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January 16, 2010

Jakim says ‘Allah’ ban must include Sabah and Sarawak

Taken from Malaysian Insider

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — The Islamic Development Department (Jakim) maintains that Christians should not be allowed to use the word “Allah” and rejects the suggestion that the word could be used in East Malaysia while remaining banned on the peninsula.

Jakim director-general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz said there should not be two sets of laws and rules to deal with the “Allah” issue.

The federal government’s highest Islamic body joins Christian leaders who also rejected today the suggestion made by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz who claimed in an interview with East Malaysian newspapers yesterday that the federal government had agreed for the word to be used in Sabah and Sarawak.

Wan Mohamad from Jakim said that since there were already rules on the matter, the word “Allah” should not be used by churches anymore. “We must respect the decision of the Cabinet.

“If we follow the spirit of respecting laws there has already been a decision at national level so they should not use the word,” he said.

He said that if the word “Allah” was allowed for Christians in Sabah and Sarawak it would not solve any problems because of the migration and mobilisation of people from the two East Malaysian states to the peninsula.

“That does not solve matters…we are in a small country and we need standard laws and rules.

“We must be more systematic…there cannot be two sets of laws. There are decisions made at national level by the Cabinet.” Wan Mohamad was referring to the Cabinet decision on May 16 1986, when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was Prime Minister, when it was decided that the word “Allah” were among words that non-Muslims would not be allowed to use.

Words such as “Allah,” “Baitullah,” “Solat,” and “Kaabah” were gazetted as exclusive to Muslims under a gazette (Warta P.U (A) 15/82) and circular (Pekeliling KKDN. S.59/3/6/A) dated Dec 5 1986.

On Jan 3 2008 Tun Abdullah Badawi’s Cabinet reaffirmed the restriction against non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” in their publications.

Before that the various Cabinet had also reaffirmed the ban at meetings on Oct 18, 2006 and Nov 1, 2006.

Ten states except for Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and the Federal Territory are also enforcing the Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1988 which restricts the use either verbally or in print of the word “Allah” for non-Muslims.

Yesterday Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, had indicated that Putrajaya may allow Christians to use the controversial word, but only in East Malaysia.

“Christians in Sarawak and Sabah need not worry over this issue because it is a common tradition there. I have been to an Iban church service and I heard the word “Allah” used there,” Nazri was reported saying in an exclusive interview with a Kuching-based newspaper last Thursday.

“Muslims here in Semenanjung cannot accept it as ‘Allah’ was never used in Christian preaching until recently and they questioned the motive behind the substitution of ‘Tuhan’ for ‘Allah’,” he allegedly added in justifying the ban in the peninsula.

The “Allah” row started in 2007 after the Home Ministry invoked a 1986 Cabinet directive banning non-Muslims from using certain Arabic words when it refused to renew the publication permit of the Catholic tabloid, Herald.

The Catholic church later challenged the government’s decision and on Dec 31 last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that the Herald has the right to use the word “Allah” for its Malay edition.

Another legal battle over the word “Allah” is also expected, as a Sarawakian Christian, Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill had earlier this week challenged the seizure of religious compact discs containing the word “Allah”, which took place in 2008 at the Sepang airport’s low cost carrier terminal.

Nazri’s pledge, which was front-paged by The Borneo Post today, comes just about one year before Sarawak is scheduled to have its state election.

The current state assembly’s term expires in mid-2011

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