KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 4 — Rather than attempting to silence dissenters, the federal government can help bring a swift end to the firestorm over the use of the “Allah” word by upholding the constitutional rights of Malaysia’s religious minorities, DAP lawmakers said today.
DAP publicity chief Tony Pua accused the Najib administration of being insincere in snuffing the fires between Muslims and non-Muslims after Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein advised Malaysians to accept the latest court decision on use of the Arabic word for god, and to stop speaking about it publicly.
“There has to be sincere effort even from the government to resolve this matter and not just rhetorics, asking those who oppose to shut up,” Pua told reporters at its headquarters here.
The Petaling Jaya Utara MP added that the issue that concerned the nation’s fundamental liberties was important and should not be shut out from public discourse.
“The refusal of the Barisan Nasional government to comply with the Federal Constitution and uphold the freedom of religion is creating chaos and hatred in this country so why is the Barisan Nasional government refusing to recognise what is recognised throughout the entire world?
“Every country in the world allows the use of Allah by different religions except Malaysia, so why should Malaysia be different?” Pua asked.
The new Selangor DAP chief also backed the set up a bipartisan council as a peaceful way forward out of the “Allah” impasse.
“We definitely do not support any attempts to incite violence or incite unrest over this issue and we want this issue to be resolved in a peaceful and rational fashion, hence our call for a bipartisan council to resolve this matter,” Pua said.
He stressed that those in the proposed council should act with the interests of the public at heart, instead of their own political parties.
DAP parliamentary leader, Lim Kit Siang, had mooted the bipartisan council idea yesterday on the heels of some Muslim activists who have vowed to protest outside churches in Selangor tomorrow, to demonstrate their anger against the Christian community for insisting on referring to their God by His Arabic name, which they argue is exclusive to Islam’s followers.
Teresa Kok, DAP vice-chairman, described Hishammudin’s statement as “regrettable” and similarly asked the federal government to put an end to the “Allah” issue.
“What is needed is a fair and acceptable solution to the whole controversy caused by government’s wrong decision to ban the use of the word.
“Since the BN federal government started the religious fire, it must put out the fire and resolve the problem,” said the Seputeh MP, who was also at the DAP headquarters.
Kok said the Christian community, especially those who worship in Bahasa Malaysia, had been using the word “Allah” for centuries without problem until Putrajaya banned the Catholic Church from printing the Arabic word in its weekly Herald.
“It only became controversial when the government intervened and banned the church from using the word, and that's why it was brought to court,” she said.
The Catholic Church took legal action after the Home Ministry banned its newspaper from publishing “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section in 2008.
The church won the first round in 2009 when the High Court ruled “Allah” was not exclusive to Islam, but the judgment was overturned by the Court of Appeal last October.
A three-judge panel ruled that the Arabic word was not integral to the Christian faith.
The dispute is now pending at the Federal Court, which will hear arguments from both Muslims and Christians on February 24.
Kok also said the Selangor Islamic Religious Department's (Jais) raid and seizure of bibles in the Malay language and Iban language on Thursday had “violated the letter and spirit of the Cabinet's 10 point solution” in 2011.
The 10-point solution allows the printing, importing and distribution of bibles containing the word “Allah” in the country, but the Jais raid is said to have taken place in relation to a 1988 state law that bans non-Muslims in Selangor from using 35 Arabic words and phrases including “Allah”.
Both Pua and Kok were asked to respond to Hishammuddin's reported statement that the refusal to accept a court ruling on the “Allah” issue was breeding hatred and disunity and could cause turmoil in the country.
“The court has made its decision. We must accept it. Stop the polemics and stop politicising the issue. If not, there will be chaos,” Hishammuddin was quoted saying by state news agency Bernama.