KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — Federal minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Sabu said today he believes that the country’s religious and ethnic harmony is paramount, following anger by some Muslims over Putrajaya’s decision to drop its appeal in the “Allah” court dispute with a Sarawakian Christian.

The agriculture and food security minister, popularly known as Mat Sabu, said it is important to keep the long-standing understanding and tolerance among the diverse communities in the country while at the same time being bound by laws and the Constitution.

“These concepts have been rooted from way back that made then Malaya and now Malaysia among the unique nations in the world.

“People of different ethnicities and religions co-exist to live together peacefully. The harmony enjoyed has even been touted as an example for other countries to emulate,” said Mohamad in a seven-minute YouTube video on the importance of understanding other ethnic groups.

The Kota Raja MP said the use of the word “Allah” by Malay-speaking non-Muslims should be dependent on the situation and contextual application.

He pointed out that in the village areas of Kelantan and Kedah, the common Islamic phrases such as MasyaAllah (God has willed it), Alhamdullilah (praise be to God) and InsyaAllah (God willing) are used by most Chinese when they are speaking with their Malay friends.

“Do they insult Islam when saying InsyaAllah? No, as it is part of the culture over there,” he explained.

“These are normal words used by the Chinese and even Indians in a respectful manner with the Malay community there. This is what has been happening in Malaysia all along,” he said.

However, Mohamad said he would leave it as a question of rights and the law when some Muslims alleged that only they have the right to use the word “Allah”.

“My role is not to address on what can or cannot be legally said. I want to touch on the current harmony that is present here to hopefully continue to be maintained. If there are new elements that will threaten to break this harmony, I would naturally be unhappy,” he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said last week that persisting with an appeal in the “Allah” court dispute would have been futile after a 1986 Cabinet and the Conference of Rulers decision that non-Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak could use the word under certain conditions.

The word “Allah” is Arabic for “God: and had been adopted into the Malay language, and had been used for generations and hundreds of years by Malay-speaking Christians in the country — especially the natives or Bumiputera community of Sabah and Sarawak and Orang Asli in the peninsula — in the practice of their religion and professing of their faith.