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A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in


Academic year: 2022

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A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in

(Uṣūl al-Dīn and Comparative Religion)

Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences

International Islamic University Malaysia





Recently, interfaith issues such as apostasy and kalimah Allah have generated religious tension between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia. This is largely because both parties claim that the issues are affecting their religions and the right to practice them in a negative manner. The lack of sensitivities, tolerance and understanding in dealing with the issues to some extent is tainting the Muslims’ and Christians’

relations in this country, as they have brought about public protests, inflammatory public debate and attacks on mosques and churches. Hence, this study attempted to investigate the Muslim and Christian leaders’ views on the issue of Muslim conversion and kalimah Allah, and why and how the issues are affecting Muslim- Christian relations in Malaysia. The study adopted and adapted the principles of meta- religion as an objective framework for conducting and analysing the research data. In order to acquire the firsthand data, the researcher interviewed 16 informants from among the Muslim and Christian religious leaders. The study found that these interfaith issues are responsible for generating conflict between Muslims and Christians, as they have brought disparity in the interpretations of religious freedom, the right of conversion, and the right of using kalimah Allah. Upon using the meta- religion principles as a standard for analyzing the issues, it is found that there are logical explanations as to why there should be limited freedom in religion, conversion and the use of kalimah Allah.



ثحبلا ةصلاخ


تراثأ ،ةيرخلأا تاونسلا في ينملسلما ينب اينيد ارتوت "للها" ةملكو ةدرلا لثم نايدلأا اياضق

نييدلا مائولا ديدته لىإ اياضقلا هذه عم لماعتلا في تايساسلحا مادعنا ىدأ دقو .ينيحيسلماو ايزيلام في ةملكو ينملسلما ةدر يتَيضق يرثأت ةيفيك ليلتح لىإ فدته ةساردلا هذه نإف ،ثم نمو ،

بتعت ينيتللا للها ،ايزيلام في ينيحيسلماو ينملسلما ينب ةقلاعلا ىلع ةينيدلا ةيرلحا ةيضق نم نا

اتيم" أدبم ىمسي يذلا بسانلما أدبلما مادختساب اياضقلا ليلتح لىإ فدتهو -

بتعيو ."نيد

اتيم" ئدابم مادختسا ظافلحاو ثحبلا تانايب ليلحتل اراطإ تحبصأ انهلأ ؛اّمِهُم اًرمأ "نيد -

لا ةيعوضوم ىلع ىلع ةثحابلا تدمتعا ،لىولأا تانايبلا ىلع لوصلحا لجأ نمف .ثحب

ينملسلما نم نيدلا ءامعز نم ارفن رشع ةتس عم ةلباقلما ترج دقو .ةلباقلما ةقيرط اتيم" ئدابم مادختساب اهليلتح تم ،ةلباقلما نم ةعولمجا تانايبلا خسن ماتم دعبو ،ينيحيسلماو -

تح للاخ نم ةثحابلا تدجو دقو ."نيد بببيسُت دق نايدلأا اياضق نأ تانايبلا ةلباقم ليل

يريغت قحو ةينيدلا ةيرلحا يرسفت في توافتلا لىإ ىدؤي هنلأ ،ينيحيسلماو ينملسلما ينب اعارص اتيم" مادختسا نإ ."للها" ةملك مادختسا في قلحا نع لاضف ،نيدلا -

ةيضق مييقت في "نيد

سنلإل نأب روصتلا نأ ىلع لدي نيدلا يريغت كلذو ؛ّيقلاخأ ُيرغ ٌرمأ ةقلطم ةينيد ةيرح نا

.هيلع ةيقلاخأ راثآ هل هب لىدأ يذلا رايلخا نأو ،هتارايتخا نع لاوؤسم بتعي ناسنلإا نلأ اتيم" مادختسا نإ ،ايرخأو -

ةللالجا ظفل مادختسا نأ ىلع لدي "للها" ةملك ةيضق مييقتل "نيد

اتخ ةينلاقع ةمزأ لىإ يدؤي هيرغ لىإ ةراشلإل نأ نكيم لا برلا نأ يأ ؛يلماعلا قطنلما فل

.اًّبر قللخا نوكي نأ نكيم لاو اًقلخ نوكي




The thesis of Roslizawati Mohd Ramly has been approved by the following:


Haslina Ibrahim Supervisor


Thameem Ushama Internal Examiner


Engku Ahmad Zaki Engku Alwi External Examiner


Fikret Karcic External Examiner


Mohamad Naqib S/O Ishan Jan Chairman




I hereby declare that this thesis is the result of my own investigations, except where otherwise stated. I also declare that it has not been previously or concurrently submitted as a whole for any other degrees at IIUM or other institutions.

