"Allah" & Malaysia Muslim groups attempt to monopolize the Word?

After the favourable ruling of the Malaysian Court to allow a Catholic paper the right to use the word 'Allah", it's (expected, really) reported that Muslim groups in Malaysia have voiced opposition to a court ruling & more than willing to demonstrate.

These people apparently do not bother to check Wikipedia. The entry on "Allah" mentions:
hile the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by Arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews, in reference to "God". The term was also used by pagan Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia.

Why should they care to do their homework?! Just oppose the legal ruling & indulge in the fun, pointless demonstration.

Muslim groups in Malaysia have voiced opposition to a court ruling allowing a Catholic paper the right to use the word "Allah", and said Saturday they plan to demonstrate.

Malaysia's high court ruled Thursday that the Herald weekly had the right to use the word "Allah" after a long-running dispute between the government and the paper in the Muslim-majority nation.

The Herald has been using the word "Allah" as a translation for "God" in its Malay-language section, but the government argued "Allah" should be used only by Muslims.

The court ruled the Catholic paper had the "constitutional right" to use the word 'Allah', declaring the government's ban on the word "illegal, null and void". Government lawyers have not yet decided whether to appeal. Muslim groups have opposed the ruling.

"The court decision is not right and we are planning to hold a major demonstration to protest this," Syed Hassan Syed Ali, secretary general of Malay rights group Pribumi Perkasa told AFP.

He and 50 other Malay activists held a small protest over the ruling outside a central mosque Friday.

"We fear that the court victory will mean that Christian missionaries will now use the word, confusing (the identity of) Muslims and undermining religious harmony," he said.

Federation of Malay Students' Association advisor Reezal Merican said although the court decision had to be respected, the government needed to appeal it.

"We want to live in peace with all religions here but the word Allah has traditionally in Malaysia been used to represent the Muslim God, which is different from Christianity, and this must be addressed," he told AFP.

Northern Perak state mufti Harussani Zakaria was also critical of the verdict, calling it "an insult to Muslims in this country," according to the influential Malay-language Utusan Malaysia newspaper.

The Herald is printed in four languages, with a circulation of 14,000 copies a week in a country with about 850,000 Catholics.

The court case was among a string of religious disputes that have erupted in recent years, straining relations between Muslim Malays and minority ethnic Chinese and Indians who fear the country is being "Islamised".

From Asiaone, "Malaysian Muslim activists oppose 'Allah' ruling".

The Government is calling for calm among Muslims and non-governmental organisations and asking everyone to respect the court's decision over the use of the word Allah while it takes steps to appeal against the decision.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Maj-Jen (rtd) Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom said the groups should be patient and allow the matter to be resolved through the legal process.

"I will meet the NGOs soon to hear their views and to discuss the matter further with them," he said in a statement yesterday.

On Thursday, the High Court allowed the Catholic weekly, Herald, to use the word Allah.

Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lian had ruled that use of the word was constitutional as long as the periodical was confined to educate the followers of the Christian faith.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the High Court's decision must be governed by strict conditions.

He said that whatever justifications offered for the approval, it would not defuse the anger of Muslims in the country.

"This is because 'God' in other religions is translated as 'Tuhan' in Bahasa Melayu or Arabic, not 'Allah'.

"Allah specifically refers to God in Islam. If they understand that, they would use the word 'Tuhan', not 'Allah'.

"I accept the term 'Allah' had been used in Sabah and Sarawak before the two states joined Malaysia but it is difficult to stop them from doing so now ... but in the peninsular, we have not heard of such practice," he told reporters after presenting a keynote address at the Malay Undergraduates Convention at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu here today.

Dr Mahathir said what he was afraid of was that the term "Allah" might be used in such a way that could inflame the anger of Muslims.

"They may use it on banners or write something that might not reflect Islam," he said.

Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor also called on Muslims in the country to remain calm.

He said the Government wanted to ensure that harmony among the multi-racial and multi-religious population was maintained as all costs.

