CAIRO – A Malay language daily has claimed that a Malaysia non-Muslim group has distributed free comics that liberally mock the word Allah and Islam.
“Without feeling any guilt, the group makes Malays and Islam as a target,” Utusan Malaysia’s report cited by The Malay Mail on Wednesday, December 18.
In its report published today, the paper claimed that the non-Muslim movement, not identified, has been distributing reading material that contained interpretations of an unspecified holy book bearing the word “Allah”.
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The books, reported to have used the word “Allah” extensively, also referred to Nabi Isa, Arabic word for Phophet Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him), according to the movement’s own beliefs.
The movement also allegedly gave out comic books detailing the life of Nabi Isa, Utusan Malaysia said, adding that it indirectly contradicts with the story recited by the Noble Qur’an.
Though the comic books did not name its publisher on the front cover, it carries a note on Article 11 of the Federal Constitution governing freedom of religion, the Malay-language daily added.
These publications, Utusan Malaysia said, confirmed the local Muslim community’s fear that the word Allah would be misused, expressing concerns that the group’s faith would be jeopardized by non-Muslim use of the Arabic word for God.
UtusanMalaysia only said it believed the group to be led by a man purported to be a US citizen who spoke Malay language fluently, as well as several locals from Sabah.
Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Malaysia under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution that enshrines the right of Malaysians to profess and practice their faith.
Yet, proselytization to Muslims can be restricted or controlled by state laws and federal laws for the federal territories.
The use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications in the local Malay language has been a controversial issue in Malaysia.
The row dates back to 2008 when the Home Ministry threatened to revoke Catholic paper Herald’s permit, prompting the Church to sue the government for violating its constitutional rights.
The 2009 High Court decision that upheld the Catholic Church’s constitutional right to use the word “Allah” had shocked Muslims who considered the word to only refer to the Muslim God.
Roman Catholic representatives say the government's curb on their use of "Allah" is unreasonable because Christians who speak the Malay language had long also used the word to refer to God.
Last October, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the use of the word in the Catholic Church weekly Herald was justified, saying that the use of the word “Allah” was not integral to the practice of the Christian faith.
The ruling - which overturned an earlier High Court decision that the ban was unconstitutional - has since sparked persisting concerns over how it would affect the rights of Christians and other religious minorities, despite the government’s assurance that the judgment was restricted to the Herald.
The Catholic Church has since appealed to the country’s top court this week for clarity on the religious row that has drawn deep lines between Malaysia’s non-Muslim minorities and its 60 per cent Muslim population, with the Federal Court fixing February 24 next year to hear the application for appeal.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
Usually dubbed the "melting pot" of Asia for its potpourri of cultures, Malaysia has long been held up as a model of peaceful co-existence among its races and religions.
Malaysia has a population of nearly 26 millions, with Malays, mostly Muslims, making up nearly 60 percent.
Christians, including a Catholic population of nearly 800,000, make up around 9.1 percent of the population.
Buddhists and Hindus constitute 19.2 and 6.3 percent of the population respectively.
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