KOTA KINABALU – The Sabah Council of Churches has acknowledged Islam as the official religion of the Federation of Malaysia but insists there should not be an official religion in Sabah and Sarawak.
Its president, Anglican Bishop Melter Jiki Tais, applauded the statement made by former inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Mohd Noor, who said on Tuesday that the Federation of Malaysia was never meant to be an Islamic country.
“At the formation of Malaysia, while acknowledging Islam as the official religion of the federation, Islam was not the official religion in Sabah and Sarawak,” Melter told FMT.
“Though Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, it needs to be understood that Malaysia is not an Islamic country, although it is run or governed using Islamic systems and values.”
When Malaysia was formed in 1963, there was no state religion in the Bornean states.
However, amendments were made to the Sabah constitution in 1973 by then chief minister Mustapha Harun to make Islam the official religion of the state.
To this day, Islam is still Sabah’s official religion and any attempt to reverse it would need a two-thirds majority in the state legislative assembly.
Melter also voiced concern over creeping Islamisation in Sabah but added that it is not within anyone’s rights to stop Muslim missionaries from carrying out their dakwah activities.
He said it was more important to educate and strengthen the faith of Christians so that they are not easily influenced by other religions.
He also vowed not to back down on the “Allah” issue, which is still affecting the Malay-speaking Christians in the Bornean states.
“Whatever it is, we will continue to use the word ‘Allah’ till kingdom come,” he said.
The “Allah” issue refers to the 10-year battle between the federal government and the Catholic Church’s weekly newsletter, The Herald, over the church’s right to use the word “Allah” in their publication.
However, the issue affected not just The Herald but the entire Christian community in the country when in October 2013, the Court of Appeal ruled that non-Muslims could not use the word “Allah” to refer to God.
In the landmark ruling, the court said the term “Allah” must be exclusive to Islam otherwise it could cause public disorder.
The rule was more relaxed when it came to Sabahans and Sarawakians as the Christians in those states are allowed to use the term.