"The Government has to abide by the decision. The only thing we can do now is wait for the relevant authorities to appeal against the decision, so please be patient," he told reporters at the Putrajaya UPSR and PMR Excellent Achievement Awards here yesterday.

In George Town, the police said it would station personnel outside the High Court building here today following a planned demonstration by a Muslim non-governmental organisation.

State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Wira Ayub Yaakob said his men would only move in if the demonstration turns chaotic.

"The protestors must know their limits," he said. DCP Ayub said police had not received any application for the gathering so far.

From Asiaone, "Mahathir: Restrict use of 'Allah'".

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak urged Muslims to remain calm over the High Court decision to allow the Catholic weekly, Herald, to use the word ‘Allah’ in its publication.

He said the Home Ministry would appeal the court’s decision and that he would keep the Rulers briefed.

The usage of the word Allah should be decided upon by the process of the law, he said.

"The Government is fully aware of the people's concern particularly Muslims all over the country, judging from various reactions received.

"This is a very sensitive issue and I truly understood the pressing situation which has stoked their feelings and emotions.

"I hope the situation will not be aggravated further and the Government does not encourage any demonstration or gathering to be held," he told reporters Sunday after presenting incentives to pupils in the Pekan constituency who excelled in the UPSR examinations last year.

On Thursday, the High Court allowed the Herald to use the word Allah.

Judge Lau Bee Lan had ruled that usage of the word was constitutional as long as the periodical was confined to educate the followers of the Christian faith.

Najib, who is also Pekan MP, said he would brief Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin on the matter soon and with his consent, the issue would be discussed at the coming Conference of Rulers.

He expressed the hope for the issue to be resolved in an "intelligent" manner through the process of the court.

"After all, there is still avenue to appeal against the judgment through the Courts of Appeal and Federal Court.

"We do not want issue to be blown out of proportion," he said, adding that the Government viewed the matter seriously and would adopt the proper channels to end the debacle.

Earlier, Najib received a memorandum from about 30 representatives of non-governmental organisations led by Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia deputy president Amidi Abdul Manan.

Amidi, who claimed he represented some 20 NGOs, wanted the Home Ministry to file an appeal promptly to allay the anxiety of the Muslims in the country.

He also urged all parties to respect the fatwa made by National Fatwa Council that the word Allah was exclusive to the Islamic religion.

From The Star Online, "Allah issue: PM urges calm while Govt appeals court’s decision".

PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat has come out in support of the Catholic weekly Herald use of ‘Allah’ to describe the Christian God in the national language, saying it was permissible for those following the Abrahamic faith.

But the popular cleric expressed worry that the word “Allah” could be abused by certain quarters, echoing growing sentiment of Muslim Malaysians aghast at the Dec 31 High Court ruling that permitted its use.

“Its just a fear it can be abused. That’s the worry,” the Kelantan mentri besar said today when commenting on the landmark ruling.

Justice Datuk Lau Bee Lan said in her oral judgment that the Herald had a constitutional right to use the word, touching off a controversy that has led some Muslim groups to protest the ruling.

The government has said it will appeal against the ruling. A group has already started a Facebook group to get the government to reverse the ruling.

However, others including influential cleric and former Perlis mufti Dr Asri Zainal Abidin, have supported the ruling, saying all are encouraged to follow Allah.

Speaking to reporters after launching the state Women, Family and Health Development Secretariat, Nik Aziz said the authorities, such as scholars, should have a dialogue with the Christian clergy over the issue.

“This is so that there is no confusion among the society.

“In fact, Islamic philosophy itself can be spread through such events,” he added.

The PAS Kelantan commissioner also said he was willing to attend such events if it was organised.

However, PAS Kelantan Council of Religious Scholars chief Datuk Mohammad Daud Iraqi declined to comment on the issue.

Instead, he said it was weaknesses in the government in monitoring the issue that has led to the controversy.

