We can harmonise state laws with 10-point solution, says Joseph Kurup

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JANUARY 27, 2014


Tan Sri Joseph Kurup (pic), the minister in charge of interfaith matters, said he was open to suggestions that Putrajaya engage in discussions to "harmonise" the 10-point solution with state enactments which forbid non-Muslims from using the word Allah.

He said although this was his personal opinion, he was nonetheless open to suggestions that Putrajaya and state governments discuss the possibility of amending state enactments for consistency with the cabinet’s 10-point solution.

Referring to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's statement on Friday that the 10-point solution was subject to state laws, Kurup said: "That is the reality, what the PM said".

"But because some quarters are not happy, we can discuss to find a solution to 'harmonise' the two," he added.

Kurup said this at the pre-launch of the World Interfaith Harmony Week organised by the National Integration and Unity Department and the United Nations.

He also condemned the provocative acts where banners with the word "Allah" were put up in front of five churches over the weekend and Molotov cocktails were thrown into the compound of one church early this morning.

"I believe these acts are done by very irresponsible persons who only wish to see us fight. Let the police take action," he said.

Kurup added that while Putrajaya could not interfere with the raid and seizure of more than 300 Bibles in Malay and Iban from The Bible Society of Malaysia by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), he was willing to help the society get back the Bibles.

"We will use our good office to talk to them in a diplomatic way," he said.

In the 1980s, several states and their Muslim fatwa committees passed laws forbidding the use of "Allah" and several Arabic terms by non-Muslims.

This includes the 1988 Selangor enactment and the 1986 decree by the National Fatwa Council.

However, these laws were not widely enforced until 2008 when the Home Ministry banned the Catholic weekly, Herald, from using the term in the Bahasa Malaysia section of the publication.

The term is used by Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban, such as those in Sabah and Sarawak.

Two-thirds of Malaysia's 2.9 million Christians are from East Malaysia.

The word Allah has been in use for centuries in Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia Bibles.

The Herald won a High Court decision in January 2009 that overturned the Home Ministry ban.

However, the Court of Appeal then overturned that decision in 2013, saying that the word was not integral to Christianity. The church is appealing the decision.

Before the Sarawak state elections in 2011, the Najib administration led by Datuk Seri Idris Jala crafted a 10-point solution, which among others, allowed for the import and use of Bibles in all languages.

However, Jais's raid on BSM has questioned the validity of the 10-point solution on states which have laws that expressively forbid the use of the word Allah.

Last Friday, Najib said the 10-point solution allowing for the use of "Allah" in Bibles is valid for Sabah and Sarawak, and any other state that does not forbid its use among non-Muslims.

Given that part of the World Interfaith Harmony Week will involve programmes in Sabah including a Harmony Forum on February 7, Kurup was asked if the Allah issue would be discussed there.

He said that since the case was in court, all they could do was to give explanations to create a conducive environment for discussions.

Kurup, who was repeatedly asked whether the goodwill programmes his department was working on would include working with the opposition, said: "If it is for the good of the country why not, we can sit down and work together". – January 27, 2014.