Words: Jeffrey urges Najib to step in

(Daily Express) – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Vice-President Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan on Saturday appealed to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to immediately revoke the fatwa (decree) on the use of 32 words by non Muslims in Sabah.

He said this is so that Malaysians here can practise their religion freely without any fear of interference as provided for under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

"I think this is the time for the new Prime Minister to show what he meant by the 'One Malaysia' concept in his maiden speech on FridayÉI think there is need for this matter to be brought to his attention," said Jeffrey at a press conference, Saturday.

Jeffrey said it came as a surprise to him that the State Mufti had on June 1, 2003, already gazetted the prohibition on 32 terms through the Warta Kerajaan Negeri Sabah dated Dec. 11, 2003.

"We are not here to create controversy but to find a solution and nobody can give a better solution than the new Prime Minister.

"He (Najib) could withdraw the ban on the opposition newspapers and there is no reason he cannot withdraw this prohibition on the use of words."

According to the Warta Kerajaan Negeri Sabah a Fatwa was gazetted by the State Mufti under Section 35 of the 1992 Islamic Law Administration Enactment.

It prohibits the use of the 32 words in religious propagation other than Islam and also their use in any form of media by non Muslims.

The prohibited terms include Allah, Wahyu, Iman, Nabi, Injil, Ulama, Hadith, Kaabah, Syariah, Kiblat, Mufti, Dakwah, Fatwa, Nabi, Zakat, Surau, Fitrah and Quran, among others.

"Fatwa is only meant for Muslims and yet the prohibition is on non-Muslims, said Jeffrey, adding there is need for clarification on this matter.

"If they can issue fatwa concerning other religions at any time, to me that means you are interfering with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which allows the freedom of religion.

"The effect of this is many churches cannot function as some of the churches use the terms that have been prohibited.

"So since we have a new Prime Minister whose intention is to bring Malaysia to a higher level of government, unity, peace and progress, we would like to appeal to him that this fatwa be withdrawn immediately."

Jeffrey also questioned why the matter was passed without any knowledge or discussion or debate in the State Assembly before it was gazetted.

"I want to question the non-Muslim State Assemblymen as to why they did not raise this matter in the Assembly. How come it went through without any discussion. There was nothing in the newspapers," he said.