In southeast Asia, in the countries which are predominantly Muslim, Christians have come under recent attacks for using the word ‘Allah’ for God. Allah as a word for a god predates Islam and can be found among the Arabic Jewish and Christian writers of earlier times. Now, however, countries like Malaysia want to prevent Christians from using it.
The Catholic authorities in Malaysia are appealing against a decision to prevent the import of Bibles that use the Arabic word ‘Allah’ with reference to God on the ground that this is exclusive to Islam. The bishops contend that it is in common use among the population, Muslims and others alike, as the word that simply means ‘God’.
It is, after all, the word used for God in Catholic Malta, where the language is closely related to Arabic. Perhaps more importantly, it is used by the Arab Christians of the Middle East and belongs no less to the Syriac Christian tradition, as well as tracing its history to before Mohammed.