Get out if can’t accept Islamic sovereignty, Christians told

Muslim demonstrators chant slogans outside Malaysia’s Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur October 14, 2013. Muslim group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia said that Christians could choose to leave the country if they disagreed with the ruling. — Reuters pic
Muslim demonstrators chant slogans outside Malaysia’s Court of Appeal in Putrajaya, outside Kuala Lumpur October 14, 2013. Muslim group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia said that Christians could choose to leave the country if they disagreed with the ruling. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 — A Muslim group told Christians today to emigrate if they cannot accept the sovereignty of Islam and the king in Malaysia, after the Court of Appeal ruled that the word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims.

Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) also urged Christians to avoid destroying racial harmony in the majority-Muslim country, warning them that challenging the sovereignty of Islam was akin to “affecting their loyalty to their king and country”.

“They can make other choices, like migrating to other countries, if they can no longer accept the sovereignty of Islam and the king, who protects the institution of religion,” said ISMA president Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman in a statement today.

“Stop any effort to harm racial harmony because the Muslims in this country will fight against the evil intentions of any party that seeks to threaten their future,” he added.

Three Muslim judges in the Court of Appeal unanimously overturned today the 2009 Kuala Lumpur High Court ruling that allowed the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its weekly publication, the Herald.

The appellate court found that the usage of the word “Allah” is not an integral part of the Christian faith, ruling that allowing such usage would cause “confusion” in the Muslim community.

Perkasa vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin said earlier today that the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian bible, could continue to be distributed in Malaysia, but stressed that the holy book must not contain 32 words, including “Allah”, prohibited to non-Muslims by Islamic enactments in some states.

The Malay and Muslim right-wing group leader also said that Sabah and Sarawak churches should emulate White Americans who had “changed”, after wrongly using the derogatory words “negro” and “nigger” to refer to African Americans for years.

Borneo churches, however, said in response to the court verdict today that they would not stop using the word “Allah” in worship and in the Al-Kitab, which has been part of their practice for centuries, long before Malaysia was formed in 1963.

The Sabah and Sarawak church groups also criticised the court ruling, calling it “repugnant” and “insensitive” to Christians in East Malaysia.

Archbishop Datuk Bolly Lapok, chairman of the Association of Churches in Sarawak, said it was “utterly irresponsible” and “grossly demeaning, to say the least”, for the court to rule that the use of the word “Allah” was not integral to the Christian faith.

The Catholic Church said today that it would contest the Court of Appeal’s decision, pointing out that the ruling contradicts Putrajaya’s 10-point solution that was issued in 2011 to allow the printing, importation and distribution of the Al-Kitab that contains the word “Allah”.

The “Allah” row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s newspaper permit, prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.

The 2009 High Court decision, which upheld the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah” in the Herald, had led to a string of attacks against houses of worship, including the firebombing of a church.

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