“This is not a new issue, it has gone on so long. The government should have looked specifically into the laws earlier on,” he added.

From Malaysian Insider, "Nik Aziz: Non-Muslims can use ‘Allah’".

MALAYSIAN Muslims plan a nationwide protest on Friday after a court ruled last week that Catholics can refer to God as 'Allah", the organiser said.

Syed Hassan Syed Ali, secretary general of Malay rights group Pribumi Perkasa, told AFP on Monday that the group would launch a protest outside major mosques.

'We want the government to revoke the court decision. Sure, the word Allah is only to be used by Muslims. There is no doubt about it,' he told AFP. The government has called for calm and said it would file an appeal. Some Muslims claim the use of the word 'Allah' will confuse their community.

The row is among a string of religious disputes that have erupted in recent years, straining relations between Muslim Malays and minority ethnic Chinese and Indians who fear the country is being 'Islamised'. Religion and language are sensitive issues in multiracial Malaysia, which experienced deadly race riots in 1969.

Meanwhile, a Catholic newspaper website which was taken down by hackers over the weekend was up and running on Monday, its editor said.

'The website came online again this morning after it was hacked twice (since Saturday night),' editor Father Lawrence Andrew told AFP. 'Our technicians are closely monitoring the situation. We had found the attacks came from a number of places, it's not just one person, it's a concerted thing,' he added.

From Straits Times, "Protest over 'Allah' ruling".

Update on 07/01/10: the stupidity of Malaysian government is raised to a new level. Guess what, the government is reported to allow 'Allah' protest. Don't they anticipate what can go wrong with this kind of demonstration?!

MALAYSIA'S Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein raised eyebrows yesterday when he said he would allow a demonstration by Muslims after Friday prayers at a mosque in the city centre.

He said the planned peaceful protest by Muslim groups could proceed and police will take action only if 'things get out of hand', according to the Malaysian Insider news website.

Several Muslim non-governmental organisations have said they plan to hold demonstrations in several mosques around the country tomorrow to protest against a court ruling allowing the Catholic Church's Herald newspaper to use the word 'Allah'.

The High Court yesterday granted a stay of execution on the matter pending a government appeal against the ruling.

Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday called on the public to remain calm and allow the legal process to take its course.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin said the demonstration at the the Kampung Baru mosque would allow Muslims to vent their frustration. 'There is a balance that needs to be addressed. We (the Home Ministry) have faced this situation before. Right now, if you do not allow the protest, it will cause a lot of emotional reaction.

From Straits Times, "Govt to allow 'Allah' protest".

Update on 08/01/10: See, now we start witnessing arson attacks on the churches. And all just because the sacred word "Allah"? God must be displeased to know that. (The news even reached CNN, "Malaysia: Churches firebombed amid Allah dispute".)

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has condemned the attacks made on three churches in the Klang Valley but has asked the public not to start pointing fingers at who may have been responsible for the attacks.

The Prime Minister said he viewed the matter seriously as these actions could jeopardise harmony, adding that the Government would take all possible action to prevent such incident from recurring.

At the same time, Najib had directed the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan to beef up security and surveillance at places of worship.

"We must not allow the peace and the understanding that we have among Malaysians of various ethnic backgrounds and faiths be threatened by anyone or any parties.

"As I have said before, whatever problems that arise, we must use the right channel and method to solve it. Our action must not be against the law as this can jeapordise harmony," he told reporters after chairing the fourth Northern Corridor Implementation Authority (NCIA) on Friday.

Also present were Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Chief Secterary to the Government Tan Sri Sidek Hassan.

Najib also reminded the public not to point fingers on who the perpetrators behind the church attacks were but should allow the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the matter.

"Action will be taken against those responsible based on facts and the law," he said.

Asked if there were fears of retaliation due to the incident, the Prime Minister said the authorities must nip the problem in the bud.

"I hope with statements and action taken by the police, people will not take law into their hands. The IGP will report to me on the incident once there are evidence and new developments," he added.

