Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 5th January 2010:
Cabinet tomorrow should convene an inter-religious conference to reach an out-of-court settlement of the “Allah controversy” to demonstrate that Najib’s 1Malaysia policy has meaningful application towards creating inter-religious understanding, goodwill and harmony
The PAS leadership’s decision last night to back the use of the word Allah by Catholics as it is consistent with the federal Constitution and Islamic principles, with the condition that it cannot be misused or inappropriately addressed, is most welcome as a commendable contribution to the resolution of the “Allah controversy” following the Dec. 30 judgment of Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan.
Lau said that pursuant to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, it was an offence for non-Muslims to use the word Allah to Muslims to propagate the religion.
However, it was not an offence for non-Muslims to use the word to non-Muslims for the purpose of religion.
Pursuant to Articles 11 and 12 of the Federal Constitution, the Catholic weekly Herald had the constitutional right to use the word in respect of instruction and education of the congregation in the Christian religion.
Article 10 allowed it to use the word in the exercise of its right to freedom of speech and expression.
The proposal from influential Islamic scholar Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin that the government draw up reasonable guidelines on the usage of “Allah” among non-Muslims so that “other people’s rights will not be marginalised” is most constructive.
The former Perlis Mufti suggested reasonable guidelines to avoid the misuse of “Allah”, but at the same time, people should not be denied their rights to mention God’s name, even though they are not of the Muslim faith.
He said: “The best thing for a government to do in a multi-racial society is to set reasonable guidelines or rules. I feel that in a country, it is not about emotions, it is about how we manage ourselves with proper rules of conduct. Rules need to be drawn up so that people won’t misuse the name of Allah.
“However, at the same time, to absolutely deny a person from mentioning Allah’s name is just not right. ”
Mohd Asri stressed that caution needs to be exercised in this matter, as Arab Christians before this and even Sikhs use the name “Allah” in their worship.
The Cabinet tomorrow should convene an inter-religious conference to reach an out-of-court settlement of the “Allah controversy” to demonstrate that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia policy has meaningful application towards creating inter-religious understanding, goodwill and harmony.
In the first place, the Home Ministry should not have imposed the ban on the Herald from using the world Allah in the Catholic weekly publication.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor