KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — The “Allah” controversy is not about religion, but about “unreasonable government policies and laws”, Sabah and Sarawak churches said today ahead of polling day on Sunday.
The Bumiputera churches in Sabah and Sarawak released a pastoral communique yesterday that called on Christians to speak up amid threats to burn their holy scriptures and government policies that prevent the minority group from referring to their God as “Allah”.
“In the face of such unreasonableness, we cannot and should not remain silent,” Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) chairman Rev Datuk Bolly Lapok said in the communique.“The time for us to speak has come...We need a tangible commitment from the authorities to respect and uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Federal Constitution - the supreme law of the nation. We believe non-Christians, including Muslims, also share our concern,” he added.
ACS’ strongly-worded statement comes just two days before the country’s closest election in history, where a sizeable chunk of voters in Sabah and Sarawak are Bumiputera Christians who read the Alkitab, or Malay-language bibles.
Caretaker Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently defended a government appeal against the 2009 High Court ruling that allowed the Christian community to use the Arabic word “Allah”.
The Christian community forms about a quarter of Sabah’s population and almost half of Sarawak’s population, where they mainly worship in Bahasa Malaysia church services.
But UPKO president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, whose party is part of the Sabah Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, soft pedalled Najib’s remarks and stressed that Christians would not stop calling their God “Allah”, even if the courts barred them from doing so.
The Court of Appeal has fixed May 30 for another case management on the government and Home Ministry’s appeal against the 2009 High Court decision that the word “Allah” can be used by the Catholic weekly newspaper Herald.
Lapok said today that Christians were merely demanding for their consitutional rights to be upheld.
“Surely the way forward is no longer found in the status quo which expects the Bumiputera Church in Sabah and Sarawak to remain silent,” he said.
Malay rights group Perkasa threatened last January to torch Malay-language bibles.
The Election 2013 campaign in the past two weeks has also been marred with billboards that paint churches as the usurpers of “Allah”, as well as pamphlets that warn Malays about other religious groups using the word “Allah”.
Lapok pointed out today that native communities in Sabah and Sarawak have used the word “Allah” for generations and long before the formation of Malaysia in 1963.
“Native Bumiputeras have always been using the term “Allah” in all aspects of the profession and practice of their Christian faith from baptism to final rites and these include in services, prayers, praise, liturgy, worship, and religious education,” he said.
Najib’s administration had issued a 10-point formula for east Malaysia before the 2011 Sarawak state election to resolve the blockade of shipments of Malay-language bibles.
In the 10-point resolution, the Cabinet, through its minister Datuk Seri Idris Jala, assured the large Bumiputera Christian population in Sabah and Sarawak that they were free to bring in and use their bibles in Malay as well as in indigenous languages.
~ The Malaysian Insider