Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Great chasm over Malay Bibles

It looks like there is a great chasm between the Barisan Nasional government and the Opposition Front, Pakatan Rakyat, over the seizure of Bibles issue.

While the government has been giving rather confusing statements as to whether the 5,000 Malay Bibles impounded at Port Klang have been released or not, the Pakatan Rakyat leaders have not been confusing and have indeed been consistent in their stand that there is no issue with non-Muslims using the Arabic word "Allah" for "God".

Today, the Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin denied that the Cabinet had approved the release of 5,000 Malay Bibles confiscated by the Home Ministry since 2009, The Malaysian Insider reported.

The deputy prime minister said that Cabinet had yet to discuss the status of the seized Bibles.

His remarks come after DAP MP Tony Pua claimed yesterday that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had issued orders last June for the release of the Malay-language Bibles currently impounded at Port Klang.

The home minister had said over the weekend that the Bibles had been impounded due to the ministry’s pending court appeal on the Catholic weekly The Herald’s use of the word “Allah” in its publications, The Malaysian Insider reported.

However, Pakatan's adhoc leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has said Pakatan has no issues with non-Muslims using the word "Allah" for "God".

Yesterday, PAS deputy president Nasharudin Mat Isa joined his non-Muslim colleagues in Pakatan Rakyat in condemning the detention of Malay-language Bibles asserting that the holy book should be respected, The Malaysian Insider reported.

When approached in Parliament on the issue the Bachok MP explained that Islam recognised Christians as “people of the book” which meant that the Bible should be given due respect by all.

This he added was regardless of what language the Bible is written in.

He added that he even knew of the existence of Bibles written in Jawi that were presently available in Malaysia.

“There are many books in the market many Christian books that are written in Malay. The home ministry has impounded 35,000 Malay-language bibles.

“And even if people cannot read it in Malay they will read it in English so I do not see any reason why these Bibles should be detained ” he said. Nasharudin also rubbished fears that such Malay-language Bibles would encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity expressing confidence in the faith of Muslims.

“The Muslims have a strong belief in their religion and everyone has a right to practise their own beliefs.

“This is just a matter of a book and we should respect the Bible because in Islam we consider the Christians to be the people of the book,” he told Malaysian Insider.

Nasharudin noted that the sensitivity over the issue was in the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims which he described as “rigid”.

“Perhaps it is because of the very rigid interpretation of the word Allah that caused this issue. But then to detain a book just because it is in the Malay language thinking that it might help to propagate Christianity...” he said without ending his sentence.

In January last year, PAS spiritual leader Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat said it was permissible for those following Abrahamic faiths to use "Allah", the Arabic word for "God", which is the norm in Arabian nations where the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam originated.

Whether the Pakatan leaders are sticking to this moderate stand for political purposes like winning the votes of Christians, especially the Kadazans and Ibans in Sabah and Sarawak, is immaterial. The fact is their words sound very pleasant to Christians and may just sway them to vote for them.

Thus you can see the wide chasm between the Government of the day and the Opposition that is trying hard to repair its image which has been badly damaged by Anwar's sodomy trial II and the alleged irregularities in the recent PKR election.

What the Barisan government decides to do will surely influence the voting pattern of the Malaysian Christian community. If the Barisan government decides to continue impounding the Malay Bibles, then the very fabric of the 1Malaysia concept championed by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will be torn to bits.

And Pakatan Rakyat will become the next coalition to champion racial and religious harmony in Malaysia. After all they have always claimed that they were the first to conceptualise the 1Malaysia theme.

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