Malaysia’s National Unity Council to seek amicable solution to “Allah” row
- POSTED: 06 Jan 2014 20:32
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Malaysia's newly-formed National Unity Council has stepped in to try and reduce tensions over the use of the word "Allah", which means God in Arabic. The Council hopes to find an amicable solution to a row that is threatening to split the country.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's newly-formed National Unity Council has stepped in to try and reduce tensions over the use of the word "Allah", which means God in Arabic.
Christians have used the term in their Malay language services, but Muslim groups said it should be exclusive to Islam.
The Council will host talks between religious and community leaders, hoping to find an amicable solution to a row that is threatening to split the country.
Set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak in November 2013, the Council aims to promote national reconciliation, after a divisive and bruising general election.
But it now faces an acid test, with tensions rising over the use of the word "Allah" by different religious groups.
The Council said at a news conference that it regrets the raid and confiscation of Malay language bibles last week.
It called on the government to ensure compliance with the 10-point solution, which is a guarantee by the government to East Malaysians - who are predominantly Christian - that they will be allowed to import, print and distribute bibles in their local languages, including Malay.
The Council wants to diffuse the row over the use of the word "Allah", although at the same time admitting that it had no authority over religious matters.
Samsuddin Osman, chairman of the National Unity Consultative Council, said: "We should rise above this. We are hopeful but I can't say my state of being confident or not confident. We are going to work as hard as possible to make sure that there's some solution to this."
But finding a common ground is easier said than done.
Islamic religious authorities insist that the word "Allah" is exclusive to Islam, even though churches have been using it in their Malay language services.
Motivational speaker Anas Zubedy said: "You must understand the nuances. Here, in the Malay language, for example, the Malays have grown up saying that ‘Allah’ is the name of the Muslim God, and that is something everyone has to empathise - just like an Iban, Sabahian or Sarawakian Christian, who see the word ‘Allah’ as a name of their God.
“So until and when Malays in Peninsular Malaysia can see that ‘Allah’ is a shared language or shared name, I think we have to wait a while."
Meanwhile, the Council has warned against the exploitation of sensitive issues of race and religion for political gain.
PAS Central Committee Member Mujahid Yusof Rawa said: "Divergence has become a culture in the way of doing politics here. When you want to divert issue, you just come up with another issue... You come up with seizing the Bible and it drags the whole society to discuss about it and forget about the high cost of living and all that, which is wrong, morally... And a wrong that could, I think, destroy the nation."
Indeed, many Malaysians are calling for a truce in order for cool heads to prevail on both sides.
Some even believe that the "Allah” row may help to expedite national reconciliation by promoting better understanding and knowledge between both east and west Malaysians.