Other public figures have come out to condemn the arson attacks against the two churches.

Urging all parties to remain calm, they also asked for swift police action to ensure the situation does not get out of control.

In the meantime, the MCA is offering the Metro Tabernacle Church the use of its hall at Wisma MCA for its services this Sunday, vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said.

The MCA, through its religious bureaus, will find an immediate place for the Metro Tabernacle to relocate, she said.

"This is the act of a very small group of Malaysians. We need to come together and work against any form of violence.

"Do not leave it to the Government or the police alone; the rakyat (people) must come together and stand up for each other," she said.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, who was at the Assumption Church, condemned the attack, describing it as a cowardly act.

"I urge the police to give protection to all churches and conduct a thorough investigation on the attack on the Assumption Church," he added.

Khalid also said that he was grateful to the church auuthorities, who had given their reassurance that they would not react to the arson attack.

"I appeal to the people in Selangor to refrain from any further such action, which will only cause further trouble for all people," he added.

Umno Youth Chief Khairy Jamaluddin said it was a dark day for Malaysia.

"This is a despicable act. This is not the Malaysia I know," said Khairy, who visited the Metro Tabernacle Church in Desa Melawait in Kuala Lumpur, which was attacked by arsonists early Friday.

He urged the police to act swiftly.

Saying that Barisan Nasional Youth strongly condemned the action, Khairy Jamaluddin added that whatever the feelings of anyone on the issue of the usage of the word "Allah" in the Herald, the irresponsible action of those who destroy places of worship should not be defended by Muslims.

"If Muslims are responsible for this incident, they should be ashamed and remorseful because clearly Islam advises Muslims to respect other religious beliefs.

"Malaysia is a multiracial country. There will be arguments and misunderstandings over issues which touch on race and religion.

"What is important is the people should resolve any problems with maturity and respect for each other's sensitivity," he said in a statement.

Selangor PAS termed the arson attacks as cowardly acts.

"We view the news of the attacks on churches, including in Selangor, with sadness and regret. Such attacks have never happened in our country and they do not at all reflect our culture, tradition or the religious beliefs of Malaysians.

"Selangor PAS sympathises with the affected churches and urges all PAS members in the state to remain calm and patient and pray for the safety of all," its state Information chief Roslan Shahir Mohd Shahir said in a statement.

Social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said it was very important for all Muslim Malaysians to condemn the act whole-heartedly.

"This is not what Islam is about. The leadership must play its role and come out and tell the people not to condemn houses of worship," she told reporters at the church site.

Veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said all political party leaders should take a common stand to condemn the attacks.

They should condemn "in the strongest possible terms the spate of church attacks in the wake of the 'Allah' controversy and ensure that there is no further escalation.

"As Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should immediately impress on the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to take all urgent and necessary measures to protect the good name of the country or be held responsible for any undesirable consequences," he said.

Wangsa Maju Member of Parliament Wee Choo Keong said he was very shocked.

"The Prime Minister and Inspector-General of Police mus take immediate action to protect all places of worship regardless of their religion.

"We do not want to inflame the present tensions in the country or the country's unity will be set back many years -- this is a test for the Prime Minister and his 1Malaysia vision," he said.

From Asiaone, "M'sian PM condemns arson attacks on churches".

Update on 12/01/10: 9th church hit in Malaysia is reported to be attacked. And on another news, a Malaysian Christian is challenging the seizure of religious CDs with the word 'Allah' printed on them. Will we one day see lightning bolts strike these people who commit crimes with the excuse of defending a holy name?!

Malaysia on Monday defended its refusal to allow non-Muslims to use the word "Allah," as a dispute over the issue saw a ninth church attacked in a spate of fire-bombings and vandalism.

The Sidang Injil Borneo Church in the central state of Negri Sembilan was the latest to be targeted amid anger over a court ruling that overturned a government ban on minorities using "Allah" as a translation for "God".

