PENANG: The Penang Islamic Religious Administration Enactment 2004's ban on 40 words for non-Muslims such as "Allah", "Ulama", "Surau" and "Masjid" is not a problem in the state, said opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (pic).
Although the ruling prohibiting non-Muslims from using the words in their writings has been in force since 2010, he said it has never been talked about in the state.
"It is not talked about because it is not a problem in Penang.
"This issue is exploited by Umno forces to deflect attention from core issues like the economy, mismanagement and corruption," he told reporters when meeting the local community in Sungai Lembu, Penanti in Penang.
"People know how to be mindful and respectful of the sensitivities of others," he said.
He was asked to comment on a recent report on the Penang Mufti passing a decree that 40 words, which also include "Rasul", "Nabi", "Al-Quran" and "Mufti," cannot be used by non-Muslims in any form, version or translation in any language or in any publicity material in print, electronic and any form, that could insult the sanctity of Islam.
So far, state government leaders, including Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, have not addressed this issue in the media since it was first reported last Saturday by an English daily.
However, it was learned that it was discussed in last Wednesday's state executive council meeting.
When asked about the silence of Penang leaders, Anwar said he was not defending Lim.
"But he will get whacked by the Barisan Nasional media if he says even just one wrong word," he said, drawing laughter from PKR leaders and locals present.
Anwar, who is Permatang Pauh MP, said the whole 'Allah' issue has been politicised and it has never been a matter about faith.
The issue, including the seizure of over 300 Malay and Iban bibles by the Selangor Islamic Department earlier this month from the Bible Society of Malaysia, had been a political game where religious authorities used "high-handed measures" on non-Muslims, he said.
The real issue here, he said, is the manner in which things had been done.
"If there are regulations violated, the department can call the relevant people to give advice. There is no need for high-handed measures.
"Now the situation has gone beyond necessary and reached an unhealthy stage.
"We need to correct the situation, refrain from taking harsh actions, and make sure people have mutual respect for and understanding of each other," he said.
Anwar also asked, if it was detrimental to Islam to allow non-Muslims to use the word 'Allah', why were Christians in Sabah and Sarawak allowed to do so.
He said it was never an issue before the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 was enforced.
According to the enactment, it is an offence to use the word “Allah” or 34 other Arabic words including "Hadith", "Syariah", "Kalifah", "Fatwa", "Alhamdulillah", and "Insyaallah" to express or describe any fact, belief, idea, concept, act, activity, matter or thing pertaining to any non-Islamic religion.
"It is a political trick. It is not an issue of faith. It was not a major issue for the past hundreds of years.
"If the authorities can establish that the distribution of bibles bearing the word 'Allah' are meant to harm Muslims, then they can investigate, confirm the offence and charge those responsible.
"Yes, we have laws that must be observed, but the harmony among the people must also be preserved," Anwar said.
He said Selangor Umno is now going to Malay areas to tell the people that Allah is being threatened, Umno is the only party defending Allah and that PKR and PAS are not doing anything.
"In Malay areas we are getting queries why we are compromising on this issue. This is because they are not getting the true picture.
"The mainstream Umno media is being used to present a picture to the Malays that they are under siege (in this issue) and that they must defend Islam from being violated," he said.
The PKR de facto leader said it is not an easy issue for PR, but its stand in the Allah issue has been constant since 2010 - that the word can be used by non-Muslims for well-meaning purposes and not for making insults.