UPDATE: Saying the ‘A’ Word

UPDATE: Although this post is over 5 months old, I thought I would give an update on the current case. It seems The Herald, a Catholic newspaper in Malaysia, has filed a lawsuit against the Malaysian government’s attempt to ban the usage of the word”Allah” by non-Muslims. The MalaysianGurdwara Council (is thisa real organization or a one-man show, can any of ourMalaysian readers fill us in as I couldn’t find any information) has added their nameto thelawsuit. Again, I revisit the question, canany one religous community claim amonopoly on its religious vocabulary? How about iconography?

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The Sikhs have a long, proud, and distinguished history in Malaysia. While Sikh traders began arriving in South East Asia, during the Mughal period, the Sikh numbers markedly increased under British imperialism. malaysia.jpgSikhs were often settled throughout the colonies as police men and later took a lead role in the transportation industry. Their presence and connection to Punjab has been strong throughout the past and the Khalsa Diwan Malaysia took an active role in ratifying and creating the Panthic Sikh Rehat Maryada during the early years of the 20th century. The Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia remains a leading example of a diasporic Sikh organization.

Despite the Sikhs’ prominent standing in Malaysian society and the relatively secular nature of Malaysian Islam, it is of some note that the government recently moved to have the words “Allah” (God), “Kaabah” (Worship center at Mecca), and “Solat” (prayer) banned from non-Muslim literature and speech.

While I would guess Christian evangelism (Christians in Punjab love to call Jesus ‘Satguru’ and have ‘kirtans’ in his praise) was the main target of such legislation or appeasement towards certain political parties and groups, I am not sure what will be the impact for Sikhs due to our community’s unique lingual affinities with Islam.


The article considers:

But followers of Sikhism — which borrows heavily from both Islam and Hindusim and uses the word Allah to refer to god — are upset over the ban. “We have used the terms ‘Allah’ and Rahim (most merciful) extensively in our writings and prayers to refer to God. The word Allah is used in our holy scripture,” MalaysianGurdwara Council chief Harcharan Singh told local media last week.

“Sikhs have used these terms for centuries and they are part of the Punjabi language we still use today,” he said explaining the dilemma for followers of the faith, who are distinguished by their turbans and beards. “How are we going to fulfill our religious obligation if commonly used words are reserved for Muslims I really don’t know where we are heading as a nation with decisions like this,” he said.

Can one community really dominate language discourse? Is ‘Allah’ or even ‘Satguru’ for that matter reserved for 1 particular religious community? Can such laws really even be enforced? What are your thoughts? Continuing with our pre-1947 diaspora, what about the thoughts of our Sikh Malaysian brothers and sisters?


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8 Responses to “UPDATE: Saying the ‘A’ Word”

  1. gulam says:

    so what does this Malaysian group do and why are they a 'leading example?'

  2. gulam says:

    so what does this Malaysian group do and why are they a ‘leading example?’

  3. alvindarjit says:

    My Muslim brothers..

    Why reserve Allah to only the muslims ???

    Can a cup hold an ocean ???

  4. alvindarjit says:

    My Muslim brothers..
    Why reserve Allah to only the muslims ???
    Can a cup hold an ocean ???

  5. Maestro says:

    While I don't think one community can dominate language discourse, I would have issues with people using the word Waheguru loosley and in contexts that are not appropriate. I wonder if the intent of this law would be relevant to the words being used in a religious context or if this was even considered? It also shows the government moving to "preserve" what they consider to be their language.. interesting parallel to another post on here.

  6. Maestro says:

    While I don’t think one community can dominate language discourse, I would have issues with people using the word Waheguru loosley and in contexts that are not appropriate. I wonder if the intent of this law would be relevant to the words being used in a religious context or if this was even considered? It also shows the government moving to “preserve” what they consider to be their language.. interesting parallel to another post on here.

  7. baingandabhartha says:

    Maestro, loosen up. Do we own 'Waheguru'. No. He/she exists in all of us-thats the going theory as far as Sikhs are concerned. Because the malaysian govt is full of religious zealots doesn't mean we should be talibanizing ourselves.

    Reminds me of an incident-I was sitting with my cousin at a local Gurughar. He stretched out and his feet pointed towards SGGS. An aunty came and told him (nicely) to not point his feet at SGGS. My initial reaction was 'she's right'. Then I thought about how ridiculous that was. The whole Guru Nanak and Mecca/Kabaa story came to mind-we have become lakeer day fakeer like those people.

  8. baingandabhartha says:

    Maestro, loosen up. Do we own ‘Waheguru’. No. He/she exists in all of us-thats the going theory as far as Sikhs are concerned. Because the malaysian govt is full of religious zealots doesn’t mean we should be talibanizing ourselves.

    Reminds me of an incident-I was sitting with my cousin at a local Gurughar. He stretched out and his feet pointed towards SGGS. An aunty came and told him (nicely) to not point his feet at SGGS. My initial reaction was ‘she’s right’. Then I thought about how ridiculous that was. The whole Guru Nanak and Mecca/Kabaa story came to mind-we have become lakeer day fakeer like those people.