Press Statement (2) by Charles Santiago in Klang on Thursday, 22nd January 2009:
The word 'Allah' is not a monopoly of UMNO
Arabic speakers of all Abrahamic faith, including Christians and Jews use the word "Allah" to mean God. Abrahamic faith denotes any or all the religions including Islam, Christianity and Judaism that revere Abraham, the Biblical patriarch.
The Christian Arabs of today have no other word for God than Allah. Even today's Christians' Arabic bibles use the word Allah for God and in the Middle East, Christians sometimes name their children "Abdallah".
According to Wikipedia, the Arabic-descended Maltese language of Malta, whose population is almost entirely Roman Catholic, uses Allah for God. The only difference is that they spell it Alla.
That is not all. The Arab Jews in Medina used the word Allah for God in their holy scriptures.
Therefore, since when did the word Allah become the monopoly of ruling UMNO and the Muslim world? Instead of prohibiting Catholic weekly "Herald" from using the word Allah, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar should learn to google for facts and information.
Issuing subtle threats to ban the weekly altogether would not go down well in multi-religious Malaysia. Neither would Syed Hamid's snappy remarks about being tolerant towards other religions in the country as he makes it out to mean non-Muslims should be grateful to be allowed to practice their respective faiths.
The senior cabinet minister must also refrain from making an issue out of a non-issue especially since Herald's editor Father Lawrence Andrew has clearly said that the word Allah has been used as a translation for God, for centuries in Malaysia.
It was not meant to hurt the sensitivities of Muslims.
But it is clear that Syed Hamid is using this dispute to score brownie points with the Malays, who have shunned the ruling government. This was evident at last year's general election which saw the ruling coalition's worst ever performance and at the weekend by-election in Kuala Terengganu which was won by PAS.
Further attempts to manipulate the issue for political gains would, inevitably, create a backlash from the public and especially the Malay community who are fed-up with populist measures undertaken by the government and UMNO.
* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang