The prime minister said in all other states, the use of the word will depend on their respective enactments, such as in the case of Selangor.
Putrajaya's stand may open the way for individual states to forbid the use of the word 'Allah' by non-Muslims either in worship or in their publications, taking the cue from Selangor whose Sultan issued a decree prohibiting non-Muslims from using "Allah" and 35 other Arabic terms.Najib added that the recent statement by the Yang Di Pertuan Agong on the use of 'Allah', was made in the latter's capacity as Sultan of Kedah and was only relevant to that state.
Selangor's 1988 enactment to prohibit the use of 'Allah' by non-Muslims led to a raid by its State Islamic Department on the Bible Society of Malaysia on January 2. More than 300 Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban were confiscated in a move that has caused an outcry in civil society.
“The party supreme council members support the government’s move to uphold the sanctity of Islam and to the use of 'Allah'," Najib said after chairing the Umno supreme council meeting in Kuala Lumpur today.
"The council also takes note of the 10-point agreement. If the state has an Islamic enactment, they have to abide by it.
"If not, like Sabah and Sarawak, they can continue to practise as usual,” he said.
On the Yang Di Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah's speech on January 19, Najib stressed that the decree was made in Kedah and not for the whole country.
The Kedah ruler last week said several words including "Allah" were the exclusive rights of Muslims, citing a 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Council on their use.
The King also said that religious sensitivity must be observed and the status of Islam as the country's official religion must be respected.
The tussle over who gets to use 'Allah' has seen legal experts, religious scholars, human rights activists and politicians argue over one of the Federal Constitution's most sacrosanct foundations - the right of every Malaysian to freely practise his or her faith.
In the 1980s, several states and their Muslim fatwa committees passed laws forbidding the use of 'Allah' and several Arabic terms by non-Muslims.
This includes the 1988 Selangor enactment and the 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Council.
However, these laws were not widely enforced until 2008 when the Home Ministry banned the Catholic weekly, Herald from using the term in the Bahasa Malaysia section of the publication.
The term is used by Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban, such as those in Sabah and Sarawak. Two thirds of Malaysia's 2.9 million Christians are from East Malaysia.
The term 'Allah' has been in use for centuries in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia bibles.
The Herald won a High Court decision in January 2009 that overturned the Home Ministry ban. However, the Court of Appeal then overturned that decision in 2013, saying that the word was not integral to Christianity.
While the Herald's case was being debated in court, the Home Ministry in 2011 seized two consigments of bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia that were imported from Indonesia and were meant for distribution in Sabah and Sarawak.
The Najib administration at the time crafted a 10-point solution to resolve the problem and the bibles were subsequently released to their respective importers.
The 10 point-solution allows for the import and use of Bibles in all languages.
However, the JAIS raid on the BSM early this year has questioned the validity of the 10-point solution on states which have laws that expressively forbid the use of the term 'Allah'.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department in charge of legal matters Datuk Nancy Shukri had said that Putrajaya cannot interfere in each state's religious matters. This includes implementing the 10-point solution.
The 10-point Solution:
1. Bibles in all languages can be imported into the country, including Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia.
2. These Bibles can also be printed locally in Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. This is a new development which should be welcome by the Christian groups.
3. Bibles in indigenous languages of Sabah and Sarawak such as Iban, Kadazan¬Dusun and Lun Bawang can also be printed locally and imported.
4. For Sabah and Sarawak, in recognition of the large Christian community in these states, there are no conditions attached to the importation and local printing of the Bibles in all languages, including Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia and indigenous languages. There is no requirement for any stamp or serial number.
5. Taking into account the interest of the larger Muslim community, for Peninsula Malaysia, Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia, imported or printed, must have the words “Christian Publication” and the cross sign printed on the front covers.
6. In the spirit of 1Malaysia and recognising that many people travel between Sabah and Sarawak and Peninsula Malaysia, there should be no prohibitions and restrictions for people who bring along their bibles and Christian materials on such travel.
7. A directive on the Bible has been issued by the Ketua Setiausaha (KSU) of the Home Ministry to ensure proper implementation of this cabinet decision. Failure to comply will subject the officers to disciplinary action under the General Orders. A comprehensive briefing by top officials, including the Attorney General (AG), will be given to all relevant civil servants to ensure good understanding and proper implementation of the directive.
8. For the impounded Bibles in Kuching, Gideon, the importer can collect all the 30,000 Bibles free of charge. We undertake to ensure the parties involved are reimbursed. The same offer remains available for the importer of the 5,100 Bibles in Port Kiang, which have already been collected by the Bible Society Malaysia (BSM) last week.
9. Beyond the Bible issue, the Government wishes to reiterate its commitment to work with the Christian groups and all the different religious groups in order to address inter-religious issues and work towards the fulfilment of all religious aspirations in accordance with the constitution, taking into account the other relevant laws of the country. In order to bring urgency to this work, in my capacity as the Prime Minister, I will meet the representatives of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) soon to discuss the way forward.
10. The Christian Ministers in the cabinet will meet on a regular basis with representatives of the various Christian groups in order to discuss their issues and work with the relevant Ministries and myself in order to resolve them. As the leader of this country, I wish to reiterate the Government’s commitment in solving any religious issues in this country. There is a need to manage polarities that exist in our society to achieve peace and harmony. I believe the best way to achieve this is through respect, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation. - January 24, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider