PETALING JAYA: Finding solutions to the contentious issue over the usage of “Allah” by Christians and the uproar over the seizure of bibles by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) will be the first major test for the inaugural National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) meeting today.
Although the issue is not officially on the agenda, members are expected to make it a key topic.
Deputy panel chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said it was not listed in the agenda because preparations for the first meeting were made before the latest developments.
“I have spoken to NUCC chairman Tan Sri Samsudin Osman, who has also agreed to allow discussions on the issue. We believe it should be because it has vital implications on national unity,” Lee said.
He said the council would look at all angles on how to tackle the issue in an appropriate manner.
“We must bear in mind the importance of religious harmony and the impact of the issue on national unity,” he said.
Lee said the council was tasked with coming out with a national unity blueprint, adding that members were expected to speak up “boldly and frankly”.
“With high public expectations, our task is arduous and challenging. There has been a negative perception towards the council from the very start and a lot of effort needs to be put in to address the negativity,” he added.
Lee said one of the proposals to be discussed was to hold dialogues to engage the people and listen to them on critical issues.
“The NUCC must be prepared to be bold in tackling divisive issues and addressing the concerns and frustrations of all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion,” he said, adding that the public must also view the council positively as a means of promoting unity.
Panel member Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said it would be a test for panel members to find out if the NUCC was going to work.
“It will be a big task. Hopefully, we can call for something to be done about it. The Government cannot allow it to continue or it will become worse,” she said.
Marina said the council members needed to have credibility and should be taken seriously.
She said the council’s job was to come up with a blueprint on national unity and did not have any authority but the Government had the power to do the right thing.
In launching the NUCC on Nov 23, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said it was part of the Government’s commitment to ensure that unity among races remained solid.
On Dec 14, the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, decreed that all citizens in the state should abide by the prohibition on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims under the Non-Islamic Religious (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.
On Dec 27, Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Catholic weekly The Herald, said churches in Selangor would continue using “Allah” in services using the Malay language although Jais had sent a reminder on the ban on the usage of the word by non-Muslims.
Last Thursday, Jais officers raided the office of the Bible Society of Malaysia in Damansara Kim and seized about 350 copies of the Bible and Christian publications on grounds that they infringed the 1988 enactment.
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