Roslizawati Binti Mohd Ramly

Signature: ... Date: ...







I declare that the copyright holders of this thesis are jointly owned by the student and IIUM.

Copyright © 2019 Roslizawati binti Mohd Ramly and International Islamic University Malaysia. All rights reserved.

No part of this unpublished research may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder except as provided below

1. Any material contained in or derived from this unpublished research may be used by others in their writing with due acknowledgement.

2. IIUM or its library will have the right to make and transmit copies (print or electronic) for institutional and academic purposes.

3. The IIUM library will have the right to make, store in a retrieved system and supply copies of this unpublished research if requested by other universities and research libraries.

By signing this form, I acknowledged that I have read and understand the IIUM Intellectual Property Right and Commercialization policy.

Affirmed by Roslizawati binti Mohd Ramly

……..……….. ………

Signature Date




First and foremost, I offer my deepest gratitude to Allah (S.W.T) whose compassion and guidance provided me with the strength to battle against the odds in my quest to complete this study. Peace and blessings be upon His messenger, Sayyiduna Muhammad ibn Abdullah (P.B.U.H), his pious kinship, dedicated companions and followers, for their efforts in making this world a better place to live for the whole of His creatures.

Here, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Mohamed Zein and Assoc. Prof Dr. Haslina Ibrahim for their support, mentorship, guidance and valuable advice and information throughout the research. I extend my gratitude to the examiners Prof. Dr. Thameem Ushama (IIUM), Prof Dr. Engku Ahmad Zaki Engku Alwi (UNISZA) and Prof. Dr. Fikret Karcic (University of Sarajevo, Bosnia Herzegovina) for their assessment of my thesis.

I must also thank all members of the Department of Usūl al-Dīn and Comparative Religion, Kulliyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, and the Centre for Postgraduate studies (CPS), International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) for their numerous supports toward the fulfilment of my postgraduate studies at IIUM.

I would also like to thank the Malaysian Department of Civil Service (JPA) and Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) for sponsoring my study leave. I would like to express my appreciation to Muslims and Christians informants for their co- operation. Special thanks also to my friends and colleagues who supported me in my endeavour to complete this project.

Last but not least, on a personal level, my indebtedness goes to my beloved parents, relatives, and especially my husband and my one and only son, who remain tireless to see me through my studies and who supported me in my endeavour to complete this project.

May Allah (S.W.T) accept from me this work and to make it pure for His sake, for He is able to do that, and my final prayer is praise due to Allah the Lord of the Universe. Āmin.




