposes would instead enhance the sense of camaraderie among all races in the country
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