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KUALA LUMPUR, June 27 — Bumiputera Christians have become “instant criminals” after the Federal Court ruled to uphold a lower court decision against allowing the Catholic Church the use of the word “Allah” for God, the Sarawak Ministers’ Fellowship (SMF) said.
The umbrella group representing evangelical missions in the state noted that the bulk of Bumiputera Christians were from East Malaysia where the bibles in their native tongues or in the national language contained “Allah”, but added that thousands of Sarawakian Christians worked or studied in the peninsula where their word for God was now barred to them.
“Are they to become instant criminals the day they start reading their bibles in their mother tongue?” the group’s chairman, Rev Daron Tan said in a statement.
Tan claimed that Bumiputera Christians in Sarawak had been referring to God as “Allah Taala” for the past 150 years, a situation that is now untenable due to the apex court’s decision on Monday.
He noted that the Federal Court ruling on Monday “had made criminals of Malaysian Christians when they pray and address God as ‘Allah Taala.’”
He accused the top court of having abdicated its duty when it refused the Catholic Church the chance to argue its case, as well as doing itself a disservice by missing out the chance to prove to the world it is capable of coming up with a “reasoned and intellectually satisfying” decision on the controversial issue.
“The court had displayed cowardice in refusing to face the questions posed to it and had failed the whole of Malaysia in not giving its true legal opinion on the dispute between the Catholic Church and the Ministry of Home Affairs,” the said.
The Sarawak Christian group also hit out at the Barisan Nasional-led federal government, accusing it of riding on political expediency when putting out its 10-point agreement in the months before the Sarawak state elections in 2011.
It criticised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak for promising the ban on the use of the word “Allah” would not be enforced in either Sarawak or Sabah, stressing that the assurance was mere rhetoric that has no legal or principled basis.
“The Sarawakian Bumiputera Christians have been badly let down by their leaders. We cannot continue to wait or depend on empty promises or uncertainty for religious freedom to be restored.
“The BN government created the mess we are in and it should resolve the problem. The Sarawak Ministers’ Fellowship demands state and national leaders to allow religious freedom.
“Stop-gap, temporary emotion-soothin
It demanded the government review its position on the ban and bring its regulations in line with Arab-speaking Muslim-majority countries.
On Monday, a seven-member bench at the apex court delivered a slim four-to-three majority decision to not hear the Catholic Church’s bid to appeal a lower court ban preventing it from using the Arabic word.
Last year, the Court of Appeal ruled that “Allah” was not integral to the Christian faith and that the home minister was justified in banning the Herald from using the Arabic word on grounds of national security and public order.