Christians in Sabah and Sarawak, who had used the term 'Allah' to mean God in their local bibles for many generations, can continue to do so in the two states.
The Federal government, however, sees no reason why Christians in peninsular Malaysia should also refer to God as 'Allah' - even in the Malay print.
Stating this, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nazri also hopes that Malaysians from the two Borneo states residing in the peninsula would respect the prohibition.
He said this in an interview at his office here with a team of journalists from the See Hua Group of newspapers, representing theBorneo Post, Utusan Borneoand theOriental Daily.
A common tradition in the Borneo states
Nazri said the Government accepts that the natives of Sabah and Sarawak had traditionally been using the term 'Allah' in their prayers and religious services. Besides, the Muslims there are accustomed to this practice.
"Christians in Sarawak and Sabah need not worry over this issue because it is a common tradition there.
"I have been to an Iban church service and I heard the word ‘Allah’ used there,” he reportedly told the visiting journalists.
"However, ‘Allah’ is not allowed to be used by churches in peninsular Malaysia and Christians from the two states have to respect this ruling when they are in thesemenanjung," Nazri said.
Asked why there are two sets of rules on the usage of ‘Allah’ in the nation, Nazri said it is not a unique practice in Malaysia to have different sets of laws in certain matters, citing the Syariah Court and the Civil Court as an example.
He explained that the situation in the peninsula is different as ‘Allah’ was introduced into Christian worships and publications only in recent years.
He added: "Muslims in thesemenanjungcannot accept it, as ‘Allah’ was never used in Christian preaching until only recently. They questioned the motive behind the substitution of ‘Tuhan’ for ‘Allah’.
Duty to stop acts of disrespect and provocation
“It is clearly stated in our constitution that no other religion can be propagated to Malay Muslims and this article has been enacted in all the states in Malaysia where the Sultan is the Head of State … so this excludes the Federal Territory, Penang, Malacca, Sarawak and Sabah.
“In these states, for the ban on the use of ‘Allah’ to be implemented, the Home Minister can use the Printing Act to enforce it.”
Nazri said the Christians should recognise that using ‘Allah’ in their worship and publications is sensitive to Muslims and that this is not an issue that can be solved by just going to court.
“The government has a duty to stop acts of disrespect and provocation that inflame religious and racial feelings in the nation even if there is no law that states these acts are wrong.
“For example, there is no law in the country that states that stepping on a severed cow head is wrong.
"But when a group of Malays did that in their protests against the building of a Hindu temple we hauled them up and charged them because that act was disrespectful to the Hindus,” Nazri said.
He added that on the same score, if the usage of ‘Allah’ by Christians is (and it certainly is, he said) sensitive to Muslims the government has to act even if the courts deem it legal.
Why the issue has landed in court
Question: "If that is the case, why does the government resort to going to the court to resolve the issue on the usage of ‘Allah’ by Christians?"
Nazri: "It was Archbishop Murphy Pakiam (publisher of the Catholic weekly, theHerald)who brought it to the court and the government had no choice but to defend it in court.
"Once the process of the law on the case has started, it could not be stopped.
"The government is continuing with the case in court by applying for a stay of execution, which the other party has agreed to."
Hoping for a solution soon
Question: "Judge Lau Bee Lan, in ruling against the ban on the usage of ‘Allah’ by Christians, had said that there was no evidence to show that the use of ‘Allah’ could incite violence.
Nazri: "Such incidents had not happened when the hearing was on and the government could not produce such evidence.
"But, on the other hand, the attacks on churches after the ruling proved the government right.
“Banning the use of ‘Allah’ by Christians was a pre-emptive move to stop outbreaks of religious violence in the nation."
Asked how the controversy could be solved, Nazri said there had to be a solution soon.- Malaysian Mirror
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