Najib touches base with Muslim NGOs as tensions rise over ‘Allah’

Putrajaya — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak met with over 40 Malay Muslim groups today to calm simmering tempers over the long drawn out “Allah” dispute that has driven a deep wedge between Christians and Muslims in the country.

According to a representative of the group, the country’s top leader explained that his continued silence over the controversy had been to avoid causing further strain to religious ties here.

Najib’s administration has come under fire of late for over the “Allah” row that remains unresolved four years.

Grassroots movements have repeatedly called on the government to take decisive stand on issues pertaining to the use the term “Allah” by non-Muslims after the raid and subsequent seizure of Malay and Iban language bibles on the Bible Society of Malaysia.

“The meeting today was to explain on current issues and to ask for their support for the government,” Najib told reporters after chairing 40-minute meeting.

“We talked about rising cost, social media and the usage of the word Allah... there are difference in opinion but that shouldn’t divide us,” he said.

Met at the sidelines of the meeting today, Islamic Da’wah Foundation (Yadim) president Ashraf Wajdi Dusuki said the prime minister explained to representatives that the government is currently embroiled “in a battle of perception”.

“The people are restless. We are flooded with information that most of the time is not true or contains half-truth. Most of the news are somewhat slanderous,” he said.

Ashraf said among the prevalent views were from Muslim NGOs who felt that the government has not been stern enough when managing issues affecting their community.

He said the prime minister told the NGOs that he has done his best to ward off conflict over the use of “Allah”, but also reminded them that he is the prime minister for all races and religions.

“Najib added that hatred should not be fueled further and pointed out that the Muslim NGOs have a big role to play in this,” he added.

“We are in the midst of a battle of perception and the side that wins that battle will take in the lead on social media,” said Ashraf, who facilitated today’s meeting.

The touchy issue resurfaced on January 2 when the Selangor Islamic Religious Department raided the Bible Society of Malaysia and confiscated over 300 Malay and Iban language bibles.

The scriptures contained the term “Allah”, which is prohibited under the state’s Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988.