KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Najib Razak assured Muslims today that his government would continue to defend the name of “Allah” and uphold the position of Islam, even as it embraced the concept of moderation.
The prime minister, in his message for today’s Maal Hijrah celebration, noted that even as Malaysia upholds the Federal Constitution and the position of Islam as the country’s official religion, it also holds strong to the concept of “Wasatiyyah” or moderation.
He reminded Muslims here that the underlying message of the Maal Hijrah celebration, or the Islamic new year, is to command Muslims to embrace changes and move forward.
“It will produce Muslims who are always creative and innovative, who stay relevant in the current times and challenge the mainstream,” he said in the message posted on his blog www.1malaysia.com.my
“To appreciate the broader meaning of migration, we still uphold our religion and defend the name of Allah for the sake of religion, race and our beloved country.
“Malaysia, which upholds the Constitution and Islam as the country’s official religion, will remain steadfast to defending the position of Islam in the country based on Maqasid Syariah and the prudent concept of Wasatiyyah,” he added.
Malaysians have been embroiled in a major tug-of-war battle over the word “Allah”, the Arabic translation to “God” that many Muslim groups here insist belongs exclusively to those of the Islamic faith.
But Christians and other non-Muslim religious followers here have argued otherwise, a position that Malaysia’s Muslim-majority government disagreed with, and which later led to a dispute that led saw Catholic weekly The Herald hauled to court in 2009 for a long drawn out legal battle over the word.
The battle came to a head early last month when the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the use of the word in the Herald was justified, finding that the use of the word “Allah” was not integral to the practice of the Christian faith.
The ruling — which overturned an earlier High Court decision that the ban was unconstitutional — has since sparked confusion over the use of the Middle Eastern word by Christians in their worship, especially with conflicting opinions within the government itself on how far the ruling would affect practising Christians.
Churches in Sabah and Sarawak have said that they will continue their age-old practice of referring to God as “Allah” in their worship and in their holy scriptures.
Several ministers also said recently that the 10-point solution issued by Putrajaya in 2011 — which allows the printing, importation and distribution of the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian bible, containing the word “Allah” — should stand, despite the appellate court ruling.
The Najib administration issued the 10-point solution shortly before the Sarawak state election in 2011 to end a Home Ministry blockade of shipments of Christian holy scriptures in the Malay language containing the word “Allah”.
The Cabinet, through Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jala, had stated in the resolution that the large Bumiputera Christian population in Sabah and Sarawak could use their holy books in the Malay, Indonesian, and indigenous languages.
The firestorm continued last week when several members in the Bar Council, which is the executive body of the Malaysian Bar, were reported to have voiced their support for the Church’s decision to appeal the appellate court ruling.
Constitutional law expert Shahredzan Johan was reported by The Sun newspaper to have lauded the Sabah Lawyers Association’s purported support of the Church on October 30, and highlighted that its counterpart in Sarawak were considering announcing the same.
In a scathing response by Muslim lawyers, the Muslim Lawyers’ Association said last Saturday that it would “not hesitate to take further action”, should the Bar Council support the Catholic Church in the “Allah” case.
Datuk Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar, president of the Muslim Lawyers’ Association, also said that the views of a “few scattered Muslim members” in support of the Church did not represent the sentiments of its mainstream that number in the “thousands”.
Source: The Malaymailonline.com