KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 — Braving religious fire, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has censured Islamic supremacists for their inflexible stance towards non-Muslims by declaring on Twitter that “lousy unthinking Muslims” are undermining the creed of peace.
The former minister lashed out at one-time Umno colleague, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, after the home minister told non-Muslims yesterday to stop challenging Islam and its devotees by insisting on calling their gods “Allah”, a word Muslims here believe to belong exclusively to them.
“I don’t think Zahid Hamidi is suitable as home minister.
“The only people who are challenging Islam are the lousing unthinking Muslims,” said Zaid, who was the de facto law minister during the Abdullah administration and who was given the boot for opposing the detention-without-trial of government dissenters in 2008.
The prominent Malay-Muslim lawyer added that Malaysia was performing moderately well in tackling corruption to build up its economy.
“However rank bottom in tolerance and commonsense index,” he posted on his Twitter account, @zaidibrahim.
Ahmad Zahid was not the only one who drew the 62-year-old former lawyer’s ire.
Zaid also chided the local Catholic Church for pushing its claim on the word “Allah” through the courts.
“For the Catholic Church to apply to dismiss the government’s appeal is wrong,” he told The Malay Mail Online when contacted today, arguing that the government has the right to appeal the High Court’s landmark that allowed Christians the right to also call their god by the Middle Eastern word.
Ahmad Zahid, an Umno vice-president whose outspokenness in defending Islam ahead of the party’s election in October has not gone unnoticed, had yesterday said he respected Malaysia’s minority religions and insisted they respect Islam’s stand on the exclusive use of “Allah” for Muslims.
“This is not a matter of rights but this is more than an absolute right, the word ‘Allah’ is an absolute right for Islam, full stop,” he told reporters at the Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia’s Aidilfitri celebration here.
The tussle over the word “Allah” will return to the courts on August 22, when the Court of Appeal hears the Catholic Church’s bid to strike out Putrajaya’s appeal against the 2009 High Court ruling upholding the Christians’ right to use the Arabic word.
Two civil rights activists contacted by The Malay Mail Online, however, believed the Catholic Church had not made a misstep in filing to dismiss the government’s appeal.
Instead, they viewed the warning to non-Muslims to stop challenging Islam as a threat that could jeopardise efforts to bridge the growing faith divide.
Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan told The Malay Mail Online that the Catholic Church has the right to challenge the sensitive word.
“So to have a minister say that, making those statement will not help with interfaith relations.
“At the end of the day, non-Muslims have felt more and more alienated in the past few years in their own country [and] it doesn’t look as if this government care for the non-Muslims,” he said over the phone.
“It would appear that Muslim rights overrides the rights of other religion and I think this is the problem.”
Syahredzan pointed out that although Muslims make up the majority of Malaysians, as a democratic nation, the government has to also protect the rights of the minority.
“When you have a minister saying things like this, it moves towards strengthening the attitude that Malay Muslims are entitled.
“These issues have been pegging the society for the past few years and it is not getting better,” he said.
Eric Paulsen, co-founder and adviser of legal group, Lawyers for Liberty, also agreed that the minister’s forceful stance in the issue was unnecessary.
“The minister’s belligerent stand over the Allah issue is certainly not helpful, but it is also not ideal to resolve this through the courts as either way, the decision would not be accepted by the losing party.
“What is needed is a genuine dialogue between all the stake holders concerned and resolve it once and for all,” he told The Malay Mail Online over the phone.
Paulsen said that whatever the court decides, it might appear to be a forceful and authoritarian directive.
“This calls for a serious and good faith consultation and both parties must meet and thrash it out.
“There should be an extra effort to resolve this, not through the courts, but with genuine discussion with opposing parties because either way… this would not have been accepted by the losing party,” the lawyer said.
BY MELISSA CHI, The Malay Mail