Former law minister Zaid Ibrahim believes the use of the word “Allah” should be resolved through consensus, instead of the legal process.
“This Allah issue is an old issue, and it has divided us, it has divided East and West Malaysia, it has divided Muslims and non-Muslims.
“It is one of those delicate sensitive issues that has to be dealt with, not by process of law because the law can only decide for one side - one side has to win, one side has to lose.
“In this particular case, both sides must feel they have won, both sides must be comfortable.
“That can only happen if political and religious leaders sit down and discuss because this is what our country is all about,” Zaid said in an interview with Malaysiakini at his house in Petaling Jaya yesterday.
According to him, the country's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, had a policy of give-and-take and of sitting down for discussions, which is how Malaysia gained its independence.
Second prime minister Abdul Razak Hussein also ran the country the same way, Zaid said, pointing out that he did not use the emergency after May 13, 1969, to further entrench himself in power.
Instead, Zaid said, the then prime minister brought everyone under one big tent with the initiatives taken after the May 13 incident.
This same approach can be used to amicably resolve the use of the word Allah, Zaid said.
“We should get Sarawak leaders, Sabah leaders, Peninsular leaders and religious leaders to sit down. If you have goodwill and sincerity, I do not see any problem that we cannot solve.
“You can come up with a framework (to address the Allah issue).
“(But) we have abandoned that approach. This country has lost the art of governing a multiethnic community.
“Our leaders are just using power and more power to get authority,” lamented Zaid.
'Grace and compassion needed'
There needs to be more grace and compassion brought back into politics, he said, pointing to the recently increased maximum fine of RM10,000 imposed for movement control order (MCO) violations.
He questioned what will happen to the families of those who are forced to pay the fines and have to suffer from such decisions by the government.
On March 10, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that a Christian Sarawakian had the right to use the word “Allah” for religious and educational purposes.
Umno and PAS, through Muafakat Nasional, later urged that the High Court’s ruling be referred to the Court of Appeal.
Zaid had posted on Twitter yesterday saying Umno should find a more delicate and sophisticated way of resolving this issue, instead of going along with PAS.
He later told Malaysiakini that it is “not fair” to put such “undue pressure” on the courts to resolve the Allah issue, as the country is already very polarised.
“Already recently you have judges being attacked by leaders in this country - clear contempt on judges because of decisions they do not like.
“So, this is another round of judge-bashing if you don’t get a decision your way. So, spare the judges.
“Some of these issues should be dealt with by the people responsible for polarising it (the country) anyway,” he said.