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’Allah’ again in eye of political intrigue

Unity talks between Malay parties break down

’Allah’ again in eye of political intrigue
Recent “unity talks” between Malaysia’s two major Malay-Muslim political parties broke down over the “Allah” issue, an online newspaper has reported. “The Malaysian Insider” reported on Jan. 5 that UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), the main party in the ruling coalition, and PAS (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party), a component party of the opposition People’s Alliance, held talks on Christmas Eve with the Malaysian King on the need for political unity among the country’s majority Malays, who are all Muslims. However, disagreement over allowing non-Muslims to use the word “Allah” to refer to God in the Malay language resulted in a breakdown in the talks. PAS leaders have in the past defended Malay-speaking Christians using the term “Allah,” arguing that the Qur’an does not prohibit non-Muslims from using the word. UMNO leaders, however, have maintained that allowing non-Muslims to use the word would confuse Muslims. The country’s Islamic scholars are divided over the matter. The controversy became prominent when on Dec. 31, 2009 the Catholic weekly “Herald” won a court case against a government ban on using the term “Allah” in its Malay-language section. The government has since won a stay on the court decision, following Muslim protests as well as arson and vandalism attacks on Christian places of worship in several places. Prime Minister Najib Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and former Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi reportedly attended the Dec. 24 talks in Kuala Lumpur. On the PAS side was Nik Aziz Nik Mat, chief minister of Kelantan state, who over the past few days has called for respect for the confidentiality of the meeting. He said he went to the meeting out of respect for the former prime minister, who invited him. UMNO and PAS have in the past held several “unity talks,” which caused concern among the People’s Alliance’s other component parties. Related reports Kuala Lumpur prelate calls on PM to join talks Malaysians sentenced for church burning ML12710.1635
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