The church attacks which erupted last Friday have sent tensions soaring in the multicultural nation, where the Muslim Malay majority lives alongside ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.

Home Ministry secretary-general Mahmood Adam, who briefed foreign diplomats on the crisis on Monday, said they had asked why the term was off-limits when it is widely used by Christians in Indonesia and the Middle East.

"They don't understand the situation here, they just want to know why it can be allowed in other countries and not here," he told reporters.

"Be fair, you have to compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges. Our landscape is different from other countries. Malays here are different from (Muslims in) other countries.

The row flared after the High Court on December 31 ruled in favour of the Catholic newspaper The Herald, which argued for the right to use "Allah" in its Malay-language section.

Malaysia's Christians say they have used the word without incident for centuries, but the ruling party -- which is vying for popularity among Muslims with the opposition Islamic party -- insists it must be used only by Muslims.

It says that the use of "Allah" by Christians could cause confusion among Muslims and encourage religious conversion, which is illegal in Malaysia.

The ruling in the Catholic newspaper's favour was suspended last week pending an appeal, after the government argued the decision could cause racial conflict.

Since Friday, churches have been pelted with Molotov cocktails, splashed with black paint and had windows smashed with stones, triggering tighter security at places of worship nationwide.

The latest attack targeted the Sidang Injil Borneo Church which conducts services in the national language, Malay. Its door was left blackened by fire which filled the building with smoke.

"We have been using the word 'Allah' during the service as most our church members speak the Malay language," senior pastor Eddy Marson Yasir said of the congregation which mostly hails from Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo island.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has called for calm and said the government will not tolerate any threat to racial harmony.

Mahmood from the home ministry reiterated the government's condemnation of the violence and said Malaysia would do "all in our power" to protect religious freedom.

The row is one of a string of religious disputes in recent years that have strained relations between Muslim Malays and ethnic Chinese and Indians who fear the country is being "Islamised".

About nine percent of Malaysia's 28 million people are Christians, including some 850,000 Catholics. More than half of Malaysia's Catholics are from indigenous groups, mostly from Borneo.

Azmi Sharom from the Universiti Malaya criticised the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) for stoking Malay nationalism in order to protect its voter base, after 2008 elections where it lost unprecedented ground to the opposition.

"The soil has already been prepared by UMNO... the tone has been very much about the Malays being under threat' Sharom said, adding that the "Allah" ban had no basis in theology.

"Instead of making a stand on principle, (UMNO) are trying to make sure they don't lose appeal to their voters even if it means they are appealing to a bunch of racists," he said.

From Yahoo! News, "Malaysia backs 'Allah' ruling as 9th church hit".

A MALAYSIAN Christian is challenging the seizure of religious CDs with the word 'Allah' printed on them, in the latest twist of an escalating dispute over use of the word, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

Jill Ireland, of the indigenous Melanau tribe from Sarawak state on Borneo island, is seeking a court order to return eight discs seized when she returned from Indonesia in May 2008, her lawyer Annou Xavier said.

The legal action comes amid a spate of fire-bombings against churches across the nation, triggered by the High Court's Dec 31 decision to lift a government ban on non-Muslims using 'Allah' as a translation for 'God'.

The ruling in favour of Catholic newspaper The Herald, which argued for the right to use 'Allah' in its Malay-language section, was suspended last week pending an appeal, after the government argued the decision could cause racial conflict.

'Ireland is seeking the return of her discs and a declaration that she can use the word 'Allah' and to own, use and import materials with the word 'Allah' in exercising her religious freedom,' Mr Xavier told reporters. 'Christians in Sabah and Sarawak have been using the word 'Allah' for centuries.'

Ireland is a member of the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Church. One of its churches in central Negri Sembilan state was targeted on Monday, in an attack that left its door charred.

From Straits Times, "'Allah' CD seizure challenged".

