Malaysian authorities have asked Vatican's ambassador to the country to retract his support for the use of the word "Allah" among Christians, saying it can threaten unity among Malaysians.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department JamilKhir Baharom said the statement by the ambassdor Archbishop Joseph Marino should not be made by any quarters, out of respect to the sensitivities of Muslims in the country.
"The religious tolerance in this country should be taken into account when issuing statements that could be interpreted as disrupting racial harmony in Malaysia," Jamil said in a statement yesterday.
Marino had on Thursday expressed his support to the Christian Federation of Malaysia's stand to allow the use of the word "Allah" among Christians while referring to God.
In 2009, Malaysia's High Court ruled that the word was not the exclusive right of Muslims. The Home Ministry had since appealed to reverse the decision.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has saidhis government will continue to uphold Islam and protect its sanctity, including protecting the use of the word "Allah" with the mandate given by the people.
"Malaysia is peaceful, unlike in North Africa and the Middle East, because we choose the middle path and moderation, which are the best ways according to Islam," he said last night adding that "If we are inclusive and reject unfair policies and fanatical beliefs, Allah will bless our struggle and leadership.
Muslim affairs non-governmental organisation (NGO) Nassar Foundation chairman Nasharudin Mat Isa urged Marino, who is the first ambassador of the Holy See to Malaysia, to retract his statement, as the issue of the use of the word "Allah" was of a sensitive nature.
"Muslim NGOs have demanded that the Foreign Affairs Ministry issue a warning to Marino, asking him to retract his statement. Marino should learn to understand the sensitivities of this nation and to not interfere with the internal affairs of this country," he said.
Malaysia is a Muslim majority country. Sixty per cent of its 28 million people are Malays who are all Muslims. Ethnic Chinese form 25 per cent of the population and are mostly Buddhists or Christians. Eight per cent are ethnic Indians, a majority of whom are Hindus.