Malaysia

Muslim NGO not happy with use of national language by Seremban church

Muslim NGO Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) has taken offence that a church in Seremban used Bahasa Malaysia to promote its Easter musical which will be held later this week.

In a report on its website, Isma Seremban chief Zamani Ibrahim questioned why the church is using the national language in its posters to promote the Christian event, suggesting that the open promotion, in a public space, is to encourage non-Christians to attend the musical.

The ISMA website showed a photograph of a poster on a lamp post on a road divider bearing the words "Muzikal Easter".

The poster also gave details like the name of the church – Agape Community Church – and the date and time of the event which will be held from April 18 to 20 at 7.30pm, and the location of the event at Jalan Dato Muda Linggi. It also states that admission to the event is free.

Zamani questioned why the Malay language is used to promote the event, when Christians are largely made up of Chinese and Indians.

"The majority of Christians in this country are from the two races. The main language they use among themselves is English.

"Therefore it raises questions why the posters promoting the Easter musical is in Malay," he said.

Zamani urged the Negeri Sembilan Islamic Affairs Department (JHEINS) to monitor the event, adding that the Easter celebraton was against Islamic beliefs.

Easter is the most important and oldest Christian festival, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Good Friday, which is this Friday, is the Friday before Easter Sunday, on which the Crucifixion of Christ is commemorated in the church. It is traditionally a day of fasting and penance.

Zamani said JHEINS must ensure that Muslims do not attend the event.

"We urge the department to monitor the event to make sure there is no proselytisation on any Muslims," he said.

Proselytising on Muslims is an offence in Malaysia, although there is freedom of religion for people of other faiths.

Interfaith relations have been tense in recent years following the "Allah" word controversy, sparked by the government banning the use of the word by Catholic weekly Herald in describing God.

This led to Bibles printed in Malay to be seized and Muslim groups demonstrating openly against Christians who use the word.

The issue went to court and in 2009, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled in favour of the church to allow Herald to use the word 'Allah' in its Malay-language pages.

The government filed an appeal and in October last year, the Appeals Court reversed the lower court's decision "in the interest of public safety".

The Catholic church is appealing against the decision. Early last month, the Federal Court postponed indefinitely its decision on whether it will allow the Catholic Church to appeal against the ban. – April 14, 2014.

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