KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 — Catholic Arcbishop Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam should brace himself this Thursday should he decide to attend the court hearing to defend the Church’s right to use “Allah”.
Perkasa and other Muslim groups said today they will demonstrate against the Catholic Church outside the Court of Appeal when the religious tussle over the Middle Eastern word for god heads back to the legal arena.
Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hassan Syed Ali said the planned rally was in support of the Home Ministry in its efforts to prohibit non-Muslims from referring to God as “Allah” in print materials.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision in this case is very important to Muslims,” Syed Hassan said in a statement emailed to The Malay Mail Online.
“Perkasa also calls on other Muslims to join us at Putrajaya in great numbers this Thursday morning. Show our support towards efforts in defending the word “Allah” from being used and misused by other religious believers,” he added.
Perkasa, a vocal Malay rights lobby, has some 407,000 members throughout Malaysia, according to the group’s acting president Datuk Abd Rahman Abu Bakar.
Perkasa’s remarks today come after Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said last Saturday that the Arabic word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims, and that non-Muslims must stop challenging this “absolute right”.
Zahid also urged Muslim groups to unite and defend against what he seemed to view as an attempt by non-believers to undermine the country’s predominant religion.
The Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur filed the application last month to strike out the federal government’s appeal against the landmark High Court judgment that had sparked a string of attacks against places of worship, including the firebombing of a church.
Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of Catholic newspaper Herald, told The Malay Mail Online last Thursday that Putrajaya’s appeal needed to be struck out because of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 10-point solution to Christians in 2011.
Najib’s 10-point solution was an assurance to Malaysia’s Christian population that they were free to bring in and use their bibles in Malay, as well as in other indigenous languages that contained the word “Allah”, after shipments of the holy book were banned.
Deep-running anger over the issue was again exposed last month when far-right Muslim groups railed against remarks by the Vatican’s first envoy to Malaysia, Archbishop Joseph Marino, on the controversy.
In an interview with the media, Marino had described the local Catholic Church’s arguments based on the government’s 10-point solution as “logical and acceptable”.
Perkasa and Jati, another Muslim group, accused Marino of interfering in domestic affairs and demanded his censure and expulsion from the country.
Marino later apologised for the remarks and denied he was meddling in the matter.
The “Allah” row erupted in 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke the Herald’s newspaper permit for its reference to God as “Allah”, prompting the Catholic Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.
The 2009 High Court decision upholding the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah” had shocked many Muslims that consider the word to only refer to the Muslim God.
Christians are Malaysia’s third-largest religious population at 2.6 million people, according to statistics from the 2010 census, behind Muslims and Buddhists.