Anwar: ‘Allah’ row a political conflict

(MM) – A worsening row over “Allah” spreading across the nation was political issue rather than a conflict of faith, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today.

Speaking on the tussle over the Arabic word that has also affected Penang, after the state Mufti insisted that “Allah” was part of a list 40 words barred to non-Muslims by a 2004 syariah law, the opposition leader called the move another instance of the row stirred up by Umno.

“Frankly, it is not a problem in Penang, it is just being used and exploited by Umno to create an issue out of it,” he said in a brief press conference at a meet the people session in Sungai Lembu here.

The New Straits Times daily reported last Saturday that the Penang mufti had prohibited non-Muslims from using 40 Arabic words, including “Allah”, “iman” (faith) and “nabi” (prophet), under the Penang Islamic Religious Administration Enactment 2004 and based on a fatwa (edict) that was reportedly declared in 2010.

Lawyers have since questioned the enforceability of syariah laws on non-Muslims, whom they say are not bound by Islamic law.

Today, the Permatang Pauh MP also expressed concern that the “Allah” row was being fanned to unhealthy levels that could threaten peace in the country.

He accused Umno of creating a siege mentality amongst Muslims by instilling in them the fear that the sanctity of their religion was being threatened in the “Allah” row.

The PKR adviser reiterated Pakatan Rakyat’s stand since 2010 that the word “Allah” may be used by non-Muslims as long as it is not abused.

He urged all parties to be mindful of religious sensitivities and to refrain from condemning each other’s religion in order to be able to reach an amicable solution.

“What we must do now is to resolve the whole ‘Allah’ controversy first,” he said.

A University of Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (Umcedel) released yesterday showed that continued use of the “Allah” row for political capital was not bearing any fruit, but was instead increasing the risk of inter-ethnic tension in the country.

Tempers continue to simmer in the worsening row over the Arabic word that has now spilled beyond the legal case between the government and the Catholic Church over its right to use “Allah” in its weekly newspaper Herald.

The issue worsened after the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) said it would begin enforcing a state enactment that it insists bars non-Muslims from using “Allah”.

The ongoing legal dispute is still pending before the Federal Court, which is set to hear arguments from both sides on March 5 before deciding on whether it will hear an appeal by the Catholic Church.