SHAH ALAM, May 25 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said today his government's resolution to allow some flexibility for Borneon Christians to use the term “Allah” in certain publications was based on a consensus reached by all religious authorities, including state muftis.
Anwar was responding to concerns about the politically-charged debacle at an international conference attended by some of the world's prominent ulamas here, where the prime minister took a few minutes to explain the government's decision to withdraw the appeal against the court ruling that declared the Home Ministry's ban for Christians in the eastern states to be illegal.
He suggested the flexibility afforded to the Christians in the Eastern Malaysian states is meant to foster peace, citing the decision by the Conference of Rulers and Muftis made in 1986.
“I understand the debate around the issue has dragged on but I must stress that (our decision) had been referred to (several) muftis and they have decided, the Conference of Malay Rulers had decided, so we decided we should follow so we can have peace and avoid strife,” he said.
Each of the country's 14 states has autonomy over Islamic affairs with its respective Rulers as the supreme authority.
Over the weekend, Anwar said insisting to appeal in the “Allah” court dispute with a Sarawakian Christian would have been futile after a 1986 Cabinet and the Conference of Rulers had decided that non-Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak could use the word under certain conditions.
The Anwar-led unity government has been on the defensive since the withdrawal was announced last month, as the ultra-Malay Opposition coalition, led by PAS, has used the issue to ramp up its attacks in an attempt to portray the current administration as liberalists who are “anti-Islam” ahead of a crucial local election in six states.
Three of the states — Selangor, Penang and Negeri Sembilan — are governed by Pakatan Harapan, the political coalition Anwar leads.