Friday, October 18, 2013

Putrajaya trying to divide Christians, say church leaders, politicians

OCTOBER 18, 2013
Putrajaya has come under heavy fire from church leaders and opposition MPs for saying that the controversial Court of Appeal decision barring the Catholic weekly Herald from using the word Allah will not affect Christians in Sabah and Sarawak.
Calling the stream of statements from Cabinet ministers Tan Sri Joseph Kurup and Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili (pic) "hurtful, nonsensical and ridiculous", they said it was an attempt by Putrajaya to divide Christians in the country.
Council of Churches Malaysia general secretary Rev Dr Herman Shastri said he was disappointed that the government was trying to divide the Christians in the country with such talk.
"How can there be one rule for Christians in East Malaysia and another for those of us in Peninsular Malaysia, it makes no sense,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
"For them to think that the Christian community would accept this arrangement is hurtful."
In separate comments made over the past few days, Kurup, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department and Ongkili, Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, both insisted that the court ruling only applied to the Bahasa Malaysia section of the Herald.
They had further stated that there would be no restrictions on Christians in Sabah and Sarawak from using the word Allah in their worship and in the Bahasa Malaysia and native bibles.
Kurup (pic) had said that following a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, it was decided that Putrajaya will stick to the 10-point solution, which allows the word Allah to be used in Al-Kitab, the Malay translation of the bible.
Another church leader, Datuk Reverend Ng Moon Hing, former chairman of the Christian Federation of Malaysia, labelled the statements from the two Sabah ministers as "ridiculous".
"How can we as Christian leaders tell our people in Sabah and Sarawak it is alright for them to use the word, but tell the rest in West Malaysia they cannot do so?" he asked.
The churchman also pointed out the glaring reality that many Christians from East Malaysia had moved to the peninsula for various reasons, including to find employment.
"That means when they are back home they are free to use the word but when they are here they must remember not to?" he asked.
Rev Ng said that the two ministers had obviously "forgotten about the East Malaysians who live here".
"They think they are giving assurance to their people, but they are just proving how short-sighted they are," he added.
Earlier yesterday, several politicians had also weighed into the issue when they criticised Umno's Kota Belud MP, Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who suggested that Putrajaya come up with two separate rules on the use of Allah for East and Peninsular Malaysia.
He said Putrajaya should revisit the proposal to have two laws, which was first brought up by the then de facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz in 2010.
Sabah State Reform Party (STAR) chairman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan asked, "How are you going to prevent Sabah and Sarawak Christians now living in the peninsula from using the word Allah? It is ridiculous."
Also calling Abdul Rahman's proposal “ridiculous” was DAP's Bandar Kuching MP, Chong Chieng Jen, who questioned the rationale behind the suggestion.
"Christians in Peninsular Malaysia and Christians in East Malaysia are the same. Why different laws for them?
"This is a political solution to rationalise a ridiculous decision," Chong argued, referring to the court's ban on the use of the word Allah in the Herald.
International Islamic University Malaysia academic Datuk Seri Dr Syed Arabi Idid concurred, adding that what is right in East Malaysia should also be right in Peninsular Malaysia.
"One country, one law. How can one country have different sets of national laws?" he questioned.
Political scientist Dr Jayum A. Jawan from Universiti Putra Malaysia was more biting in his comments.
"We can't have double standards. It is one law for the whole of Malaysia.
"He (Abdul Rahman) is speaking like a politician and trying to please all sides but it won't work," Jayum insisted.
Malaysia, he said, was formed with the fundamental principle that freedom of religion would be respected and this was what East Malaysians had been concerned about back then.
"The court's decision went against the spirit of that promised freedom," added Jayum. – October 18, 2013.

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