Friday sermon irks local church leaders as ‘Allah’ row rages on
January 26, 2013
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 26 - Local clergymen are unhappy that federal Islamic authorities appear to be bent on “waging a war” between the country’s Muslims and Christians over the protracted dispute on non-Muslims’ usage of “Allah” to refer to their God.
When contacted for their response to yesterday’s Friday sermon by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), church leaders sighed in disappointment that the religious authority was so blatantly inciting suspicion and intolerance between the two most dominant religions here.
But they refrained from condemning Jakim, noting that the authority reserved the right to preach to all Islamic followers like how church leaders could preach to parisioners, adding that it was time to lay the matter to rest.
“The emphasis is unfortunate, because all religious places should be teaching people to live in peace and harmony with others, instead of cultivating a culture of suspicion,” said Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) general secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri.
Treading carefully, the leader said that religions should always foster togetherness and acceptance, and should prevent from creating a society of fanatics.
“But that is all I can say at this point,” he added.
Catholic priest Rev Fr Simon Labrooy was more forward with hs words, asking if the individual or individuals who penned the sermon in Jakim had unity or division in his mind.
He said it was not the Malaysian Muslims who were “waging a war” on the Christians, but suggested that it was the person who wrote the sermon who should be investigated for his intention.
“Never that the Muslims are to blame for doing this. But who has the right to write this? He should be hauled up because it shows that in his mind, he is already inciting religious tension.
“Next, we have already provided a lot of facts o why and how ‘Allah’ has been used by Christians... why do you want to commit yourself to a blatant lie like this?
“How could you judge the Arab-speaking world, particularly the Christians who use ‘Allah’ there?” he said.
When asked if Subang Jaya parisioners in his flock have been affected by the ongoing polemic or feel animosity towards Muslims, Labrooy said Christians are aware that the ordinary Muslim is not the one responsible for the dispute.
“They (Muslims) too do not want tension or trouble... this is just the work of a few bad apples,” he said.
Our Lady of Lourdes Church parish priest Rev Fr Michael Chua said the latest Friday sermon would warrant another discussion among CFM members on whether they should issue another response to the issue.
“This is not the first time... there have been many other occasions and we cannot be responding to every single thing.
“Let us stick to our last stand on this issue... for the sake of not prolonging this,” he said, referring to CFM’s remarks on the threat by Perkasa chief Datuk Ibrahim Ali to burn Malay language Bibles.
In the statement issued four days ago, the CFM had expressed disgust with the threat, reminding those who intend to participate in it that all religious scriptures are sacred books.
“Christians are peace-loving people who will continue to seek peace and harmony across all religious groups for the well-being of our great country.
“We call on those who desire to foment hatred for political gain to cease and desist from such a vile act - an act unbecoming of us as Malaysians who uphold the Rukunegara of which the first pillar is ‘Belief in God’,” said CFM in the statement signed by its president Bishop Datuk Ng Moon Hing.
In Jakim’s Friday sermon yesterday, the religious authority warned Muslims nationwide of attempts by “enemies of Islam” to confuse them into believing that all religions are the same.
Muslims here were also told that being too open-minded and allowing Islamic rights to be abused by other religions was a “dangerous” act.
“It is very clear that today, enemies of Islam are seeking to divert and undermine the Muslim community’s faith.
“They are united among themselves and are attempting, with their many tricks and ways, to stake their claim on the usage of ‘Allah’ in their scriptures,” the sermon said.
Jakim insisted that “Allah”, a word that millions of Arab Christians and those in non-Arabic-speaking lands use to describe their God, belongs to Muslims and is an exclusive right to those who profess Islam as it is clearly to prevent Muslims from becoming confused, doubtful and mistaken over the true identity of the Muslim God.
Citing an unnamed academic research, Jakim said that the word “Allah” was never found in the Bible as God, to these users of the holy book, exists in the Trinity concept as “God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
The general term for the Holy Trinity, said the religious department, is “The Lord”.
As such, Jakim insisted that the National Fatwa Council’s 2008 decision on the matter was accurate in stating that “Allah” cannot be used by those of other religions and cannot be likened to the Gods of others.
The authority also warned that painful punishment would await disbelievers in the afterlife, noting that these “symptoms” if Islam’s collapse would only destroy the glory and prestige of Muslims here.
The “Allah” dispute, which first erupted after the watershed 2008 Elections, remains a hot-button topic in the run-up to this year’s polls.
Debate resurfaced last month after DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is also the Penang Chief Minister, called on Putrajaya in his Christmas message to lift a ban on Malay-language bibles in Borneo Malaysia.
Hot on the heels of the DAP leader’s remarks, several state Rulers and Islamic religious authorities reminded non-Muslims of state laws banning use of the word, despite conflicting with a 2009 High Court judgment that ruled “Allah” was not exclusive to Islam.