Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bracing for protests over ‘Allah’, Christians meet Muslims bearing flowers

Bearing flowers, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir was among some Muslims who turned up at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church. – The Malaysian Insider pic, January 5, 2014.
Nearly 1,000 Catholics turned up for Sunday mass at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang, Selangor, this morning expecting an angry mob of Muslims protesting against the possible use of the word Allah in prayers but instead, met a group bearing flowers.

Among the few Muslims who turned up was social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who brought a bouquet of flowers, and was part of a group expressing solidarity with the Christians.

The daughter of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad lambasted Putrajaya over its inaction and told it to forget about the ambitious Visit Malaysia Year launched with much fanfare last night.
"Who wants to visit a Malaysia like this where there is no moderation?

"Hardly an example of moderation, we are now known as a country which grabs Bibles," she said outside the church.

Marina arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, bearing a bouquet of flowers, with members from non-governmental organisation (NGO),  Sisters in Islam (SIS), and several others who turned up in a show of solidarity with Christians.

"We are here to show solidarity with the congregation. A lot of us here are Muslims and we believe Islam is a religion of peace.

"It is not something that we only say (in words), but there must also be action," she told journalists outside the church.

After the service ended, she  passed flowers to parish priest, Reverend Father Michael Chua, with worshippers cheering and applauding the act.

On Thursday, a coalition of Malay-Muslim groups had said that they would gather at the church to deliver a memorandum protesting against the Christians' insistence on using the word Allah.

The Klang Muslims Solidarity Secretariat was the first to name the church where the planned protest would take place.

Its president, Mohd Khairi Hussin, had said ties between Muslims and Christians had been cordial before the church insisted on using the Arabic word "Allah" in its worship.

During the sermon today, Chua also told the congregation to keep Herald editor, Reverend Father Lawrence Andrew, in their  prayers.

"Father Lawrence is now bearing the brunt of everything. We have to pray for him," Chua said.

Several worshippers expressed their appreciation to Marina and the rest of the solidarity group.

"We are really glad for the group which came to support us. They know this is gross injustice by some politicians," a worshipper KJK Koshy said.

"What wrong did we do? Why grab the Bibles? Thank God for some sensible people who are around," he said, pointing to Marina’s group.

R. Gomathi said that while she was initially appalled with the way the issue was blown out of proportion, she felt glad to see the solidarity group at the church today.

"For me, it is a wonderful day to see people of all races coming together in the name of solidarity," Gomathi said.

For Fiona Biggs, the solidarity shown by Marina and the other Muslims was heart-warming.

"Nothing much from the government but the support from common people like Marina and her Muslim friends is nice,” she said.

Meanwhile, a gathering was held today by the Muslim Solidarity Klang at Padang Sultan Sulaiman Klang to protest against the use of Allah by non-Muslims.

Last Thursday’s seizure of some 300 copies of the Bible by the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (Jais) in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban further strained worsening ties between Muslims and Christians over the usage of the Arabic word Allah which translates as God.

Although global Islamic scholars have clarified that the term can be used by anyone, state Islamic authorities in Malaysia have reacted negatively to reports of churches using the word Allah in its Malay language sermons.

The tussle over the word "Allah" arose in 2008 when the Herald was barred by the Home Ministry from using the Arabic word. The Catholic church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in 2009 upholding its constitutional right to do so.

Putrajaya later appealed the decision and successfully overturned the earlier decision when the Court of Appeal ruled last October that "Allah was not integral to the Christian faith".

Christians make up about 9% of the Malaysian population, or 2.6 million. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as Allah in their prayers and holy book.

Besides the Bumiputera Christians from East Malaysia, some of whom have moved to the peninsula to live and work, Orang Asli Christians in the peninsula also typically use Bahasa Malaysia in their worship. – January 5, 2014.
Source: The Malaysian Insider


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