Malaysia

Penang Muslim Network takes to the streets over ‘Allah’ issue

By Opalyn Mok
December 28, 2012

Penang Muslim Network members demonstrate over the “Allah” issue at Masjid Simpang Enam near Komtar. — Picture by K.E. OoiPenang Muslim Network members demonstrate over the “Allah” issue at Masjid Simpang Enam near Komtar. — Picture by K.E. OoiGEORGE TOWN, Dec 28 — Penang Muslim Network (JMPP) members marched 500 metres from a mosque in Macalister Road to Komtar after Friday prayers today to demand an apology from DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng over his call for the federal government to allow the use of the word “Allah” in Malay-language bibles.

The group comprising about 50 members, led by JMPP coordinator Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nordin, carried banners demanding that “Father Joseph Lim Guan Eng” apologise and retract his statement as they started the march at about 2pm.

Two Federal Reserve Unit trucks and several police patrol units were already waiting for the demonstrators at the Komtar underpass where the demonstrators stopped and shouted through loud hailers.

Earlier, a scuffle almost broke out when the police tried to stop the demonstrators from marching to Komtar after they gathered in front of the mosque.

However, after a brief negotiation between the members of the group and the police, they were allowed to march through the busy Penang Road, effectively closing off the whole road and bringing traffic to a standstill.

At the Komtar underpass, the group recited a prayer and shouted for Lim, who is also Penang chief minister, to retract his statement and also for Muslims in Penang not to trust Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

“Even in delivering a Christmas message, he had to include such religious sentiments against the Muslims, this showed how insensitive and discriminatory the PR and DAP are,” claimed Mohd Hafiz.

He also said Lim’s statement is not only an insult to all Muslims in the country but also an insult to the King.

Police monitor the demonstration at Komtar. — Picture by K.E. OoiPolice monitor the demonstration at Komtar. — Picture by K.E. Ooi

On Monday, Lim issued a Christmas message where he urged the federal government to allow the use of the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian Bible for east Malaysia, the Alkitab.

This created a huge uproar with even PAS joining in to insist that Christians should not use “Allah” in the Alkitab as it does not reflect the actual meaning of “God” in the original text.

The Internet is also rife with Muslim blogs criticising Lim over his statement and demanding that he issue a retraction and apologise.

Today, DAP national chairman Karpal Singh called for calm over this issue while pointing out that many non-Muslims in the country use the word too.

He explained that the word “Allah” appears 37 times in the Sikh bible, and is also used by the Orang Asli community as well as the Peranakan community in Malacca.

“What the chief minister said in his Christmas message should not hurt the feelings of Muslims. Nothing sinister should be read into what the chief minister said. The chief minister did not intend to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Karpal said.

Many Christians in east Malaysia use the Alkitab as well as the word “Allah” to refer to God.

In recent years, there has been a tug-of-war between the Christian and Muslim religious communities over the word “Allah” with the latter insisting that the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim god so it should be exclusive to them.

The matter was also brought to the courts but it remains unresolved as the Catholic Church is still barred from using the word in its weekly newspaper despite winning the legal tussle in a court decision on December 31, 2009.

This is because the Home Ministry had filed an appeal against that decision in January 2010, which has since stagnated as no date has been set for its hearing.

Last year, shipments of the Alkitab were blocked or confiscated at ports, before the government finally bowed to pressure and released them.

Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nordin addresses rally participants. — Picture by K.E. OoiMohd Hafiz Mohd Nordin addresses rally participants. — Picture by K.E. Ooi