Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On eve of trial, Catholic priest cautions against raising ‘Allah’

Catholic priest Rev Father Lawrence Andrew has implored Malaysians to refrain from raising the “Allah” issue now that the disputed word has returned to court, after Muslim supremacists declared a rally in protest against the Church tomorrow.

Andrew, who is also the editor of Catholic paper, Herald, said the issue “should not be tried by intimidation or in the media”, in response to Perkasa’s declaration.

“First and foremost, it’s a court case so people speaking about it outside the court is subjudice,” he told The Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

Self-declared defenders of Islam, Perkasa, had sparked alarm among Malaysia’s religious minorities with its intent to demonstrate against the Church outside the Court of Appeal while the case is underway as it called to mind the tensions that spiralled into violence four years ago after the High Court ruled “Allah” was not exclusive to Muslims.

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The vocal pressure group has some 407,000 members throughout Malaysia, according to Perkasa’s acting president Datuk Abd Rahman Abu Bakar.

The Court of Appeal will hear tomorrow the Catholic Church’s bid to dismiss Putrajaya’s appeal against the 2009 High Court ruling upholding the Christians’ right to use the Arabic word.

In pitching its rally against the Catholic Church, Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali said the planned demonstration was to support the home ministry’s bid to bar non-Muslims from calling their gods “Allah” in print.

The home ministry has persisted to challenge a 2009 High Court judgment despite an assurance from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the country’s Christian population that they were free to bring in and use their bibles in Malay as well as in other indigenous languages that contained the word “Allah”, after shipments of the holy book were banned.

Malaysia’s leading faith council that represents five out of six of the country’s main creeds, has also denounced Perkasa for inciting religious tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims.

“This Perkasa, they are just only stirring sensitivities. We are not harping on any sensitivities, we are only pursuing human and religious rights.

“We are not talking about their rights. We did not touch on anything about them... we are only asking for our rights,” said R.S. Mohan Shan, who is a vice-president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

Apart from Christians, Sikhs too have said their holy books contain the word “Allah”.

The “Allah” row erupted in 2008 when the home ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s newspaper permit, prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.

The 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah” had shocked Muslims who considered the word to only refer to the Muslim God.

It also led to Malaysia’s worst religious strife, with houses of worship throughout the country coming under attack.

Christians are the third largest religious population at 2.6 million, according to statistics from the 2010 consensus, behind Muslims and Buddhists.

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