“We must all realise that this is not an ‘Allah’ issue alone. The ‘Allah’ issue has become the vehicle to ensure that our federal constitution is not buried and Syariah law becomes the law of the country. This is the real danger.”
Father Lawrence Andrew; Editor, Herald Tribune
17 March 2009; Malaysiakini
Vatican support for Allah signature campaign
17 March 2009
by Joe Fernandez
A signature campaign that activists in Sabah and Sarawak have initiated on the right of Christians in Malaysia to use the term ‘Allah’ for God is said to have received the support of the Vatican.
Kota Kinabalu church activist Ronnie Klassen said Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew, who is in Rome on a periodic visit to the Vatican, had indicated this in an email dated March 14, in reply to his request for views and support of the signature campaign.
It is understood that the contents of the email could not have been penned without the prior approval of the Holy See.
Lawrence wrote: “We must all realise that this is not an ‘Allah’ issue alone. The ‘Allah’ issue has become the vehicle to ensure that our federal constitution is not buried and Syariah law becomes the law of the country. This is the real danger.”
He cited contradictions in Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s recent public statements that indicate inherent ‘danger’ for the status of the federal constitution.
Abdullah, he pointed out, has assured that Malaysia is not a theocracy but at the same time has insisted that it is a "Negara Islam".
“...There can be no Negara Islam without Syariah law and culture. So, is he not slowly preparing to make Syariah law the law of the country?” asked Lawrence.
Lawrence’s email was brief, said Klassen, but the priest - who will leave Rome today - gave the assurance that the church’s lawyers are studying the issue.
The government has prohibited the Herald, a Catholic weekly, from using the word ‘Allah’ on the ground that it could mislead Muslims.
The matter is currently under judicial review and a decision is expected on May 28.
Progress of campaign
Klassen said Lawwence’s email was the fourth piece of good news for the signature campaign in recent days, following the comments of:
• PAS spiritual advisor Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat who said that non-Muslims have as much right to use the term ‘Allah’ for God as Muslims;
• former Grand Iman of Masjid Negara Taib Azamudden Mat Taib and PAS state assemblyperson for Baling, who said both Muslims and non-Muslims use the term ‘Allah’ although their interpretation varies; and
• Sarawak minister of religious affairs Daud Abdul Rahman, who said the state would not gazette the use of ‘Allah’ for Muslims only, alongside ‘Baitullah’, ‘solat’ and ‘Kaabah’, given that the majority of Sarawakians are non-Muslims.
Klassen said the signature campaign, which he and PKR vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan initiated, has received both brickbats and bouquets, and that the process has not been smooth as they would have liked.
“What really rankles is the continued silence by leaders like Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Bernard Giluk Dompok, Maximus Jonity Ongkili, Joseph Kurup and others from the various cultural bodies,” said Klassen.
“Dompok’s people tell me that their boss is treading cautiously on the issue in public, but that he is working quietly behind the scenes.”
This, he explained, was because Dompok had been more vociferous in public previously, but that few had stood up for him after he was threatened with jihad, due to political expediency.
The signature campaign will close at the end of this month. A memorandum accompanied by the signatures collected will then be submitted to Abdullah in Putrajaya.hhttp://www.malaysiakini.com/news/100364