Khir Toyo says in mourning over Allah ruling
By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
KUALA LUMPUR , Jan 2 — Selangor opposition leader Dauk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo has said that he is now in mourning as a Muslim following the decision by the High Court to allow the Catholic church to use the term “Allah” in its weekly publication Herald.
“I am very saddened as a Muslim over the judgment in allowing the Catholic church to use the word Allah in their weekly publication. Allah is only for Muslims. In other languages God is referred to as Tuhan whereas in Islam it is Tuhan Yang Maha Esa (The one and only God). Therefore you must understand the distinction between the two,” said Khir.
Khir, who is also the Sungai Besar Umno division head, stressed why other religions should not be allowed to even mention the name “Allah” as he claims it would cause “damage, chaos and confusion” among Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
“We don’t want other religions to use it as it (the word Allah) refers to the one and only God. Now that the High Court has allowed the usage of the term Allah, soon any religion can apply their own reasoning to use the word Allah. Imagine if a deity were to be referred to as Allah. Surely it would create a lot of tension,” explained the Umno man.
Khir criticised and questioned the judge who had made the ruling.
“I am not happy with the High Court’s decision. Human beings are, at the end of the day, just human beings, no matter how fair you try to be, there is no way you can be 100 per cent impartial. And the judge who made the decision was not a Muslim, so I question the fairness in the decision,” said the former Selangor Mentri Besar.
He urged Christians in the country to understand his views and claimed that Muslims and non-Muslims have been living together in harmony for 52 years, and all this time there was no question on the use of “Allah” as everyone in the country apparently knew and accepted the fact that the term was exclusive for Muslims.
“The problem is just image. If a young Malay child were to read the pamphlets or Christian publications which referred to the Christian God as Allah, would the child not be confused?” asked Khir, alluding to the fact that the decision could possibly result in the Malay Muslims in the country being under siege.
However, not all Muslim politicians share the views expressed by Khir.
Dzulkefly believes the court decision will bring the different faiths closer together.Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad from PAS applauded the High Court’s move as he believes that the decision will in fact bring the different faiths closer together in an effort to better understand and respect one another.
“To me, I see this as an opportunity to bring all of us closer together despite our religious differences and submit to the God Almighty. We all believe in God and we call God Allah.
“There is most certainly plurality in Islam. Islam accepts and recognises the fact that there are different religions out there in the world. Even though all these religions may not be united, we all believe we worship God Almighty,” said Dzulkefly, referring to Islam, Christianity and Judaism , the three Abrahamic religions which shared the same basic ideals of God as creator.
Dzulkefly, who is Kuala Selangor MP, affirmed his support of the High Court’s ruling by explaining that “Allah” has been used by Arab Muslims, Arab Christian and Jews for centuries and that they had no problem with it. According to him, even the Quran has stated the need to respect the right of religion — “To you your way, to me my way.” (Surah 109.)
He hit out and reprimanded Umno hawks who have been arguing against the use of “Allah” by Catholics , labelling them as “narrow-minded”.
“Why is the Umno-BN government being so parochial about the issue? What they are doing is so narrow-minded, and will inadvertently limit any proper attempt at understanding the different religions in the country.
“At least we are united by way of the brotherhood of man , one from Adam and Eve. We always talk about unity and perpaduan. To me, this is one of the greatest, most effective ways for people of all faiths to be ruled under the common brotherhood of man… we all submit to God Almighty, there is oneness in this,” said Dzulkefly.
However, he was disheartened when told of a news report saying several NGOs were urging the government to appeal the High Court decision and as well as possibly get the Conference of Rulers involved in the matter.
He suggested an open public debate to discuss the issue in order for everyone to voice their concerns and opinions.
“We should have a debate. Let’s get it off our chests. I, for one, am willing to debate it. Until and unless we can speak up as adults, we will always be trapped in ignorance.”
The government had said that the ban on the use of the word Allah was necessary to avoid confusing the majority Muslims in the country where Islam is the official religion.
But the church claims the ban violates its constitutional right to practise its religion freely.
According to Father Lawrence Andrew who edits Herald, the term “Allah” has been used by Christians in the region to refer to their God since 400 years ago. He said that it is still actively used today.
Lawrence explained that “Allah” in the Christian context is used to refer to the trinitarian concept of “God the Father” which is different from the Muslim use of the word to refer to the “one and only God”.
He claimed the use of the word has not died out and is still being used in church worship among indigenous Sarawakians and Sabahans, who form a substantial number of the Christian faithful in the country.
The church first took the government to court last year after the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the annual publishing permit for Herald, the country’s only Catholic paper.
It was forced to refresh its suit again this year after its 2008 permit expired without any decision from the court.
It remains unclear if the home minister will seek to reverse the decision through the appellate court but he is likely to do so given the sensitivity of the issue.