KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — Utusan Malaysia appeared to agreed today with the decision to strip the permanent residence (PR) status of the Singaporean resort owner in the surau debacle, and said similarly harsh punishments should be used against those who dared to insult Islam in the future.
In a column penned by Awang Selamat, the paper said the Home Ministry’s move would serve as a clear warning and deterrence to all religious offenders, regardless of their nationality or beliefs.
“The message is that hopefully not just towards those who hold the PR status, but also Malaysians whether they are Muslims or not — be prepared to receive punishment if (you) dare to mencemari (defile) the sanctity of this country’s official religion,” the paper’s collective voice of its editors wrote today.
The resort owner had allegedly allowed non-Muslim tourists to use a surau within the resort grounds recently, a move which had earned swift criticism from Muslim groups and religious authorities for allegedly violating the sanctity of Islam.
The Malay-language paper voiced its strong support for stern action to be taken to serve as “a lesson to those who try to insult Islam”.
“Awang still hopes the government will not be soft or only give warnings, but instead use the existing legal provisions on those who insult the sanctity of Islam,” the Umno-owned daily added.
Utusan Malaysia’s comments come amid a growing number of cases which were seen as insults against Islam, including a non-Muslim couple’s Ramadan greeting featuring a pork dish and a video featuring a Muslim dog trainer and her three pet dogs.
The paper also weighed in on the ongoing legal tussle over the word “Allah” between Muslims and non-Muslims, with some from the former group saying that the Arabic word is exclusive to Islam.
The paper urged the Conference of Rulers, which comprises state Rulers and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, to make a strong stand over the “Allah” dispute in its role as the leaders of Islam here.
“Awang calls the Conference of Rulers to take a firm stand in regards to this issue. This is because Islamic affairs are under the budi bicara (discretion) of the Conference of Rulers where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and Sultans are leaders of Islam.
“It is tidak kena (not right) when certain parties use the court to claim something related to Islam and the powers of the Malay Rulers,” it added.
Utusan had noted the Court of Appeal’s August 22 hearing of the Catholic Church’s application to strike out the Home Ministry’s appeal against a 2009 High Court ruling.
The High Court had in 2009 ruled that the Catholic Church had the right to use the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its weekly publication, Herald.