‘Allah’ allowed in East M’sia
by Phyllis Wong and Francis Chan
January 15, 2010, Friday
Nazri says govt recognises two states’ traditional usage of word
KUALA LUMPUR: The word ‘Allah’ is allowed to be used by Christians in Sarawak and Sabah because the government accepts that the natives in these two states have traditionally been using it in their prayers and religious services and the Muslims there are accustomed to this practice.
This was stated by Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, in an exclusive interview with the KTS stable of dailies The Borneo Post, Oriental Daily and Utusan Borneo at his office here yesterday.
“Christians in Sarawak and Sabah need not worry over this issue because it is a common tradition there. I have been to an Iban church service and I heard the word ‘Allah’ used there,” he said.
However, ‘Allah’ is not allowed to be used by churches in Semanunjung Malaysia and Christians from the two states have to respect this ruling when they are in Semenanjung, Nazri said.
Asked why there are two sets of rules on the usage of the word ‘Allah’ in the nation, he pointed out that this is not a unique practice as Malaysia also has two sets of laws on other matters, citing the Syariah Court and the Civil Court as an example.
He explained that the situation in Semenanjung Malaysia is different as ‘Allah’ is only introduced into Christian worships and publications a few years ago.
Nazri said: “Muslims here in Semenanjung cannot accept it as ‘Allah’ was never used in Christian preaching until recently and they questioned the motive behind the substitution of ‘Tuhan’ for ‘Allah’.
“It is clearly stated in our constitution that no other religions can be propagated to Malay Muslims and this article has been enacted in all the states in Malaysia where the Sultan is the Head of State … so this excludes Federal Territory, Penang, Malacca, Sarawak and Sabah.
“In these states, for the ban on the use of ‘Allah’ to be implemented the Home Affairs Minister can use the Printing Act to enforce it.”
Nazri added that Christians should recognise that using ‘Allah’ in their worships and publications is sensitive to Muslims and that this is not an issue that can be solved by going to court.
“The government has a duty to stop acts of disrespect and provocation that inflame religious and racial feelings in the nation even if there was no law that stated these acts were wrong.
“Take for example, there is no law in the country that states stepping on a severed cow head is wrong but when a group of Malays did that in their protests against the building of a Hindu temple we hauled them up and charged them because that act was disrespectful to the Hindus,” Nazri said.
He added that on the same score, if the usage of ‘Allah’ by Christians was (it certainly is, he said) sensitive to Muslims the government has to act even if courts deem it legal.
If that is the case, why does the government resort to going to the court to resolve the issue on the usage of ‘Allah’ by Christians?
To which, Nazri replied that it was Archbishop Murphy Pakiam who brought it to the court and the government had no choice but to defend in court and that once the process of law on the case has started it could not be stopped.
He said the government is continuing with the case in court by applying for a stay of execution which the other party has agreed to.
Judge Lau Mee Lan, in ruling against the ban on the usage of ‘Allah’ by Christians, had said that there was no evidence to show that the use of ‘Allah’ could incite violence.
To this, Nazri said such incidents had not happened when the hearing was on and the government could not produce such evidence.
But on the other hand, he said, the attacks on churches after the ruling proved the government right.
“Banning the use of ‘Allah’ by Christians was a pre-emptive move to stop outbreaks of religious violence in the nation,” he argued. Asked how the controversy could be solved, Nazri said there had to be a solution soon and in the meantime he appealed to the people to be calm and rational.