01/22/2011, 00.00
MALAYSIA

400 year-old Malaysian-Latin Dictionary: proof of use of the word Allah

Christians in Malaysia still can not use the word "Allah" to refer to God, because the Ministry of the Interior has requested a suspension of sentence in favour of a Catholic newspaper. The Church has reissued a dictionary from 1622 as evidence of the use of "Allah" well before the twentieth century, contrary to Muslims claims.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) - While the Malaysian Court hesitates to close the case of the use of the word "Allah" by Christians, in a dispute that has dragged on for over a year, the Catholic Church has reprinted a rare Malay-Latin Dictionary that appears to be an invitation to resolve the dispute, as well as proof of the Christians claims. The "Dictionarium Malaicum-Latinun" and " Latinum - Malaicum" was published for the first time in 1631 in Rome. Church leaders say that is proof that the missionaries played a key role in the exchange of knowledge and culture between Europe and the countries of southeast Asia 400 years ago.

Lawrence Andrew, a priest who worked for 11 years to reprint the dictionary, said it is a critical tool to minimize the wrong belief that the spread of Christianity in the local languages of Malaysia is a recent phenomenon of the twentieth century. “This is to say that Christianity has been here for a long time: 400 years, "says the director of the Herald Weekly, the local Church newspaper.

The newspaper has defended the right to use the word "Allah" to mean the Christian God against the Interior Ministry. It won the High Court battle on December 30, 2008, but the Ministry was able to get a suspended sentence, and the newspaper still can not use the term.

The Court of Appeal in Putrajaya has yet to set a date for the hearing. And there is much to be done to speed up the procedure: there are no time limits, and it is not unusual for years to pass before a case is reviewed. Andrew presented a copy of the dictionary as historical evidence to support the request of the Church, after the Interior Ministry sought the opinions of Islamic scholars to support its thesis.

The priest says he had received permission to reprint the dictionary from the Vatican 12 years ago, but that he did not have the resources to carry out the project. A single copy of the original still exists, and must be kept at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome. Andrew said that the pronunciation of words can be difficult to transliterate and to read for a person today, but he decided not to update the form and the pronunciation of the words "so that no one can say that we have changed it”.

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