Ibrahim Ali to Najib: Be firm on ‘Allah’ issue, for once
By Syed Jaymal ZahiidJuly 12, 2013
Ibrahim Ali said Marino’s statement was another display of non-Muslim “rudeness” towards the status of Islam as the country’s official religion. – Picture by Choo Choy MayKUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — Datuk Ibrahim Ali wants Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to stand up as a Muslim leader and defend Islam against what the Perkasa president believes to mark the Vatican’s intrusion into Malaysia’s domestic religious affairs.
Ibrahim also condemned the Holy See’s first ambassador to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Marino, for backing the local Catholic Church’s claim to “Allah” — viewed by some Malay hardliners as being exclusive to Islam.
“We demand the prime minister to display some firmness as prime minister of Umno and someone who is a Muslim.
“For once, be firm when defending the sanctity of Islam,” Ibrahim told a news conference at the Sultan Sulaiman Club in Kampung Baru here—a symbol of the Malay nationalism.
Perkasa, a self-professed staunch defender of Malay and Muslim rights, have condemned and demanded for the apostolic nuncio to retract his statement. Failing to do so, the group and other Muslim NGOs will apply pressure on Putrajaya to shut down the Vatican’s office here and “kick them out of the country”.
In his first media interview here, the Vatican’s first envoy to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Marino, observed that the “Allah” storm that has been raging here for the past five years was unique to this Southeast Asian nation due to the widespread use of the Malay language, the lingua franca of Malaysia’s Bumiputera Christians.
He indicated that the local churches have presented a “logical and acceptable” argument to counter the allegations by some hardline Muslims here that “Allah”, a word of Middle Eastern origin, was exclusive to Islam.
But Marino carefully pointed out that the ongoing appeal by the Home Ministry to reverse a 2009 High Court judgment in favour of the Catholic Church was an “internal matter” when asked to comment further on the dispute.
Conservative scholar and president of another Muslim rights group Datuk Hasan Ali speaking at the same press conference noted that Marino’s statement could have been taken out context.
“He must either retract or deny making the statement,” he said.
The former PAS leader, sacked for his opposition towards the party’s more “progressive” Islamic brand, also called on all Muslim leaders across the political board to join forces in condemning Marino’s statement.
“This is the time for us to restore our dignity,” he said.
On Monday, Malaysia’s Catholic Church filed an application to strike out the Home Ministry’s appeal.
The High Court had stirred waves when in ruled in 2009 that the “Allah” word was not the exclusive right of Muslims, and the Catholic Church’s newspaper, Herald, could publish it in its Bahasa Malaysia section, which caters to its Bumiputera congregation.
The “Allah” row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s newspaper permit, prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.
About 64 per cent of the Christians here are Bumiputeras and Malay-speaking.
Marino also appeared to be on the ball when he was asked to weigh in on other religious concerns affecting Malaysia’s minorities, such as the recent uproar over a conversion law of children to Islam by only one parent.
He referred to the statement by the country’s leading non-Muslim interfaith group, and described the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism’s (MCCBCHST) stand as being “logical and respectful”.
“Malaysia is a very cultured country and highly educated people here so let’s hope common sense will prevail in all these issues,” Marino said in the interview at the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
But Ibrahim said Marino’s statement was another display of non-Muslim “rudeness” towards the status of Islam as the country’s official religion.
“This is not the first time Islam has been insulted,” he said.
The Perkasa president had previously called for the burning of all bibles which contain the word “Allah”, triggering public uproar and calls for action. The authorities, however, did not act.
Ibrahim had also accused Najib of sidelining his group despite having help Umno increase its Malay support in Election 2013.