Posted: 05 Jan 2014 04:32 PM PST
Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic) waded into the Allah debate by calling on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to make a stand on the controversy while declaring that he did not approve of the "high handed" ways of the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), which had seized Malay and Iban language bibles containing the word Allah.
"If Jais felt that there are any actions that have contravened the law, then they should call up the relevant parties for an explanation.
"But you can't take such drastic action because it will be perceived as anti-Christian. There is no need for such action. It only causes tension," he said after giving a talk at the Centre for Reform, Democracy and Social Initiatives today breaking his silence on the issue.
Jais raided the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) office in Petaling Jaya, where it seized over 300 copies of the AlKitab and Bup Kudus. Two top BSM officials were also detained in the raid.
But lawyers have since questioned the authority of Islamic authorities to raid the BSM premises or seize the bibles, pointing out that Jais and other such departments have no jurisdiction over non-Muslims.
They also cast doubt on the validity and constitutionality of enactment that they say impinged on the right to religious freedom.
Anwar believed the entire controversy was an attempt to deflate attention from the country's economic problems such as the rising cost of living due to price hikes and subsidy cuts.
"I don't dismiss the fact there are attempts to deflect attention from the economic problem the country is facing and other problems like the quality of education, economic injustice and moral degradation.
Anwar said Najib should take a position on this issue.
"The government should deal with it and not by attacking the rest," he said.
Anwar also ticked off the three DAP assemblyman – Yeo Bee Yin (Damansara), Rajiv Rishyakaran (Bukit Gasing) and Lau Weng San (Kampung Tunku) for proposing to amend the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.
Passed by the then Barisan Nasional state government, the enactment prohibits non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases in their faith, including "Allah", "Nabi" (prophet), "Injil" (gospel) and "Insya'Allah" (God willing).
Anwar said there is no need for such hasty action as there are proper channels within the state government and Pakatan Rakyat for them to put forth their views.
Jais's raid comes amidst heightened tensions over the use of the word Allah, the Arabic word for God, by non-Muslims, which Muslim groups insist is exclusive to Islam.
The raid is widely seen as being triggered by Catholic weekly Herald editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew's remarks that churches in Selangor will continue to use Allah in their Bahasa Malaysia services following a warning from Jais to stop.
Although global Islamic scholars have clarified that the term can be used by anyone, state Islamic authorities in Malaysia have reacted negatively to reports of churches using the word Allah in services and literature catering to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christian community.
The tussle over the word Allah arose in 2008 when Herald was barred by the Home Ministry from using the Arabic word. The Catholic church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in December 2009 upholding its constitutional right to do so.
Putrajaya later appealed the decision and successfully overturned the earlier decision when the Court of Appeal ruled last October that “Allah was not integral to the Christian faith”.
Christians make up about 9% of the Malaysian population, or 2.6 million. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as Allah in their prayers and holy book.
Besides the Bumiputera Christians from East Malaysia, some of whom have moved to the peninsula to live and work, Orang Asli Christians in the peninsula also typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship.
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