Allah for East M’sia: Is Nazri flying a kite?

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz has been urged to clarify if his statements that Christians in Sabah and Sarawak will be allowed to use the word Allah is the government’s official stance.

By Wong Choon Mei (Harakah)

“Given the Umno-BN’s record for flip-flop, it is best to confirm before we congratulate our friends in East Malaysia. It is actually a contradictory stance and very worrisome because it shows they have no idea how to solve the situation. Umno is still trying to play to the gallery, a different tune for a different market. This reflects the fact that they are not anchored by principles at all,” PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub told Harakahdaily.

“There is a sense that the Minister may be flying a kite to test the reaction of the people. He should make it clear and the government should state its official stand as soon as possible,” Ramon Navaratnam, past president of Transparency International, told Harakahdaily.

Nazri had made the remarks during an interview with a Kuching-based newspaper published on Friday. He had also suggested that while East Malaysian Christians would be allowed to Allah, non-Muslims in the peninsula would be barred from doing so to avoid the hurting the sensitivities of the Muslims.

“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 was reported as saying in the interview.

Clarity not confusion, leadership not indecision

Coalition leaders within the ruling elite in the Sabah and Sarawak BN have welcomed the apparent concession from the federal government. However, few of the East Malaysian people are convinced or satisfied, given the prolonged tussle and the confiscation of thousands of Malay-language Bibles.

“Nazri has opened the floodgates of further confusion. We view his statement as condescending. He should stop trying to dictate how God should be addressed,” Ronnie Klassen, a Sabah PKR leader and prominent Church activist, told Harakahdaily. “By doing so, he has not only destroyed the concept of a 1Malaysia but also the sanctity of the courts. Is he suggesting he is above the courts by tossing to us this ‘political gift’?”

The Allah row began in 2007 after the Home Ministry refused to renew the publication permit of Catholic magazine, the Herald, by invoking a 1986 Cabinet directive that banned non-Muslims from using certain Arabic words. The Home Ministry’s decision was challenged by the Herald’s publisher and on December 31, 2009, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that it had the right to use Allah to describe God in its Malay-language section.

The landmark court victory sparked a storm of protests spearheaded by top Umno leaders such as former premier Mahathir Mohamad, his son Trade Minister Mukriz Mahathir and Women’s Minister Shahrizat Jalil. While they do not deny the ruling was in line with the Federal Constitution, they insisted that it was offensive to Muslims and launched an ‘Allah For Muslims Only’ campaign.

Their inflammatory rhetoric has been blamed for the on-going series of firebomb attacks and vandalism against non-Muslim places of worship. So far,10 churches, a 100-year old Sikh temple and a Catholic school have been hit..

“PAS remains committed to its stand which is based on the teachings of the Quran. It is not haram for non-Muslims to use Allah. Again, we urge Umno-BN to stop procrastinating and put an end to this violence and vandalism,” said Salahuddin.

“The government is accountable to the rakyat. The police is accountable to the rakyat. Why are the attacks still continuing, why haven’t there been any arrests yet? What is going on? We need clarity and leadership, not confusion and indecision.”