Abstract ... ii

Abstract in Arabic ... iii

Approval Page ... iv

Declaration ... v

Copyright Page ... vi

Acknowledgements ... vii

List of Abbreviations ... xi


1.1 Research Background ... 1

1.2 Statement of Problem ... 3

1.3 Research Questions ... 7

1.4 Research Objectives ... 8

1.5 Theoretical Framework ... 8

1.6 Significance of the Study ... 9

1.7 Scope and Limitations ... 10

1.8 Literature Review ... 11

1.9 Research Methodology ... 26


2.1 Introduction ... 29

2.2 The Malaysian Constitutional Framework on Religion and Religious Freedom ... 29

2.2.1 Freedom of Religion ... 30

2.2.2 Islam as the Religion of the Federation... 32

2.2.3 The Position of Islam in the Constitution ... 34

2.2.4 Legal Provisions Relating to Apostasy ... 36

2.2.5 The Procedure to Change Religious Status ... 39

2.2.6 The Legal Consequences of Muslim Conversion into Other Religions ... 40

2.3 The Case of Apostasy in Malaysia ... 41

2.3.1 The Response from Non-Muslims in Malaysia on the Court Decision ... 44

2.3.2 The Impact of the Apostasy Cases on the Muslim-Christian Relations ... 46


3.1 Introduction ... 51

3.2 Act And Enactments Prohibiting the Usage of Islamic Terms by Non-Muslims ... 51

3.2.1 State Enactment ... 51

3.2.2 Fatwa Prohibits the Use of Islamic Terms ... 55



3.2.3 Malaysian Cabinet Decision ... 56

3.2.4 Internal Security Act 1960 ... 57

3.3 The Etymology of the Word Allah ... 59

3.3.1 The Origin of the Word Allah ... 59

3.3.2 Historical Usage and Meaning of the Word Allah in Arabic ... 61

3.3.3 The Qur’ānic Concept of Allah ... 64

3.4 The Concept and Understanding of the Word Allah in the Malay World ... 67

3.4.1 The Etymology of the Word Allah in the Malay Archipelago... 67

3.4.2 The Concept of Allah from Perspective of the Malay Language... 69

3.5 When Did the Christians Started using the word Allah in the Malay Bible? ... 73

3.5.1 The Problems of Translation ... 78

3.5.2 The Use of the Word Allah in the Malay Bible ... 79

3.6 The Issue of Kalimah Allah and its Impact on Muslim- Christian Relations in Malaysia ... 81

3.6.1 Muslim and Christian Arguments ... 86 Christian Arguments ... 86 Muslims Arguments ... 90

3.7 Conclusion ... 95


4.1 Introduction ... 97

4.2 The View of the Christian Informants ... 98

4.2.1 The Understanding of the Concept of Religious Freedom... 98

4.2.2 The View about the Law concerning Apostasy in Malaysia... 102

4.2.3 The Law Concerning Apostasy in Malaysia and its Impact on Christian Religious Freedom... 106

4.2.4 The View about the Use of Islamic Terms by Non-Muslims in Malaysia ... 109

4.2.5 The View on the Issue of the Kalimah Allah ... 111

4.2.6 The Appropriateness to Use the Word Allah ... 116

4.2.7 The Confusion among the Christians ... 119

4.2.8 The Issue of the Word Allah and its Impact on Christians Religious Freedom ... 121

4.2.9 The Effects of the Interfaith Issues on Muslims and Christians Relation ... 123

4.2.10The Root of the Interfaith Issues ... 125

4.3 The View of The Muslim Informants ... 133

4.3.1 The Understanding of Religious Freedom ... 133

4.3.2 The View about the Law Concerning Apostasy In Malaysia ... 136

4.3.3 The View about the use of Islamic Terms by non-Muslims in Malaysia ... 139

4.3.4 The View on the Issue of the Kalimah Allah ... 140

4.3.5 The Appropriateness to Use the Word Allah in the Malay Bible . 144 4.3.6 The Confusion among the Muslims if Christians are Allowed to Use Allah to Denote Their Concept of God ... 145 4.3.7 The Effects of the Interfaith Issues on Muslim-Christian



Relation ... 147

4.3.8 The Root of the Interfaith Issues ... 151

4.4 Conclusion ... 153


5.1 Introduction ... 155

5.2 Muslim Apostasy and Religious Freedom ... 157

5.2.1 The Universal Logic Suggests that in Principle Everyone has the Absolute Freedom, Including Changing His Religion of Which He Will be Held Responsible ... 157

5.2.2 The Universal Logic Suggests that Religion Should Lead Man to be Ethical. To be Ethical is the Ultimate Outcome of being Religious. ... 158

5.3 The Apostasy Law is Against the Quranic Injunction of Freedom of Religion Hence it is an Injustice to Human Freedom. ... 160

5.3.1 The Universal Logic Suggests that Human has Freedom and Such Freedom Resulted into Ethical Consequences Hence there is Limit to His Freedom ... 160

5.4 The Demands to Use Islamic Terms by the Christians ... 162

5.4.1 The Universal Logic Suggests that God Being the Creator Cannot be the Creation ... 162

5.4.2 The Universal Logic Suggests that God is Universal. He Expresses Himself so that We Have the Ability to Know Him and to Differentiate between Good or Bad ... 163











ACCIN Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGO’S

BADAI Badan Bertindak Anti-IFC

CCM Council Churches of Malaysia

CFM Christian Federation of Malaysia

CLS Catholic Lawyer Society

DAP Democratic Action Party

FORKAD Front Bertindak Anti Murtad (Anti Apostasy Action Front)

GAMIS Gabungan Mahasiswa Islam Semenanjung (Coalition of Peninsular Muslim Students)

IFCM Interfaith Commission Council of Malaysia

IKIM Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia)

ISA Internal Security Act

ISTAC International Institute of Islamic Civilisation and Malay World

JAKIM Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (Department of

Islamic Development Malaysia)

JAIS Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor

KARISMA Malaysian Islah Students’ Peer Group Club

KDN Keselamatan Dalam Negeri

KKDN Kementerian Keselamatan Dalam Negeri

LMS London Missionary Society

MCCBCHST Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism,

Christianity. Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism

MUAFAKAT Pertubuhan Sejahtera Muafakat Masyarakat Malaysia NECF National Evangelical Christian Fellowship NECF

