Harussani said he has been asked to try and block the bibles’ release. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 — Influential Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria has warned the release of the previously impounded 35,100 Malay-language bibles could lead to Malay anger and fearsome consequences.
He told The Malaysian Insider that he was “afraid” the community would rise in opposition of the ministry’s decision and create further tension in the already delicate situation.
“I am scared... everything can happen here. People are very unhappy and everything can happen,” he warned late yesterday.
The Muslim scholar said he had tried to establish contact with the prime minister upon hearing on Tuesday that the administration had relented to calls from Christian leaders to release the holy books, which were detained as they contained the word “Allah”.
“But I could not get through to him and his people could not offer me any information,” he said.
The Christian and Muslim religious communities have been engaged in a tug of war over the word “Allah”, with the latter group arguing that its use should be exclusive to them on the grounds as Islam is monotheistic and the word “Allah” denotes the Muslim God.
Christians, however, have argued that “Allah” is an Arabic word that has been used by those of other religious beliefs, including the Jews, in reference to God in many other parts of the world, notably in Arab nations and Indonesia.
The tussle is presently still trapped in the courts after the ministry won a stay of the 2009 High Court ruling that allowed Catholic weekly The Herald to use “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia edition.
Christians have refused to collect the impounded bibles .
Harussani said that regardless of the matter’s legal status, Muslims still believe “Allah” should stay exclusively theirs.
He told The Malaysian Insider that he will meet with the Attorney-General on March 25 to discuss the issue and attempt to convince the latter to stop the release of the bibles.
“I will also try to meet with the home minister and the prime minister. I will talk to them,” he said.
He added he had little choice in the matter as he was facing pressure from the Muslim community to attempt to stop the release.
“Since they announced the release, I have been receiving scores of SMS. Muslims are telling me how angry they are and they asked me, challenged me — what are you going to do about it?
“Because oftentimes, I am always vocal about these issues... so what can I do? I will try to meet with the ministry,” he said.
Harussani stressed that Muslims were not opposing the use of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia, but specifically wanted the word “Allah” to be replaced with another term, like “Tuhan”, which also refers to God.
“We are not against the bible but there are state enactments that say they cannot use ‘Allah’. It is haram (forbidden).
“Our reason is very simple. Islam is stated as the official religion of the country and ‘Allah’, in the Quran, is defined as ‘yang maha tunggal’ which means the only God. “So we rely on ‘Allah’ for everything and not any other God. It also says that there is no other like Him,” he explained.
According to Harussani, Christians referred to their God as the “Holy Trinity” of “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.
“So it is wrong for them to use ‘Allah’ to refer to their God because ‘Allah’ is One. It is a grave offence and a serious affront to Islam,” he said.
Harussani conceded that Arab Christians have used the word “Allah” for over 2,000 years but pointed out that in practice, they often referred to their God as “Ilah”, which also means “God”.
He said that although the ministry had issued a conditional release on the holy books, there was no guarantee that they would not reach the hands of the Muslims.
“What guarantee do they have? What guarantee do they have that they (Christians) will not spread it to the Muslims?
“They will say, ‘oh, we did not force them (the Muslims) to take the books, they took it on their own’. So why create this problem?” he said.
He insisted that the government maintain the enactment enforced in 10 states in the peninsular that restricts the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.
Muslim outrage over the 2009 “Allah” ruling culminated in attacks on house of worship. — file pic
The Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions Enactment restricts the use either verbally, or in print, of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.
“And like I said before, Islam is the official religion, enshrined in the Federal Constitution. So in Islamic practice, the word ‘Allah’ is for the Muslims.
“Already they question the Malay ‘special rights’ in the Constitution. We have never said anything about the other religions... we do not stop them from doing anything. They act as if this country is a Christian country,” he charged.
Harussani pointed out that Muslims never complained when those of other faiths celebrated their religious or cultural festivals in an open manner.
“You know, when I was in New Zealand three years ago on Christmas day, I did not see any Santa Claus in their supermarkets or their hotels.
“When I travel at night, I see that not many homes sport Christmas lights or decorations. I asked the driver, ‘Why? Do people here not celebrate Christmas?’ And he told me they did,” he said.
In Malaysia, said Harussani, Christmas was celebrated in a big way with colourful lights and trees set up in many public places.
“Everywhere you go, you hear Christmas songs. But do the Muslim complain? No. Why? Because we do not have a problem with it,” he said.
The 35,100 Alkitab bibles are presently still held by the ministry in two ports — Port Klang and Kuching — as Christian leaders have refused to collect them due to the conditions imposed on their release.
The ministry had set two conditions to the importers of the consignments to allow the release of the books — that each book is stamped with a serial number and a ministry disclaimer that says “For Christians Only”.
The religious leaders, as well as many political parties, including the MCA, have denounced the conditions and want the ministry to lift them. - Malaysian Insider