Parti Bersatu Sabah must explain why it allowed the Sabah State Assembly in 1992 to pass an enactment barring use of the term “Allah” and several related words.
The word has become so politically loaded in the peninsula that failing to acquiesce to native Christians insistence in the two Borneo states that they be allowed to continue to use it in their worship threatens to strip away any electoral support his Barisan Nasional government may enjoy among them.
His detractors in Sabah were quick to deride the prime minister after he implied on Friday that he opposed the use of the word ‘Allah’ by all non-Muslims.
“Today millions of Malaysians are both astonished and relieved to learn that the ruling Barisan Nasional party had actually not been any more sincere on the issue of use of the word ‘Allah’ within Malaysian shores,” said two Sabah opposition leaders in a joint-statement issued here.
Daniel John Jambun of State Reform Party (STAR) and lawyer Peter Marajin of Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) said Najib’s speech in Tanah Merah, Kelantan on Friday was revealing.
Najib in his speech accused the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat, especially the Islamic party PAS, of having committed ‘seven major sins’, one of them being allowing non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’.
“By accusing PAS of the major sin, the Umno president and BN chairman himself has indicated BN’s own stand that it is opposed to allowing Christians to use the word in their worship,” they said.
They said the native Christians in Sabah had all this while believed that the government would not interfere in their worship and they would be allowed to use the word ‘Allah’ as they had always done for ages.
The two opposition firebrands accused the prime minister and his Umno-led BN coalition government of hoodwinking Christians in Sabah and Sarawak by earlier indicating that they would be given an exemption and the ban would only apply in the peninsula.
Government authorities have already ruffled feathers by seizing translated Christian publications including the Indonesian Bible called ‘Alkitab’ which is widely used and includes the word ‘Allah’ for God.
Jambun and Marajin said Najib’s about-turn on the issue showed he was insincere about the sensitivities of the natives in the two east Malaysian states.
They also questioned the role of Parti Bersatu Sabah, a BN coalition member in allowing an enactment to be passed in Sabah State Assembly in 1992 that stifled freedom of religious practice in churches in Sabah.
“We would like PBS leaders to explain on a certain Enakmen Pentadbiran Undang-Undang Islam, Sabah, 1992 which among other things stipulated that non-Muslims are barred from using not only the word ‘Allah’ but many other universal words like “iman”, “nabi”, “firman”, “kiblat”, “baitullah” and “solat”,” they said.
Jambun and Marajin also urged supporters of Umno’s allies such as PBS, Upko and PBRS to ponder the implications of voting for them in the coming general election.
“They must explain to the rakyat and not allow themselves to become “kuda tunggangan” of Umno in pursuing a non-Borneo agenda,” they said, accusing the senior leaders of these Sabah parties of failing to stand up for the people.
“There already are claims in every nook and corner of Sabah that they dare not open their mouth against Najib’s speech as they are beholden to their master and boss,” said the duo adding that if they do, they do it half-heartedly and just for show.”