NGO/NGOs Non-Governmental Organization

NRD National Registration Department

PAS Parti Islam Se-Malaysia

PEMBELA Pertubuhan-pertubuhan Pembela Islam

PERKIM Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia

PERKASA Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa

PPI Peguam Pembela Islam

PKPIM Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar Islam Malaysia

(National Union of Muslim Students’ Association of Malaysia)

PKR Parti Keadilan Rakyat

SIS Sister in Islam

UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights

UMNO United Malays National Organization

WAO Women’s Aid Organization

WCC World Council of Churches





Malaysia which consists of two distinct geographical regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, is a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society.

Historically, the diversity of its population is partly due to trading activities which can be traced back during the time of the Malacca Sultanate, and largely due to the British colonial policy that encouraged immigrants from India and China to work in Malaysia. In the most recent national census, 2010,1 it was reported that statistically the Malays and other indigenous groups constitute 67.4%, the Chinese 24.5%, Indians 7.3% and the remaining others 0.7%.2

In terms of religious distribution, Islam is the largest religion consisting of about 61.3%.3 The increase in the number of the Muslims in Malaysia is claimed to be associated with the rampant process of Islamization in Malaysia in the 1980s.4 The majority of the Muslims are Malays. However, there is a number of non-Malays such as Chinese, Indians and the native peoples of the East and West Malaysia embracing Islam. The majority of the Malay Muslims live in the Peninsular Malaysia. They follow the Aqīdah of Ahl Sunnah wa al Jamāch 5 and the Fiqh of Imam as-Shāficiyy.6

1 The Population and Housing Census is conducted once in every 10 years. The last Census was conducted in 2010. “Population and Demography,” Department of Statistics Malaysia,

<https://www.dosm.gov.my> (accessed 15 December,2017).

2 Department of Statistics Malaysia, https://www.dosm.gov.my.

3 Department of Statistics Malaysia, https://www.dosm.gov.my.

4 Sadayandy Batumalai, Islamic Resurgence And Islamization in Malaysia: A Response from A Malaysian Christian Perspective, 2nd edition (Ipoh: Charles Grenier, 1996), 9.

5 According to Abdul Shukor Hj Hussein, the majority of the Muslims in the Malay Archipelago follow the Aqeedah School of Thought of Imam al-Ashaari. See Abdul Shukor Husin. Ahli Sunah Waljamaah: Pemahaman Semula. (Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 1998), 13.



By constitutional definition, according to Article 160 (2), Malays are Muslims who practise Malay norms and culture and speak the Malay language. The Malay language has received a lot of influences from the Arabic language which is the language of the Qur’ān since the arrival of the religion of Islam in the 13th century in the Malay land.7 In 1967, with the introduction of the National Language Act the Malay language was inaugurated as the sole official language in government administration and official ceremonies with certain exception given as provided in the Federal Constitution Article 152.8

On the other hand, Christianity represents about 9.2%, out of the 38.7% of the total population of the non-Muslim community in Malaysia.9 If one compares the statistics in the year 1980 one can notice that the number of Christians steadily increased from about 5.1% to 9.2% despite the rampant Islamization process in the country.10 The Christians also found in all ethnic groups in Malaysia. The majority of the Christians in the Peninsula Malaysia whose mother tongue is Chinese and who speak English and various Chinese dialects11 while in East Malaysia, the largest Christian followers are the native people who speak various ethnic and tribal

6 Faizuri bin Abd Latif, “Ahl Al-Sunnah Wa Al-Jamācah dalam Karya Akidah Ulama Melayu:

Tinjauan Karya Sheikh Zainal Abidin al-Fatani”, paper presented at Seminar Serantau Sumbangan Ulama Asha’irah dan Maturidiyyah dalam Pemantapan Akidah Islamiah, 19-20 August 2015), 165.

7 Hashim Musa et al., ‘Bahasa Melayu Dan Konsep Kebenaran Ilmu Berdasarkan Pandangan Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas (Malay Language and the Concept of True Knowledge from the Perspective of Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas )’, Kemanusiaan, 20(1) (2013), 5-6.

8 1.The national language shall be the Malay language and shall be in such script as Parliament may by law provide: Provided that- (a) no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes), or from teaching or learning, any other language; and (b) nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation. See Federal Constitution:

As at 1 Nov2010 (Laws of Malaysia). (Malaysia: The Commissioner of Law Revision, Malaysia, 2010).144.