Update on 17/01/10: The recent news has a Malaysian mosque vandalised after 11 churches attacked. Malaysian police are said to yet to determine if attack in Sarawak is linked to Allah issue. They sure are cautious not to mention the obvious.

Meanwhile in Singapore the government is monitoring ground reactions here after recent attacks on places of worship in Malaysia. I wonder by what means it's done.

A MALAYSIAN mosque was vandalised following attacks on 11 churches, threatening to deepen a row over the use of the word 'Allah' to refer to the Christian God in this mainly Muslim but multiracial country.

The Saturday incident in the Borneo island state of Sarawak is the first against a mosque after the arson and vandalism attacks on churches, and could stoke anger among Malay Muslims who make up 60 per cent of the country's 28 million population.

Malaysia's deputy police chief Ismail Omar said police found broken glass near the outside wall of the mosque, and warned troublemakers against whipping up emotions. 'Don't make any speculation. We are investigating this incident. The situation remains peaceful and no one should take advantage of this to create something bad,' Mr Ismail told Reuters.

Mr Ismail could not confirm whether the bottles thrown at the mosque were that of alcoholic beverages, which is forbidden to Muslims, but said he believed the act was vandalism.

The row stems from a court ruling that allowed a Catholic newspaper to use 'Allah' in its Malay-language editions, which caused Muslims to protest outside mosques on Friday last week. Most of the attacks have been against churches but a Sikh temple was also vandalised on Wednesday.

The office of the lawyer representing the Catholic publication in the court case over the use of the word was broken into and ransacked on Thursday. The use of 'Allah' is common among Malay-speaking Christians, who account for 9.1 per cent of the population, especially in the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak.

From Straits Times, "M'sia mosque vandalised".

A MOSQUE was vandalised in Sarawak on Saturday, threatening to deepen the row between Muslims and Christians over the 'Allah' controversy.

Police found broken glass near the wall outside the mosque in Kota Samarahan, about 40km from the main town of Kuching. It was the first mosque attacked in the recent violence against places of worship.

'Don't make any speculation. We are investigating this incident,' deputy police chief Ismail Omar told the media. 'The situation remains peaceful and no one should take advantage of this to create something bad.'

The trouble was touched off by a High Court ruling last month that allowed a Catholic newspaper, the Herald, to use Allah to refer to God.

Since then, 10 churches and a Sikh Gurdwara temple have been vandalised.

The latest church was vandalised on Friday night in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. Its side windows were broken.

From Straits Times, "Vandals attack mosque".

SINGAPORE: The government is monitoring ground reactions here after recent attacks on places of worship in Malaysia.

Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said ground reactions in Singapore have largely been calm.

In recent weeks there were attacks on churches in Malaysia after the High Court allowed a Catholic newspaper to use the word 'Allah' to denote God.

"I think Singaporeans must have a care not to bring problems like this to themselves," said DPM Wong at a community event in Singapore on Sunday.

"We live in an inter-connected world, we cannot be divorced from what happens in other countries. But at the same time we must be rational, and examine: when we bring such problems to our shores, what are we trying to do? Are we trying to express sympathy only, or will doing so result in more problems for our own community?"

Race and religion have always been seen as a potential minefield in Singapore.

And it's a perennial concern of authorities that if such issues are not handled quickly and carefully, they could erupt into something more serious.

With more immigrants coming to Singapore, efforts are being made to help new citizens and permanent residents understand the nation's ethnic realities.

For example, the National Integration Council will launch the Singapore Citizenship Journey in March this year.

The online programme will give information on Singapore's cultures, values and key institutions.

Mr Wong said: "Those who come here to make a living, to make this their home, ought to understand the local context and not allow what happens in their own home to affect what happens in Singapore."

Ethnic realities also mean that race-based policies will remain.

On the recent move to allow a person's mixed heritage to be recorded in official papers, Mr Wong said it is to give such individuals a choice. Whether that choice is exercised or not, it is up to them.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Govt monitoring Singaporeans' reactions to church attacks in Malaysia".


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