Thursday, August 22, 2013

Smaller turnout than expected at ‘Allah’ protest

The highly-anticipated protest against the Catholic Church’s “Allah” appeal today drew a smaller turnout than expected despite Malay rights group Perkasa’s repeated calls for its members and supporters to turn up in a show of Muslim solidarity.

Around 200 people gathered outside the Court of Appeal here as they awaited the court’s decision on the Catholic Church’s application to dismiss the government’s appeal against the landmark decision to allow non-Muslims to use the word “Allah”.

“We’re not here today to protest but the show solidarity and support to our fellow Muslim lawyers to fight for us.

“Let’s respect one another and don’t do anything to provoke anyone,” Iqbal Hakim from Persatuan Belia Islam Nasional told the crowd.

On Monday, Muslim-Malay supremacy group Perkasa vowed to rally outside the court to protest the church’s attempt to use the word “Allah”, which it has insisted belongs exclusively to Muslims.

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Responding to the rally threat, the Catholic Church urged for nationwide calm, saying the matter should be left in the court’s hands.

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

The 2009 High Court decision that upheld 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.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Catholic Church’s Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur voiced its alarm and concern that Perkasa’s rally call may reignite sentiments that have been simmering since the landmark High Court judgment.

“The Catholic Church is gravely concerned by the recent statements made by individuals and organisations with regard to the use of the word ‘Allah’, a matter which is pending at the Court of Appeal.

“Many of these statements are stoking racial sentiments and creating religious tension in our country.

“We humbly request all parties to respectfully allow the judicial process to take its course and urge the relevant authorities to take necessary steps to prevent any untoward incidents,” it said in the brief statement.

“We exhort all to pray that peace and good sense will prevail,” it added in the statement signed by its Chancellor, Rev Fr Jestus Pereira.

But despite calls to shelve its rally plans, Perkasa sent a text blast last night, urging Malays to come forward in a show of solidarity and gather outside the courtroom this morning.

“I urge the Perkasa leadership and Muslims nationwide to be at the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya at 8.30am tomorrow, let’s gather to protect the word ‘Allah’ from being used by non-Muslims, let’s gather to show our objection, come on my friends, this is the time we unite for our religion, ALLAHUAKHBAR,” Perkasa Youth chief Irwan Fahmi Ideris said in a statement yesterday.
Today, he told The Malay Mail Online that Perkasa will continue to fight until the word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims.
“We can see that it will make people more confused when the word ‘Allah’ is used by other parties.
“It will be a major issue for Muslims [if the Catholic Church succeeds today] because Muslims are the majority.
“We came here to show our solidarity and support to the Malays, Islam and not to support every decision made by the court if the court is not siding us,” Irwan said.
The Youth chief stressed however that he did not foresee riots or violence on the streets if the Catholic Church succeed today as that would be un-Islamic.
“We will call for protests, but not riots.
“Only peaceful protest, riots are against Islamic laws,” he said.
Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali was seen briefly at the demonstration but did not speak to the press.
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