9 Department of Statistic Malaysia, https://www.dosm.gov.my.

10 It was the period where rampant Islamization took place in Malaysia. Interestingly, Islamization process did not totally hinder Christians missionary from propagating their religion.

11 According to Tan Chee-Beng, Chinese Malaysians speak various dialect and are divided based on dialect groups such as Hokkien, Hakka, Cantonese, Teochew, Hanainese, Hokchiu, kwongsai, Henghua, Hokchia and others. For further reference see Tan Chee Beng, “Socio-Cultural Diversities and Identities,” in The Chinese in Malaysia, ed. Lee Kam Hing and Tan Chee-Beng, 2000, 37–70.



languages. There are also Malay Christians, but their number is not known because there is no statistics available.12

Since Independence, the relations between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia have been relatively cordial and amicable. Although there was a clash in 1969 but it was not a religious clash, but rather an ethnic clash due to the economic and social aspirations that were relentlessly not met and due to lots of racial distrust and hatred.13 As a matter of fact, there was hardly a religious clash between religious groups in Malaysia since there were reports of misunderstanding but it did not escalate into religious conflict.


Although the relationship between the Muslims and Christians in Malaysia have been relatively cordial, in recent years, there have emerged some interfaith issues that seem to have generated religious tensions and affected the relationship between both the religious communities. Among the most contentious issues are the issue of Muslim conversion into Christianity or apostasy and the prohibition to use kalimah14 Allah by the Christians.15

Several authors such as Sundararaj Walters16 and Arfah17 have argued that if the issues are not managed properly, it will cause a conflict between Muslims and Christians. This is largely because the issues have never been adequately addressed

12 Sadayandy Batumalai, Islamic Resurgence And Islamization in Malaysia, 2nd edition (Ipoh: Charles Grenier, 1996), 9.

13 Nor Hashimah Isa and Kamaruzaman Jusoff, “Post-independence Malaysian Short Stories ”, Studies in Literature and Language, 1, (2010), 46–52.

14 In this study the term “kalimah Allah” will be used interchangeably with ‘the word Allah’.

15 Albert Sundararaj Walters, “Issues in Christian – Muslim Relations : A Malaysian Christian Perspective,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 18(1) (2007): 67–83, 0959-6410 Print=1469-9311 Online=07=010067–17# 2007 CSIC and CMCU DOI: 10.1080=09596410601071139.

16 Sundararaj Walters,71-78.

17 Arfah Ab. Majid, ‘Inter-Religious Dialogue In Malaysia And Prejudice Reduction : A Preliminary Survey’ 2013, no. June (2013): 706–17.



and resolved and thus they may escalate prejudices between the two religious groups.

In addition to that, the Christians regard the legislation concerning conversion, apostasy and restriction in using the Islamic terms (including kalimah Allah) as potential risks within the country and infringement of their freedom of religion. The Muslims, on the other hand, regard the legislations as necessary to protect the sanctity of the Islamic faith and the true concept of God in Islam.18

The provocative reactions from Christians and Muslims concerning Muslim conversion out of Islam as well as the recent issue of kalimah Allah show a worrying trend. The case of Muslim conversions witnessed both the Muslims’ and Christians’

determination to fight for their causes. According to Marzuki Mohamad, the Christians have allied with the NGOs and movements that advocate the Muslims’

right to leave the religion of Islam. Together they formed the Article 11 Group to organize a series of road show in order to raise people’s awareness of the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and the individual right to freedom of religion through public forum and discussion.19

The public forum was held in several states. In Penang the forum met with fierce opposition from 1000 Muslim protesters led by a group called Badan Bertindak Anti-IFC (BADAI, Anti-IFC Action Front). The forum had to be cut short as some of the Muslim protesters joined the discussion and engaged in heated arguments with the panellists. In Johor, the forum also met with protests from 300 Muslims led by a group called Front Bertindak Anti Murtad (FORKAD, Anti-Apostasy Action Front). The protesters held placards and banners with printed slogans such as Pertahankan Hak

18 Bernama.‘Kabinet Benarkan Islam Sahaja Guna Kalimah Allah’, Utusan Malaysia, 2008; ‘JAKIM:

Kalimah Allah Hanya Untuk Orang Islam’, Malaysian Insider, 2010, www.themalaysianinsider.com (accessed on Dec 28, 2012).

