Cabinet decision banning the
use of “Allah” for non-Muslims should be put on hold until full and
extensive consultation of all religious leaders and faiths on the subject
Media Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
The euphoria that good sense
and sanity have finally prevailed among those in government whose
decisions could adversely impact on inter-religious and inter-racial
relations as to aggravate religious polarization in a plural society like
Malaysia lasted just four days.
On New Year’s eve on Monday, 31st December 2007, Malaysians thought they
saw a silver lining after a whole year of gloomy “annus horibilis” when
they learnt that Herald, the Catholic weekly, had been allowed to
continue printing its Bahasa Malaysia section with no restrictions on the
use of the word Allah for God.
A happy editor of the 13-year-old Herald, Father Lawrence Andrew, said
that a representative from the Internal Security Ministry delivered a
letter containing the permit to print the paper, dated Dec. 28, by hand at
10 am on a Sunday (Dec. 30) – which was a great and commendable gesture of
The letter placed no restrictions whatsoever and included the permit for
all the languages, including the Bahasa Malaysia segment, causing Father
Lawrence to give effusive thanks to the government and the Minister in the
Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok for his assistance.
Bernard described the Herald permit as “good news” and “a wonderful
Christmas present” by the government to the Christian community.
This morning, the euphoria that good sense and sanity have finally
prevailed among the decision-makers in government on why it is imperative
to promote inter-religious goodwill and harmony evaporated after Kist four
days when Malaysians woke up to read headlines like “Herald can’t use
‘Allah’ in its publications” (Star) and “Cabinet: ‘Allah’
for Muslims only” (The Sun).
In a statement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk
Dr. Abdullah Mohd Zin said the Cabinet has decided that restrictions on
the use of the world “Allah” still stand and Catholic weekly Herald
therefore cannot use it although its printing licence has just been
Abdullah said the apart from Allah, the use of the words Solat,
Kaabah and Baitullah was also prohibited in the publications of
religions other than Islam as per the decision of the cabinet on July 30,
2002, which has been enforced since Dec. 5, 1986.
This is a half step backward followed by quick one step forward.
What is the use of appointing Bernard Dompok as the Minister in charge of
Christian affairs if the legitimate hopes and concerns of the Christian
community are not accorded the weight and respect they deserve – just as
what is the use of a Christmas present which has only a four-day lifespan
for its “wonder” effects?
However, it is not only the Christian community who are adversely affected
by the ban of the use of the word “Allah” as it also affects the Sikh
community who use the words Allah and Rahim extensively to refer to
God, as well the Arabic terms “iman” and “ibadat” for faith
In claiming that the Cabinet has decided that restrictions on the use of
the word “Allah” still stand, reaffirming the Cabinet decisions of July
30, 2002 and Dec. 5, 1986, I call on Abdullah to state:
1. When was the last Cabinet
decision on the matter and who were the Cabinet Ministers who attended and
voted for it; and why the non-Muslim Cabinet Ministers did not object?
2. Who were the Ministers who took part in the Cabinet decision on July
30, 2002 to ban the use of “Allah” for non-Islamic religions; and
non-Muslim Cabinet Ministers who supported this decision at the time
should step forward to explain their action.
3. Who were the Ministers who took part in the original Cabinet decision
of Dec. 5, 1986 and whether there was full, informed and intelligent
discussion of the subject before the decision was taken; and
4. Whether all the non-Islamic Cabinet Ministers at each of these Cabinet
meetings had been given an opportunity to consult the non-Islamic
religions so that the Cabinet decision is the result of the considered
views and representations from all religious faiths, and not just of a
handful of people from one religion?
If the Cabinet had failed to
seek the widest consultation before reaching a decision which tantamount
to the unconstitutional deprivation of the right to religious freedom
guaranteed to all Malaysians, the Cabinet should put on hold its decision
to ban the use of the word “Allah” for non-Islamic religions and
commission a full and extensive consultation process on the issue
involving all religious leaders and faiths in the country.
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman