The Allah issue between Muslims and Christians in Peninsular Malaysia does not affect Sarawakians because they are a tolerant people, said Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
“To us (people in Sarawak) there is no issue. We have lived with people of different races and different religions for many decades, even before Malaysia,” Taib said in his first public statement on the issue since the Court of Appeal ruled last Monday that the word Allah could not be used by the Catholic weekly, Herald.
Taib declared the ruling was not binding on Sabah and Sarawak.
“We cannot alter the status quo in Sarawak,” Taib said when asked about Sarawak's stand after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak opened the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) convention today.
Taib said the use of the word was not a problem in the state as the “spirit of tolerance” among Sarawakians is high, one of the features of multi-racial Sarawak which made it a bedrock of stability and harmony.
“When I travel to the longhouses, I'd just look for a Muslim cook from the city and they (the longhouse folks) would buy the food and even buy praying mats for me to pray in one of their rooms.
“This is quite natural with us in dealing with people of different religions.
“I myself came from a mission school and it never bothered me when other people made the sign of the cross,” he said, referring to a Christian practice.
“It’s because it’s their religion, expressing their respect for the Almighty. I can understand it.”
Taib said he would bow and offer his own prayers the Muslim way when his Christian friends made the sign of the cross in their prayers.
“The Chinese would probably do it their way. The intention is the same.
“It's all praying to the superior being which we believe is the Creator of this world.”
“It's this kind of spirit we have in Sarawak,” Taib said, stressing again that it is not the thorny issue that is in the peninsula.
“The Ibans, the Malays, the Chinese have shown their respect for other religions and cultures even before Malaysia.
“When we came to Malaysia, we carried this with us and it has become one of the features of Sarawak.”
In 2010, Taib had also spoken out against an attempt to curb Bahasa Malaysia bibles from being freely brought into the state.
He described the order to stamp the Bahasa Malaysia bibles with serial numbers by the Home Ministry as a “stupid idea” that should not be applied to Sarawak.
He had also called the strictures on the Al-Kitab nonsense.
Yesterday, Attorney General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail reiterated the Court of Appeal decision was confined to the Bahasa Malaysia section of the Herald.
He said the court held that the Al-Kitab and the Herald are two publications of an entirely different character.
“The Al-Kitab is the Malay version of the Bible and meant for Christians and used in churches whereas the Herald is a newspaper which is also accessible online and can be read by Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Abdul Gani added that the court stated the permission given by the home minister for the printing and publication of the Al-Kitab, in which the word Allah appears, therefore cannot be treated in the same manner as with the Herald. – October 21, 2013.