Malaysia

Umno politicians support court decision on Allah but reject claim of interference

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ AND HASBULLAH AWANG CHIK
October 16, 2013

Pro-Umno supporters, including members of right-wing group Perkasa, shouting slogans outside the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya on Monday. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, October 16, 2013.Pro-Umno supporters, including members of right-wing group Perkasa, shouting slogans outside the Court of Appeal in Putrajaya on Monday. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, October 16, 2013.Umno lawmakers stood behind the Court of Appeal's decision banning the use of the word Allah in Catholic weekly Herald, and said the judgment was in line with the party's struggle in defending the pride of Islam.

They pointed out that while Umno opposed the use of the word by non-Muslims, the party had not interfered in Monday's court decision.

They were responding to commentary on BBC News which said that the ban on Christians from using the word Allah is seen as Umno's efforts to boost its Islamic credentials and win back support from the Malays.

Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin said the court ruling would help promote religious harmony among Malaysia's many races.

To Bung Mokhtar, there will be no issues among Sabah Christians on the ruling.

"It is not a big issue in Sabah because Christians here use 'Tuhan Maha Esa' (God Almighty) in their prayers. They do not use Allah, so it will not have a big impact in Sabah," he added.

He said the court's decision would mean that churches in Sabah would have to streamline their practices with those in Rome, which do not use the word Allah.

"Why does Malaysia want to use Allah then?" he asked.

Bung Mokhtar (pic, right) agreed that the Allah case was tied to Umno's struggle as the party was formed to uphold the rights of the Malays.

"This is in line with Umno's struggle for the Malays and Muslims because the Muslim community is against non-Muslims using the word, and that would affect the harmonious race-relations in the country.

"Whatever allegations thrown at Umno, this is our struggle. I wish to congratulate the Umno leaders for defending the pride of Islam," he added.

Bung Mokhtar however said the court decision had no extremist or racial elements, but was based on the reality that the word Allah was synonymous with Islam as it is a daily usage among Muslims, while the Christians only used it in churches.

Umno supreme council member Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi also denounced the BBC commentary as baseless.

"Yes the government succeeded in its appeal, but why is this linked to Umno? he questioned.

He said it was the government's responsibility to appeal against the earlier High Court decision allowing the Herald to use the word Allah, saying the Prime Minister has stated he would not compromise on the issue.

Puad (pic, left) said Umno was not like PAS, which he said was indecisive on the Allah issue. He added that Umno had always stood its ground that the word was exclusive to Islam.

"And this is not something new, we were saying this even before GE13," he added.

Pengerang MP and Umno supreme council aspirant Datuk Seri Azalina Othman also criticised the BBC commentary, and said the ruling was because the case was brought to court.

"There has always been tolerance among the different faiths and particularly among Christians and Muslims even before Independence.

"But when you make the argument public, of course, some people will step up and defend the argument. That is to be expected.

"When you challenge as they did in court, a decision has to be made," she reasoned. - October 16, 2013.