19 Marzuki Mohamad, ‘Religion , Human Rights and Constitutional- Contract Politics in Malaysia’, Intellectual Discourse, 16(2) (2008), 155–86.



Umat Islam (Defend Muslims’ Rights), Jangan Ganggu Agama Kami (Don’t Meddle with Our Religion) and Jangan Sentuh Sensitivity Islam (Don’t Touch on Islamic Sensitivities) and Hancurkan Gerakan Anti-Islam (Crush Anti-Islam Movement).

They also demanded that the forum be called off. However, the organizer refused and thus tensions ran high and turmoil broke out. Nevertheless, the forum proceeded as planned, but with a presence of nearly 200 police personnel including the riot police.

According to Marzuki Mohamad, the incident indicates a strong reaction between the two fighting forces and the possibility of tensions running out of control. As a consequence of that, in June 2006 the government decided to ban freedom of speech by banning public debate on sensitive religious issues.20

However, the voice of dissatisfaction over the court ruling of the Lina Joy case can still be heard in the public. This is evident based on the press statement issued by the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF):

NECF Malaysia is gravely disappointed by and dissatisfied with the Federal Court’s dismissal of Lina Joy’s appeal. First of all, the Federal Court’s decision does not uphold the constitutional safeguard of freedom of religion. It is a person’s fundamental right to profess a religion of her own choice free from compulsion or interference by the state or its institutions. NECF Malaysia is also deeply dismayed that the majority decision of the highest court has failed to bring about a resolution to the present interfaith issues. By insisting that a person who no longer professes the religion of Islam, but has embraced another religion to seek an order of the Sharīcah Court is equivalent to insisting that a muallaf who has attained the age of majority is obliged to seek the clearance of the religious leaders or authority of his former religion.

Mutual respect and tolerance surely cannot be fostered without due regard to the principle of reciprocity.21

Similarly, the case of Lina Joy witnessed a strong reaction, especially from the Muslims. In response to the demand made by the Christians and its allies to the Government to repeal Article 121 (1A), Muslims formed two main coalitions known

20 Marzuki Mohamad,166-169.

21 “NECF Malaysia’s Respone to the Lina Joy Judgement,” NECF MALAYSIA, 2007, http://www.necf.org.my/newsmaster.cfm?&menuid=43&action=view&retrieveid=874.



as Peguam Pembela Islam (PPI, Lawyers in Defence of Islam) led by Zainur Zakaria, the former President of the Bar Council and Pertubuhan-Pertubuhan Pembela Islam (PEMBELA, Organisations of Defenders of Islam) led by ABIM. According to Marzuki Mohamad, the coalitions aimed to safeguard and protect the sanctity of the Islamic faith against any attempts to “liberalise” the Federal Constitution by advocating the right to renounce Islam.22

According to Marzuki Mohamad, another protest against any attempts to apostasize Muslims occurred on 5 November 2006. He reported that about 300 Muslims gathered in front of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Ipoh to protest against the conversion of Muslims to Christianity just because they received a false SMS text that the Church would organize a specific event for the conversion.23

As for the kalimah Allah, the issue also ignited strong response from Muslims and Christians. The Home Ministry’s (KDN) decision to suspend the publication of The Herald if Christians continue to use the word in the Bulletin, met with fierce reaction from the Christians. The Christians issued press statements claiming that they had the right to use the word Allah (it is their freedom of religion) and that the word was not exclusive for Islam. Despite the justification given by the government and by the religious authority why the use of the word Allah was not permitted in the Bulletin and in the Peninsular context, it has failed to convince the leaders of the Catholic church. They brought the case to the court to challenge the KDN decision.

22 PPI gave priority to tackle the “partisan stand” taken by the Bar Council on cases of apostasy, as well as to counter moves by certain quarters within the Bar to “liberalise” the Federal Constitution.

While, PEMBELA objective is to raise awareness among Malaysian Muslims about the attempts by secular-oriented NGOs and some liberal Muslims to liberalise the constitution by advocating the right to renounce Islam, which the organisation believes constitutes a serious challenge to Muslim faith and a bold attempt to undermine the special constitutional position of Islam in Malaysia. See Marzuki Mohamad, 179.

