BY DESMOND DAVIDSON
OCTOBER 14, 2013
Sarawakians attend Bahasa Malaysia mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching, in this file picture dated April 2011. – The Malaysian Insider pic, October 14, 2013.
Sarawak will continue to allow the use of the word Allah in Bahasa Malaysia and native language Bibles and church publications, said State Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing, following the Court of Appeal’s ruling today not to allow Catholic weekly The Herald to use the term.
Masing described the ruling as “not genuine”, saying the use of the word Allah predated Islam.
“We (Christians in Sabah and Sarawak) have been using the word Allah for over 100 years. Why suddenly we are now told we cannot use it?” he asked, adding that the court’s decision would have a negative impact on non-Muslims beyond Sabah and Sarawak.
“Did they have a dream that Allah said they (the Christians) can’t use the word Allah?” he asked, referring to the opposition by some Muslim groups in West Malaysia on the usage of the word in Christian texts.
Referring to Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak as “brothers”, Masing said they had no qualms about Christians using the word.
Masing reminded Christians in the state that Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud had in the past weighed in on the issue by giving assurance that he would not stop them from using the word Allah.
PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian, saying he was stunned by the decision, said churches and Christians in Sabah and Sarawak would continue using the word Allah.
“I am stunned by the decision.
“We have produced very clear facts that we were promised a guarantee by our forefathers when Sabah and Sarawak helped form Malaysia.
“The ruling appears to go against the fundamental rights that were promised,” said Baru, adding that the decision goes against the Malaysia agreement.
Baru, a church elder of the Kuching Evangelical Church for over a decade until he joined politics, said the ruling went against Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which allows people to profess and propagate their religious beliefs.
Believing that the Catholic church would appeal today’s decision, Baru appealed to Christians, who are majority in the two states, to remain calm and “look at the whole issue rationally”.
“There will be an appeal to the Federal Court so the decision is not final.”
Christian churches grouped under the Association of Churches in Sarawak have refrained from making any statements, saying they would wait for more details on the ruling.
“We need to consult with the other churches first,” the association’s secretary-general Ambrose Linang said when contacted.
Its chairman Datuk Bolly Lapok said on Saturday that the association “finds it completely unacceptable that what have been common practices of the Christians in Sabah and Sarawak for generations, more than 100 years before the very idea of Malaysia was conceived, are now held as unlawful by the government”.
He said to stop using Allah in the practice of their faith would amount to a curb on religious freedom.
Outside the court today, Perkasa vice-president Datuk Zulkifli Noordin said that Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible, could continue to be distributed in Malaysia.
However, Zulkifli insisted that the holy book must not contain 32 words, including “Allah”, as the words are prohibited for use by non-Muslims, as stated in Islamic enactments in several states.
“I have no problem if they want to publish the Al Kitab without those words, not just ‘Allah’, but 32 words in the Syariah Criminal Enactment,” Zulkifli told reporters after the verdict.
Former PAS deputy president Nasharuddin Mat Isa said the appellate court ruling clearly indicated that the word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims.
“So, everyone should stick to that decision,” Nasharuddin told reporters. – October 14, 2013.