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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Praise for PAS, brickbats for Umno over Allah


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5: PAS has won praise from civil society leaders for its consultative and dialogue-driven approach to guide Muslims through the controversial Allah issue, rather than the confrontational one used by various Umno-backed groups that has marred the peace of the past few days.

After convening a special meeting last night, PAS leaders have reiterated their stand that while Christians could use the word Allah, there must be controls to prevent its misuse or abuse. Otherwise, Thursday's High Court ruling was a potential time bomb that could in the future rock the harmonious relations amongst the races.

Indeed, PAS spiritual adviser Nik Aziz Nik Mat had at the weekend already called for dialogue with Christian leaders so that these concerns could be discussed and best-fit solutions found.

“I would commend PAS for their courage and honesty,” Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of the Centre for Public Policy Studies told Harakahdaily.

“On the Umno side, we hope Prime Minister Najib Razak will continue with his inclusive stance as envisaged by his 1Malaysia slogan. There must be good faith and goodwill to all. If we give in to extremists, this country is in trouble.”

Who belongs to who?

Last week, the High Court overturned a Home Ministry ban on a Christian magazine from using Allah to describe God in its Malay-language section.

The ruling spurred Muslim activists – mostly Umno-backed groups – into angry protests. They have threatened to hold mass demonstrations although an appeal has already been filed by the Home Ministy.

“No one should try to politicise the issue, which can cause tension and disharmony among the races,” said Malaysian Gurdawars Council president Harcharan Singh. The Sikh leader added that dialogue amongst leaders of the different faiths in the country was the best way forward.

Even Marina Mahathir, a columnist and the eldest daughter of former premier Mahathir Mohamad, blasted the emotional outbursts that have marred the past few days.

“It is not about God belonging to you, rather YOU belong to God,” Marina said in an interview with a news portal. “It is now the 21st century. What is the 21st century Muslim like? Different, or the same as how we were in the past? Sadly, the way we are looking at things right now, I’d say we are the same.”

Meanwhile, Bar Council human rights committee head Andrew Khoo suggested that filing an appeal against the High Court decision could only prolong the debate.

“It would be good for the government to provide leadership at this critical point to say 'enough is enough',” said Khoo. “Religion has always been a sensitive issue but it is not devoid of political undertones.”


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