Herald editor in ‘Allah’ storm accused of treason against Selangor Sultan

Archbishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, speaking at the Christian Federation of Malaysia's Christmas open house in Kuala Lumpur, December 25, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Archbishop Emeritus of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, speaking at the Christian Federation of Malaysia's Christmas open house in Kuala Lumpur, December 25, 2013. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 2 ― Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew had allegedly committed treason against the Selangor Sultan by insisting on using the word “Allah", claimed state Umno leaders.

Subang Umno chief Datuk Zein Isma Ismail said Lawrence’s recent statement was akin to going against the Selangor Sultan’s decree banning non-Muslims in the state from using the Arabic word.

“This is a penderhakaan (treason) towards the Sultan’s decree and we demand that the related quarter apologise,” Zein was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.

Yesterday, all 22 Selangor Umno divisions reportedly lodged police reports against Father Lawrence Andrew, demanding that the editor of Catholic Church weekly Herald apologise for saying that Catholic churches in the state will continue to use the word “Allah” in their masses.

Prof Tan Sri Dr Abdul Shukor Hussin, the chairman of the National Fatwa Council, also expressed worry that apparent inaction over Andrew’s comments, including the use of the Sedition Act 1948, could see unrest ultimately arising from a challenge of Selangor’s religious edict banning the non-Muslims’ use of the Arabic word for God.

When commenting on the intention of the Catholic churches in Selangor to continue using the word “Allah”, Abdul Shukor said the situation could worsen if they do not comply with the state law.

“Their actions clearly challenges and breaches the fatwa (religious edict) and decree of the Selangor Sultan as the religious leader and state ruler. As religious people, this quarter (church) should understand the reality because their action will surely cause Muslims to be dissatisfied,” he was quoted as saying by Malay daily Berita Harian, without singling out Lawrence.

According to Berita Harian, Perak Mufti Tan Sri Dr Harussani Zakaria described those who oppose and insult Islam by challenging court decisions, the Federal Constitution and the country’s royal rulers as traitors.

Harussani went a step further when he reportedly called for the government to take firm action such as imprisoning and revoking the citizenships of such “traitors”, as well as banning churches that continue to use the word “Allah”.

Harussani did not, however, name those whom he alleged to have insulted Islam.

Utusan Malaysia also reported two Muslim non-government organisations as claiming that Andrew had contravened a court decision and called for contempt of court proceedings against him.

Muslim group Muafakat’s president Ismail Mina Ahmad told Utusan Malaysia: “The court had previously decided that the word is exclusive for the use of Muslims.”

“Andrew’s statement wanting to use that word goes against and insults the court’s decision, so legal action has to be taken against him,” he was quoted saying.

Ismail also claimed that Lawrence had insulted the decree of the Selangor Sultan, where the state ruler had ordered all non-Muslim residents in the state not to use the word “Allah”.

Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association leader Datuk Nadzim Johan said the Home Ministry, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia and the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) should haul Lawrence to court, insisting that this was necessary to prevent anxiety among the Muslims and to maintain the country’s harmony.

Temperatures have risen of late over the so-called “Allah” row that remains unresolved four years after it shocked the nation and led to the worst religious strife in the country’s history.

Matters were further complicated when the Selangor Islamic Religious Department said it would begin compelling churches in the state to stop using the word “Allah”, possibly widening the effects of what has largely been an administrative ban on the word’s usage and which could have far-reaching consequences on Malaysian’s constitutional right to freedom of religion.

The ongoing legal dispute between the government and the Catholic Church over its right to print the word “Allah” in the Herald’s Bahasa Malaysia section is still pending before the Federal Court, which is set to hear arguments from both sides on February 24 before deciding on whether it will hear an appeal by the Catholic Church.

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