23 Marzuki Mohamad,180-181.



The local media also reported that the aftermath of the court decision to lift the ban several Churches were attacked. Muslims organized demonstrations to protest the court decree in several mosques across the country. In Kampung Baru Mosque, Muslims held placards that read "Leave Islam alone! Treat us as you would treat yourself! Don't test our patience!" amid cries of "Allah is great!"24

The interfaith issues concerning apostasy or Muslim conversion and the issue of kalimah Allah are examples of potential sources of conflict in particular when the issues were approached along with prejudices. Therefore, the issues need to be addressed objectively and a proper framework needs to be applied in order to find the fairest approach that would provide a ‘win-win’ kind of solution to the conflicting parties.


In order to identify how these issues have threatened religious harmony in Malaysia, and how the sensitive religious issues can be dealt with justly and objectively this research attempts to answer the following questions:

1. What are the Muslim and Christian leaders’ perspectives on the issues of Muslim conversion and kalimah Allah?

2. To what extent Muslim conversion into Christianity affecting Muslim- Christian relations in Malaysia?

3. To what extent the use of kalimah Allah affecting Muslim-Christian relations in Malaysia?

4. How to analyze the interfaith issues between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia using meta-religion as an appropriate framework and approach?

24 Baradan Kuppusamy, ‘Can Christians Say Allah ? In Malaysia, Muslims Say No’, Time, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1952497,00.html.



The proposed research aims to achieve the following objectives:

1. To identify Muslim and Christian leaders’ perspectives on the issues of Muslim conversion and kalimah Allah.

2. To examine the extent to which Muslim conversion into Christianity affects Muslim-Christian relations in Malaysia.

3. To examine the extent to which the use of kalimah Allah affects Muslim Christian relations in Malaysia.

4. To adopt and adapt meta-religion as an appropriate framework and approach to analyze interfaith issues between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia.


Based on the relevant literature, it has found that the interfaith issues between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia are rooted diverse causes. This study therefore used Al-Fārūqī’s approach to study religion and his theory of meta-religion as a framework for analysing the interfaith issues. The framework suggests that the use of epoché (a suspension of judgement) followed by meta-religion as principles of evaluation stands as an objective method for evaluating the interfaith issues fairly.

Figures 1.1 below summarizes the framework.



Figure 1.1 Theoretical Framework


The study is very significant to preserve religious harmony between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia because the interfaith issues under study may potentially affect the stability of the country. Furthermore, very little effort has been made by previous scholars to probe on Muslim and Christian leaders’ views on interfaith issues. In addition, few research have utilised al- Fārūqī’s meta-religion and existing studies have mostly advocated the application of modern philosophy such as religious pluralism and global ethic in dealing with religious conflicts and issues. Hence, the decision to adapt and adopt al-Fārūqī’s principles of meta-religion in evaluating the interfaith issues in Malaysia can be regarded as a novel attempt.

Al-Fārūqī’s Approach to study religion

Epoché /Temporary Suspension of

Judgement Data collection


Evaluation :Meta – religion 1.Beings of two realms: ideal and actual .

2.Ideal being is relevant to actual being.

3.Relevance of the ideal to the actual is a command.

4. Actual being is such a good.

5. Actual being is malleable.

6. Perfection of the Cosmos is a human burden.

Maintain objectivity The universal truth /perspective less or

more values.




Due to the sensitive nature of the study, the researcher had to make some important exclusionary decisions throughout this study, which to a certain extent, has limited the scope of inquiry. Among the delimitations was the decision to exclude the participation of church leaders from East Malaysia. Such a decision had to be made as they refused to participate in the study.

Another delimitation was the decision to focus only on two interfaith issues which are the issue of Muslim conversion out of Islam and the issue of kalimah Allah.

Although there were other issues regarded as contentious such as the issue of places of worship, but the researcher had to exclude the issue to narrow down the discussion of the thesis. However, the two interfaith issues are deemed sufficient enough since they are among the major issues dominating the local debate on Christian-Muslim relation in Malaysia.

The other limitation of the study was that the finding of the study could not be generalized due to the methods chosen as the sampling technique is ‘purposeful

‘rather than ‘random’ that limits its ability to be generalized to other settings and other groups.25 The validity, however, was guaranteed with the application of strategies such as expert review and audit trail.

Another limitation was that, the use of principles of meta-religion to evaluate the interfaith issues are relatively a new method even though they have been introduced by al-Fārūqī more than twenty years ago. Nonetheless, the principle reliability has been tested by a-Fārūqī himself as he introduced them and adopted them in one of his works.

25 J.A. Maxwell, “Understanding and Validity in Qualitative Research.,” Harvard Educational Review 62(3), (1992): 279–300.



