Sunday, October 13, 2013

“Allah” issue set to test Malaysia, regardless if Herald wins or loses tomorrow

BY LEE SHI-IAN
OCTOBER 13, 2013
Whatever the outcome of tomorrow's ruling on whether the Roman Catholic Church can use the word "Allah" in its weekly publication the Herald, it will definitely impact Malaysia and the international community, said PAS central committee member Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa (pic).
Mujahid said no matter what the Court of Appeal decides, politicians will continue to raise the issue and Islamist parties like PAS will be tested in its call for the freedom of faith.
"Malays will be tested in their pursuit of defending Islam but at the same time complying with Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, where the freedom of faith is protected," he told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
The Parit Buntar MP said there were several issues which the appellate court would take into consideration, including Islam as the religion of the state and multi-racial dynamics.
Mujahid added that the theory that Christians proselytise Muslims will increase and they will be seen as the enemy of Islam.
He felt that the influence of the ruling party, Umno, may play a part.
"The issue also covers the freedom of the press, as Catholics were banned from using the word 'Allah' in their publication The Herald. But the High Court ruled that the ban was contradicting the notion of freedom, despite the publication being limited to Christians only," WSJ reported Mujahid as saying.
"However, I think that the issue was given such a highlight for the purpose of political gain instead of exploring a brighter future in interfaith relations.
"Both Umno and PAS will be forced to play the racial and religious card for the purpose of wooing voters.
"But both parties also need to handle it more maturely because their actions will affect the interfaith and racial fabric of the country," added Mujahid, who had visited almost 30 churches in his quest to promote interfaith dialogue.
He pointed to Somalia and Myanmar as examples where tragic acts of violence had been committed in the name of religion, which only ended up depicting a negative image of religion.
Dr Mujahid said politicians must find the political will to condemn citizens who use faith to promote violence and hatred among Malaysians.
The Court of Appeal ruling due to be delivered tomorrow is the result of a lower court judgement in 2009 which ruled that the Catholic Church had the constitutional right to use the word Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia editions of the Herald.
In early 2010, the same court ordered the Herald not to use the word while the government appealed the decision.
Last month, the Catholic Church argued before the appellate court that it should be allowed to use the word as it had been used for centuries by Malay-speaking Christians.
The government argued that the restriction on the use of the word was not in bad faith as it had been done from the internal security and public order aspect.
The government also argued that the word was specific to Muslims.
The Wall Street Journal reported that observers, including Dr Patricia Anne Martinez, feel tomorrow's decision will go against the Herald, partly due to the current political climate.
Martinez, a Malaysian scholar of Islam who is a practising Catholic, said Umno had been using Islam for political mileage.
"There has been a lot widespread negative publicity about the use of the word 'Allah' and the Herald case," she told WSJ, noting that Umno had also raised the issue while campaigning in the 13th general election in May to show it was championing the Islamic cause.
Muslim Lawyers Association vice-president Azril Amin said they were not oppressing non-Muslims nor were they stopping them from practicing their religion.
Azril, a lawyer representing the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council, said the government's argument was that the proper use of the word Allah should be reserved for Muslims.
Editor of the Herald Father Lawrence Andrew said that he was not tired or worn down by the long legal battle. He said when justice is denied, tiredness is not a factor because you have to consider the commitment you have for the good of the people.
“We are just stating what is in Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, which says we have the right to worship and to manage our religious affairs. So, therefore, we are basically fighting for religious freedom," the WSJ quoted Father Lawrence as saying. – October 13, 2013.
~ The Malaysia Insider

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