‘Allah’ debate sank latest Umno, PAS talks

(The Malaysian Insider) – Umno and PAS leaders had to end their “Malay unity talks” at the Istana Terengganu here last Christmas Eve after debate centred on non-Muslims using the word “Allah” to describe their god, a dispute which remains before the Malaysian courts.

The Malaysian Insider understands that an Umno leader at the talks spoke about the need for Malay unity as he said non-Malays were seen to be taking advantage of a split between Umno and PAS to ask for greater concessions including the right to use the word “Allah”, in what was seen as a reference to the Catholic Church’s lawsuit to use the word in its Bahasa Malaysia publication.

However, sources said PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat defended non-Muslims and objected to that conjecture, giving a short history lesson to point out that even Prophet Muhammad’s father, Abdullah, had worshipped Allah although he was not a Muslim.

The Umno leaders at the meeting were Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

“The talk ended then when the King asked to be excused and Nik Aziz then took the opportunity to excuse himself too, saying he had a sore back,” a source familiar with the talks told The Malaysian Insider.

Nik Aziz had declined to make public details of the talks, but bits and pieces of the discussions have leaked out and this posturing by Umno leaders against non-Muslims will hurt their attempt to portray themselves as leaders of all Malaysians.

Abdullah made the invitation to Nik Aziz. — Reuters pic

The Kelantan chief minister had called for respect about the confidentiality of the meeting, saying only that he went to the Terengganu palace in Kuala Lumpur on the invitation of Abdullah, who was prime minister from October 2003 to April 2009.

“When I was hospitalised at the Hospital Universiti Sains Malaysia (HUSM) Kubang Kerian, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi visited me and informed me of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Sultan Mizan’s order for my presence with several leaders including Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang at a dinner in Istana Terengganu in Kuala Lumpur,” said Nik Aziz in a statement yesterday.

“Out of respect for Tuanku’s order I attended the function,” he added.

The Malaysian Insider reported on Monday that Nik Aziz had attended a private Christmas Eve dinner, hosted by the King, with Najib and Muhyiddin at Istana Terengganu.

The dinner was seen as another attempt to revive the talks on political co-operation with Umno in the name of Malay/Muslim unity.

The unity talks is causing concern among PAS allies in Pakatan Rakyat (PR) as it takes place just a week after the coalition had its second convention in Penang to discuss their policies and programmes ahead of snap polls expected this year.

The Malaysian Insider understands that PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail will meet Nik Aziz in Kota Baru today to get more details of the “unity talks”, which had occurred before in the aftermath of Election 2008 when Barisan Nasional (BN) under Abdullah lost four more states and its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

“Abdullah is trying to redeem himself for the massive loss in Election 2008 by bringing the parties together for Malay unity. But he blew his chances and it’s not his job anymore,” a BN source told The Malaysian Insider.