KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 ― After triggering the firestorm of protests against its threat to burn copies of the bibles last week, Malay rights group Perkasa today backed down and said it no longer wants to torch the Christian holy books.
“We do not plan any more to burn (bibles),” Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali told The Malaysian Insider today.
“We never planned to organise a (bible-burning) fest,” he added.
Last week, Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali called on Muslims to burn Malay-language bibles that contain the word “Allah” and other religious Arabic script.
The threat had irked non-Muslim leaders, both politicians and local clergymen, who lashed out at the fiery Malay right-wing leader for allegedly stoking religious hatred and driving a deeper wedge between the country’s two most dominant religious communities.
On Tuesday, a Penang priest lodged a police report over the alleged distribution of anonymous pamphlets advertising a bible-burning festival in Butterworth, supposedly to take place today.
But according to The Star Online, no one had attended the purported festival.
Syed Hassan acknowledged this and added that Perkasa members had not intended to attend the event.
“Perkasa members did not get any pamphlets, so I believe that it’s just rumours to inflame tensions after Datuk Ibrahim Ali’s statement,” he said.
He stressed that Ibrahim’s remarks were just a “wake-up call” for everyone to take the “Allah” issue seriously.
Syed Hassan also reportedly said yesterday that Perkasa may hold a roundtable discussion with local church leaders to clarify Ibrahim’s words.
The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) also upset church leaders with its sermon on Friday, in which it warned Muslims nationwide of “enemies of Islam” that would try to confuse them into believing that all religions share the same god.
Muslim and Christian leaders here have been at loggerheads over use of the Arabic word “Allah”, with the former claiming that it refers exclusively to the Islamic God.
A church was firebombed after the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled in 2009 that Muslims did not have an exclusive right to the word “Allah”.
Debate resurfaced last month after DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is also the Penang chief minister, called on Putrajaya to lift a ban on Malay-language bibles in Borneo Malaysia.
A Sabah church group said last Friday that the religious freedom of Christian Bumiputeras was under attack, pointing out that most adherents of the faith in Malaysia came from East Malaysia and use the Malay language.
A Buddhist group urged today the National Unity and Integration Department, which is under the purview of the Prime Minister’s Department, to resolve the drawn-out dispute over the usage of “Allah”.