CAIRO - Furious debates surrounding the use of the Arabic word for God, Allah, have re-ignited after a leading opposition figure urged the government to allow the word usage in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian Bible for east Malaysia.
The basis for arguing whether non-Muslims can use the word Allah' to refer to God must rest on its context, etymology, and the relevant laws surrounding it, Baru Bian, Sarawak People's Justice Party (PKR) chief, told Free Malaysia Today, on Friday, December 28.
Too much is at stake for it touches on the very heart, soul, and spirit of one's belief and faith regardless of what one believes.
I, therefore, urge those with differing viewpoints to exercise restraint, tolerance and goodwill.
We must be reminded that we are indeed treading on holy ground. This is not to suggest that we must avoid discussing it at the appropriate forum, he added.
Multiethnic Malaysia has been divided over allowing Christians to use the word Allah to refer to God.
In December 2009, the country's High Court overturned a government ban on the use of the word in Christian publications.
Later on 2010, the government appealed a 2009 High Court decision favoring the church based on the Federal Constitution.
Debates reignited last Monday after Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng urged the federal government to allow the use of the word Allah in Malay-language bibles.
Karpal Singh, the national chairman of the secular DAP party, partner in the opposition alliance, called for calm over this issue while pointing out that many non-Muslims in the country use the word too.
He explained that the word Allah appears 37 times in the Sikh bible, and is also used by the Orang Asli community as well as the Peranakan community in Malacca.
What the chief minister said in his Christmas message should not hurt the feelings of Muslims. Nothing sinister should be read into what the chief minister said, Karpal said.
The chief minister did not intend to hurt anyone's feelings.
The thorny issue has created a huge uproar among Malaysian politicians with even PAS joining in to insist that Christians should not use Allah in their publications.
There are sensitive elements such as the Declaration of Faith (Shahadah) and Allah, which must be used in the correct context, PAS information chief Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man told Al Arabiya.
Otherwise there could be unease in a multi-religious society in view of the present situation, he added.
The Internet is also rife with Muslim blogs criticizing Lim over his statement and demanding that he issue a retraction and apology.
On the ground, members of Penang Muslim Network (JMPP) marched today after Friday prayers to demand an apology from DAP secretary-general.
Even in delivering a Christmas message, he had to include such religious sentiments against the Muslims, this showed how insensitive and discriminatory the PR and DAP are, JMPP coordinator Mohd Hafiz Mohd Nordin said.
Awaiting the verdict of the Appeal Court, PKR official urged restraint from all political factions in multi-ethnic Malaysia.
Political expediency should not and must not dominate the debate, Bian, Sarawak PKR chief, said.
We should respect our legal system and allow the law to take its course, he added.