By Clara Chooi
Assistant News Editor
PETALING JAYA, Feb 8 — With the “Allah” controversy raging on, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin stepped in today to pledge “justice for all races”, saying the basis of the government’s work is to ensure every ethnic group in multiracial Malaysia is not marginalised.
But the deputy prime minister stressed that “justice” in this context must take into consideration the level of development and socio-economic status of each community.
“This has also been interpreted and explained through the government’s policies and provisions in the Federal Constitution... that all levels of society must be protected,” Muhyiddin (picture) said at the launch of the school-level “Religious Harmony Week” at SM Seksyen 3 Bandar Kinrara here.
Malaysia’s interfaith ties have worsened over the years, resulting from a series of racially-charged incidents like the ongoing debate over the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims.
While Muslim liberals, both political and non-partisan, have agreed that the word can be used by those who do not profess Islam, conservatives have insisted otherwise, driving a deeper wedge between Christians and Muslims here.
But Muhyiddin emphasised the message of unity today as a reminder amid the ongoing tension, saying that unity is a “pre-requisite” to Malaysia’s 2020 dream of becoming a developed nation.
He reminded the people of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s “1 Malaysia” platform and its objective of achieving unity, tolerance and, more importantly, “acceptance” among the country’s many races
“It is to guarantee stability and harmony, towards achieving true development,” he told the crowd of students.
“The government has always stressed on the need for acceptance among Malaysians... whereby one race accepts the uniqueness of another, in order for us to live together and respect one another as fellow citizens of the same country,” he added.
The dispute over the use of the word “Allah”, which erupted four years ago, shortly after Election 2008, continues to rage in the run-up to the 13th general election, which must be called by April when the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal government’s mandate expires.
In Malaysia, the Malays, who formed 60 per cent of the 28 million population, are constitutionally defined to also be Muslims, which is why race and religion are treated as inseparable issues in the country.