KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (ISMA) today accused a Seremban church of seeking to proselytise to non-Christians by using Bahasa Malaysia for an Easter pageant.
Claiming that the national language was not commonly used by the Chinese and Indians the group asserted were the main races who practise Christianity, it said the decision to use Bahasa Malaysia was suspicious.
In a “report” on the group’s website, the head of the Seremban chapter Zamani Ibrahim said that while freedom of religion for non-Muslims was guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, the open use of Bahasa Malaysia to promote the event outside the church compound was an abuse of this liberty.
“As one the non-governmental organisations concerned about the construct and faith of Muslims in Malaysia, particularly in Negri Sembilan, we urge the Negri Sembilan Islamic Affairs Department (JHEAINS) to closely monitor this Easter Musical,” Zamani was quoted as saying in the report.
Accompanying the article was a photograph of a bunting announcing a free Easter Musical by the Agape Community Church scheduled for April 18-20. It is unclear if the musical will be conducted in Malay.
ISMA’s complaint is an escalation of the Christian-Muslim tussle here over the Arabic word for God, Allah, which remains unresolved four years after the Catholic Church here won a legal battle to use the word in its weekly newspaper.
The matter remains in abeyance after the Federal Court last month postponed hearing the case indefinitely.
Today’s allegation also appears to be a broadening of the Muslim claims of proselytisation against its followers that was so far premised on the Christian use of specific Arabic words and phrases.
All states in Malaysia other than Sabah, Sarawak, Penang and the Federal Territories have enactments that prohibit non-Muslims from using up to 35 Arabic words, but the restriction is specific to proselytisation of Muslims.
Any attempt to promote religions other than Islam to Muslims is illegal in the country, despite the constitutional article guaranteeing religious freedom.
Although allegations against Christians for proselyting to Muslims are frequent, it is unclear if any group or individual has been prosecuted for such.
Despite the Muslim’s group assertion that the majority of Christians in the country are Chinese and Indian, however, it is the Malay-speaking Bumiputras from Sabah and Sarawak who form the largest section of the community.
Bumiputra Christians, who form about 64 per cent or close to two-thirds of the Christian community in Malaysia, have used the word “Allah” when praying and speaking in the national language and their native tongues for centuries.
The East Malaysian Christians are also the most affected by restrictions placed on the use of “Allah” in peninsular Malaysia.
The Chinese and Indian community are regularly described as “unpatriotic” for their failure to utilise the national language as part of their daily lives.
Easter Day is a Christian festival to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after he was crucified on Good Friday. It will fall on April 20 this year.
Zamani today said the notion of Easter was against Islam.