The literature that specifically focus and address the interfaith issues between Muslims and Christians in Malaysia are still scarce. This could be because there has never been a real religious conflict or violence between Muslims and Christians in this country and most of the time, they were isolated incidents that did not affect the national harmony at large.

Perhaps the earliest research that specifically addressed the recent issues in Muslim-Christian relations in Malaysia is the study of Sundararaj Walters.26 This study was published in 2006 in the “Journal of Islam and Christian Muslim Relations.” He was actually motivated to propose policy options to manage Muslim and Christian relations in Malaysia in order to maintain social peace and stability.

According to him, there were several key issues affecting Muslim and Christian relations due to the government zeal for Islamization. The issues were marginalisation and discrimination under Islamization because of the policy concerning non-Muslims places of worship that is bias to the Muslims, the polarization of the nation due to Islamic values program, the Islamization of education, the drive to make Malaysia an Islamic state and the high interest in improving and implementing the sharīcah law.27

In addition to marginalisation and discrimination under Islamization, there were statements and actions regarded as anti-Christian such as the ban on the Malay Bible, the abolishment of several churches and the abuse of Christian symbols for political interest in election campaign where the Prime Minister was depicted as Paderi Besar Gereja [church high priest or bishop].28

It is interesting to note that, according to Sundararaj Walters, such depiction was met with a fierce critic by the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM). The

26 Sundararaj Walters, 67-83.

27 Ibid., 72-78.

28 Ibid., 74-75.



CCM issued a press statement condemning the abuse of religious image as “not only distasteful, but also hurtful to Christians, as it not only shows insensitiveness on the part of those who have resorted to such election tactics, but also politicizes religious differences.” Sundararaj Walters himself also emphasized that people living in a multi-religious society must not be playful with the symbols and religious practices of each other’s religion.29

As to why the ban of the Malay Bible is regarded as an anti-Christian action, according to Sundararaj Walters, the government only bans the Malay Bible to protect the Malay Muslim interest, but does not take the same action to protect the Christian faith. He claimed that anti-Christian polemical works are commonly found in Muslim bookstores and anti-Christian comments are allowed in the context of larger presentations of Muslim theological concern. Such works have offended the Christians.30

The next issues are the crisis of identity and the issues of conversion and apostasy. According to Sundararaj Walters, the identity crisis happens due to the flaw in the National Registration Department (NRD) recording of one’s religious affiliation. Some people who are Christians are listed as Buddhists or Sikhs, while others who are non-Muslims are listed as Muslims. Such mistakes implicate the identity, roles and responsibilities of a non-Muslim in this country. As for the restriction for Muslim conversion and apostasy, some non-Muslim quarters regard it as undermining the supremacy of the Constitution and the secular nature of the State.31

29 Sundararaj Walters, 75.

30 Ibid.

31 Ibid., 75-77.



Another study conducted by Ahmad Munawir and Kamal Mujani32 in 2012 also found that among the major religious issues that affect Muslim and non-Muslim relations are the issues of Muslim conversion and kalimah Allah. Both of them argued that the issues need to be addressed immediately because it has sparked tension between the Muslims and Christians, in particular, if the court has the power to adjudicate apostasy.

In addition to the above, the issue of kalimah Allah has caused protest demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur, attacks on several churches and throwing of pigs’

heads into the mosque compounds in Kuala Lumpur. The Muslims also claimed that the series of attacks on several places of worship in the country were also due to the withholding of 30,000 Malay Bibles by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

To overcome the issues, Ahmad Munawir and Kamal Mujani suggested that the country needs mechanisms to enable different religions to interact intellectually.

There should be reinforcement of common values by discussing burning issues and perceivable obstacles to the promotion of peace and harmony through religious understanding. Nonetheless, the Malaysians were also reminded not to touch on religious sensitive issues.33 Sundararaj Walters proposes several measures and the most significant is that religious leaders must play important roles in promoting harmony in society instead of blatantly sowing seeds of discord.34

Much literature on Muslim conversion or apostasy have largely revolved around the question about the authority of the Civil Court to legislate apostasy cases, as well as the reasons why Lina Joy’s right to change religion was denied.

32 Ahmad Munawar Ismail & Wan Kamal Mujani, “Themes and Issues in Research on Interfaith and Inter-Religious Dialogue in Malaysia 1”, Advance in Natural and Applied Sciences, 6(6) (2012): 1001–


33 Ismail and Mujani, 1008-1009.

34 Sundararaj Walters, 79.



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