Malaysia king concerned over 'Allah' usage dispute; says it could affect national unity if not resolved
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah on Monday (Jun 5) expressed concern regarding the usage of the word "Allah", fearing that the issue may become polemic and adversely affect unity and harmony in the country if it fails to be resolved immediately.
He said this at the investiture ceremony of federal awards and honours held in conjunction with his official birthday celebration at the Istana Negara in Kuala Lumpur.
According to Bernama, the king said that the polemic use of the word 'Allah' is not a debate about terminology and linguistics, but related to the issue of the faith of the Muslim community. He added that any confusion will only invite disaster.
“My government must harmonise the current situation and at the same time, place the use of the word “Allah” in the right context by taking into account the national security, the benefit of the ummah (Muslim community), as well as my position and the position of other Malay rulers as heads of Islam,” he reportedly said.
On May 15, the Malaysian government’s decision to withdraw an appeal against a ruling allowing Christians to use the word "Allah" in publications sparked controversy over the decades-long debate.
Following this, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said on May 23 that the government will streamline conflicting regulations regarding the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims.
This is so that the regulations will be in line with the Malay rulers’ earlier decision that “Allah” cannot be used by non-Muslims in the Peninsula while conditional use is permitted for non-Muslims in the Borneo states.
A proposal to improve the regulations relating to the use of the word by non-Muslims will be presented at the Conference of Rulers meeting in July, said Mr Anwar then.
GOVERNMENT WILL DEFEND ROYAL INSTITUTION: PM ANWAR
At the event on Monday, Mr Anwar said that the government will defend the royal institution and ensure that appropriate action is taken against any party that tries to threaten the monarchy and the Constitution.
"The institution must be upheld (and) protected. Hence, the government will not allow the royal institution to be mocked or disturbed in the name of freedom," he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
On Sunday, the king called on all Malaysians to not turn religious issues into polemics and political disputes.
According to Bernama, the king stressed that all parties must respect the position of Islam as the religion of the federation, as stated in Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.
All parties must also respect the position of the Malay rulers as the heads of Islam in their respective states, he added.
“Nevertheless, other religions can still be practised peacefully. The full spirit of tolerance of Malaysians in the pluralism which exists is actually the basis of the country's main strength.
“Therefore, in order to build a strong, successful, authoritative and dignified country, we must all discard the rhetorical agenda of division, and instead unite to steer the country towards a better future,” the king was quoted as saying by Bernama in his royal address related to his official birthday celebration.
The king, who was then the Sultan of Pahang, took the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Jan 31, 2019. Under Malaysia’s rotational monarchy system, the country’s nine rulers serve as king for a five-year term.
During his royal address, the king noted that the 15th General Election (GE15) and the process of forming the federal government took place smoothly in a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere.
“This clearly demonstrates that the democracy practised in this country remains fertile. This should continue to be the basis for the stability and harmony of the country,” he said.
During GE15, the Islamist party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) and its president Abdul Hadi Awang were the “biggest amplifiers” of racial rhetoric, according to a report published by Malaysia’s Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).
The study said Mr Abdul Hadi had pushed anti-Chinese sentiments through negative social media posts against the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and that he had called its fielding of Malay candidates a “dangerous and slick move”.
In a Facebook post on May 12, Mr Abdul Hadi claimed that PAS aims to “restore the power of the Malay Muslim leadership”.
“Currently, PAS seeks to strengthen the politics of Malay Islam and we are obliged to lead the way by providing support and cooperation to unite the Malays through Islam,” he said.