- Published on Wednesday, 25 December 2013 20:25
KUALA LUMPUR: In a rare moment of frustration today, Archbishop Emeritus Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to cement his own call for an end to Muslim-Christian hostility by withdrawing Putrajaya’s legal challenge against the Catholic Church’s use of “Allah”.
The recently retired Archbishop and now administrator of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur was responding to the prime minister’s earlier speech at the National Christmas Open House in George Town, Penang in which the latter called for followers of the two faiths to set aside their differences and instead seek common ground.
“[Najib] should stop it,” Pakiam said today, noting that today’s speech differed from Najib’s previous remarks at the Umno general assembly earlier this month.
“Even as the whole world talks and laughs about the Allah issue, that Malaysia condemns or does not allow [Christians to use, he said] ‘We will defend it in the exclusivity of its use’.”
“ am praying that Allah will enlighten him... to be a statesman, above party politics or this group or that group,” Pakiam told reporters at the Christians Federation of Malaysia (CFM) Christmas Hi-Tea here today.
Speaking at the National Christmas Open House celebration in Penang today, Najib warned that continued conflict over the Arabic word for god may irreparably harm ties between Christians and Muslims.
He also added that he was not interested in winning a legal argument but was concerned on pursuing harmony, peace and stability for the country.
During the Umno AGM early this month, however, party president Najib had reiterated its firm stand to defend Muslims’ exclusivity over “Allah”.
Today, Pakiam also said that Najib was adding to the confusion by saying “Allah” can only be used in Sabah and Sarawak, but banned here in the peninsula.
“But still, he is the prime minister, so I have to pray, God, please help him to see his mission, his duty for the whole country, not for just Umno, ,” he said.
The tussle over the “Allah” arose in 2008 when Catholic newspaper The Herald was ordered by the Home Ministry to stop using the word “Allah”. The Catholic Church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in 2009 upholding its constitutional right to do so.
Putrajaya later appealed the decision and successfully overturned the earlier decision when the Court of Appeal ruled this October that “Allah” was not integral to the Christian faith.
The ruling has since sparked confusion over the use of the word by Christians in their worship, especially with conflicting opinions within the government itself on how far the ruling would affect practising Christians.
Since the ruling, churches in Sabah and Sarawak have become more vocal in pressing for their right to use the term that they say is entrenched in the 20- and 18-point agreements with the two states, insisting they will continue their age-old practice of referring to God as “Allah” in their worship and in their holy scriptures.
The Catholic Church has since appealed to the country’s top court this week for clarity on the religious row that has drawn deep lines between Malaysia’s non-Muslim minorities and its 60 per cent Muslim population.