Friday, January 4, 2013

Non-Muslims can use ‘Allah’, Mat Sabu insists

January 04, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 4 — PAS maintains that non-Muslims are allowed to use the word “Allah” to describe their gods, says PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu, in a bid to allay fears among the religious minority that the Islamist party may be reversing its president’s stand ahead of polls.
He insisted that the latest polemic over the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims was limited to peninsular Malaysia and was never an issue among Muslims and Christians in Sabah, Sarawak and the Middle East.
“The PAS’ president had issued the statement in 2010 to not forbid any religious adherent apart from Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’.
“PAS maintains that stand,” the 58-year-old told The Malaysian Insider, weighing in on the religious row after the party information chief Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man issued a statement last month seemingly contradicting his president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang’s previous remarks on the hot-button topic in mainly Muslim Malaysia.
The leader popularly known as Mat Sabu (picture) noted that Abdul Hadi had already spoken out on the matter three years ago, when the debate first raged.
Abdul Hadi, a respected Islamic scholar, had in a statement dated January 7, 2010 said: “In conclusion, we cannot forbid them from using the word ‘Allah’ among themselves, in their worship and practice, even though the meaning deviates from the original according to our language.”
Many Muslim Malaysians, who form 60 per cent of the 28 million population, argue that the Arabic word is a proper noun that refers exclusively to their god despite a December 31, 2009 High Court judgment saying otherwise, and ruled to allow the Catholic Church to publish the word to describe the Christian god in the Malay section of its weekly newspaper, Herald, which caters to its Bahasa Malaysia-reading congregation who mostly hail from Borneo.
The debate over non-Muslim use of the word was again sparked last month when Tuan Ibrahim publicly remarked that the use of the word “Allah” in the Alkitab, the Malay-language translation of the Bible, would not reflect the original text’s meaning.
“PAS’ stand is that the Bahasa Melayu Bible should replace the ‘God’ term with ‘Tuhan’ and not ‘Allah’ to mirror the actual meaning of the original text,” he said in a statement issued just a day after Christmas.
Tuan Ibrahim said both Christians and Muslims could be confused when the word “Allah” is used in the Alkitab.
He was responding to an earlier statement issued by Pakatan Rakyat (PR) ally, Lim Guan Eng, who had raised the controversial “Allah” issue in his Christmas message urging the federal government to lift its ban on the word published in the Malay bibles shipped in to Sabah and Sarawak, who form the bulk of Malaysia’s 9.2 per cent Christian population.
In recent years, the Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug-of-war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds that Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god.
Shipments of the Alkitab, the Malay-language Bible catering to the Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Bumiputera Christians, were blocked or confiscated at ports, before the government finally bowed to pressure and released them in 2011.
A legal tussle over the use of the word “Allah” remains unresolved, with the Catholic Church still barred from publishing the word in its weekly newspaper, despite winning a High Court decision on December 31, 2009.
This is due to the Home Ministry filing an appeal in 2010 against the High Court’s decision, which has since stagnated in the courts as no date has been set for its hearing.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had said yesterday the PR pact will meet on January 8 to discuss the issue further.

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