Ex-CJ: ‘Allah’ row a ploy to divide country

File photo shows a boy smiling to fellow Christians attending Christmas midnight mass at the St George's church in Penang, December 25, 2013. Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad on January 24, 2014 alleged that Christians' use of the ‘Allah’ word was a strategy to pit the Malays against the Bumiputera community in Sabah and Sarawak..— Picture by K.E. Ooi
File photo shows a boy smiling to fellow Christians attending Christmas midnight mass at the St George's church in Penang, December 25, 2013. Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad on January 24, 2014 alleged that Christians' use of the ‘Allah’ word was a strategy to pit the Malays against the Bumiputera community in Sabah and Sarawak..— Picture by K.E. Ooi

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad today alleged the Christian claim over “Allah” was a strategy to pit the Malays against the Bumiputera community in Sabah and Sarawak.

Claiming that the demands by Christians over the Arabic word for God to be nothing more than a political ruse, he also accused the group of wanting to “confuse” and “convince” Muslims to convert to Christianity.

“Their political reason is to split the Malays and the Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputera. They also want to Christianise Malays,” he said during a forum titled “Human rights in Islamic tradition” here today.

Insisting that there had been no previous conflict over the word, despite the Catholic Church’s centuries-old presence in Malaysia.

“So what is their intention now? To convince Muslims that their religion is the same or is in accordance to Islam,” Abdul Hamid explained.

The country’s former top judge added that were “Allah” as essential to the Catholic faith as claimed, Pope Francis who is the head of the faith worldwide would have made a declaration to that effect.

In the absence of such a statement by the religion’s head, he insisted that the continued demand by Christians to use the word “Allah” was evidence of the new tactic to convert Muslims.

“Can’t Malays and Muslims, including ulamas see this?” asked the former senior judge.

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.

The ongoing legal dispute between the government and the Catholic Church on the latter’s right to print the word “Allah” in its weekly Herald lies pending at the Federal Court, where a hearing for the Catholic Church’s leave for appeal is fixed on March 5.

Tensions were further heightened when, on January 3, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided the office of bible distributor Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) before carting off over 300 Malay and Iban language bibles that contained the word “Allah”.

Church groups and lawmakers bristled at the move and accused the authorities of violating the 10-point solution mooted by Cabinet in 2011 to resolve the issue.

The 10-point solution, issued by the Najib administration shortly before the Sarawak state election in 2011, allowed for bibles in Malay and indigenous languages to be printed, imported and distributed nationwide with certain conditions imposed for Peninsula Malaysia.

Yesterday, the Cabinet said it would not intervene in the BSM’s case beyond reiterating a commitment to the 10-point solution.

Christians make up close to 10 per cent of the Malaysian population, or 2.6 million. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as “Allah” in their prayers and holy book.

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