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US imam: Barring use of 'Allah' besmirches God

FLORIDA (US) : By trying to protect the name of God, the Islamic religious authorities in Malaysia are actually "besmirching" the name of Allah, an American imam has said.

Imam Muhammad Musri, who is the president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, said this was because Malaysia's ban of the use of the term 'Allah' by non-Muslims goes against Allah's teachings in the Quran.
"The Malaysian Appeal Court's decision goes contrary to what Allah commended in the Quran (Chapter Three, Verse 64) for Muslims to do: "Say: O' People of the Book! Come to a common word between us and you: that we worship none but Allah!"

Imam Muhammad ( right ) added: "The court's decision is not only wrong, but it is besmirching Allah's Name!" he said in a commentary in US news website The Huffington Post.

As a scholar and someone who has memorised the Quran, he said, that even in the Quran it was acknowledged that the word Allah pre-dates Islam.

"In the Quran (Chapter 43, Verse 87) God stated: "And if you (Prophet Muhammad) asked them who created them, they would surely say, Allah!"

Therefore, the American imam said, everyone has the right to call God 'Allah', not just Muslims.

"As a Muslim, I feel honoured that when our beloved faith arrived in Malaysia centuries ago, it made such an impact that the entire population adopted our term for God," he said.

The argument in Malaysia that the word 'Allah' can be used by Christians to defraud Muslims and propagate Christianity to them is also not justification enough to prohibit the use of the word.

Fraud in any form is wrong, Imam Muhammad said, but it should be punished separately and not through a blanket ban.

"To the degree that the accusations are true, such behaviour should be condemned - not because other faith traditions don't have the right to engage Muslims in religious dialogue in the hope of converting them, but because misrepresentation is always unacceptable...

"Fraud deserves appropriate penalties. But making it illegal to refer to God as Allah is not an appropriate solution for fraud - if indeed fraud is the real problem," he said.

Turning a symbol of love into hate

Admitting to have never been to Malaysia, Imam Muhammad interestingly echoed what some Malaysians have asked on the matter.

"Could the real problem be the anger of poor Malay Muslims over the rising prices of fuel and basic commodities? And could this be an attempt by some in the Malaysian government to deflect that anger?" he asked.

He said the word 'Allah' is a name for God in Arabic, just as God is referred to as Dios in Spanish and Dieu in French.

"Dios, Dieu and Allah are not three distinct beings in a pantheon of gods. They're simply references to the deity that in English we call God," he said.

People share the name of God because cultures overlap and 'Allah' is used widely across the globe, both in Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

Instead, Imam Muhammad said, the court decision in Malaysia has turned the word, which has been widely embraced globally to symbolise "the ultimate in love and justice", into something symbolising "hate and oppression".

"Punishing for the use of a word that's so ingrained in the daily life and worship of non-Muslims guarantees a backlash...The court's decision is not only wrong, but it is besmirching Allah's Name!" he added.

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