Rebuffed by keepers of his own faith when he tried to preach at a
mosque last month, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was welcomed with open arms at the
church of the Holy Family in Kajang after the English and Mandarin masses
Parish priest Father George Harrison welcomed the opposition leader as "our
brother" before he gave the floor to Anwar, who vowed the 1,200-strong crowd
with his 25-minute speech on various issues.
But it was Anwar's bold and direct approach to answering the questions from
the congregation that impressed the crowd.
When he was asked about his stand on the religious issues currently affecting
the country and the rights of Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christians to use the
word Allah, Anwar said that even international Muslim scholars thought it was a
subject unworthy of debate.
"When I asked an international scholar about it, he asked me what kind of
question that was.
"I told him it was Umno's question, so he explained that Muslims recite five
times a day: "Praise be to Allah, Lord of Heaven and Earth.
"So, if Allah is Lord for the entire universe, how can there be limitations?"
Anwar pointed out.
He also stressed that for Umno, the Allah issue was clearly not about
"If it was, then their stand must be binding on all. But in this case they
are saying Sabah and Sarawak can use the word but not in the peninsula," Anwar
said to loud cheers.
He then joked that this meant that a person who boarded a flight from Kuching
to Kuala Lumpur will say "Insyallah I'm going to KL" when he gets on the flight
but when he lands, he will have to say "Alhamdu Lord".
Anwar’s meeting of the Catholics at the Holy Family church hall comes amidst
religious tension between Muslims and Christians which was reignited last year
when the Court of Appeal had ruled in October that the Catholic weekly Herald
could not use the word Allah in its publication.
The church is appealing the decision.
Herald had won a High Court decision in January 2009 that had overturned the
Home Ministry's ban on the use of the word Allah in its publication.
The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) further stoked the tension
when it raided The Bible Society of Malaysia's premises in early January and
seized more than 300 Bibles, including the Bup Kudus, because they contained the
The term Allah is used by Christians who worship in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban,
such as those in Sabah and Sarawak.
Two-thirds of Malaysia's 2.9 million Christians are from Sabah and
Mindful of the possible consequences of his visit to the Holy Family Church,
Anwar said if Umno-controlled media would use his church visit against him, they
should take note that he had been speaking at churches since his activist days
in the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Abim) in the 1970s.
He added that he continued giving his views at church events even as a
"So to the Umno-controlled media here, note that I have been going to church,
I'm here now, and Insyallah,I will continue to do so."
In an obvious response to critics who had chided him for standing as an
assemblyman, after he was once acting prime minister, Anwar admitted that he had
gone from one extreme to the other and his experiences would help him.
"I was right up there as acting PM and then went to prison, so I'm wiser and
have benefited from all my life's experiences," he said.
Anwar’s visit to the Holy Family church is part of his meet-the-people
programme ahead of the Kajang by-election, which he is contesting as a PKR
His "rock star" appeal was obvious with parishioners excitedly waiting for
nearly three hours to catch him in action.
When Anwar appeared just before noon, there was thunderous applause and
everybody tried to capture the moment with the cameras on their handphones.
The multi-purpose hall was packed, with many having to stand.
Dressed smartly in a light pink striped shirt and brown pants, the crowd
cheered when Anwar spoke about how he had brought international fame to
"The international media mentioned me in their news, saying that my decision
to stand here in 'Kay Jang' shocked my friends and foes," he said to rapturous
Beaming from ear to ear, a 72-year old parishioner, who wants to be known
only as Alex, said: "I have heard him speak many times, and I wouldn't want to
"We totally support him and want to hear what he has to say, especially on
the Allah issue," he added.
Alex said that during the 8.30am mass, their priest had told the congregation
to welcome the opposition leader as "he is our brother".
Alex said that to address the concern among a small group of parishioners
who had questioned the wisdom of allowing Anwar to speak at their parish for
fear of a backlash from Muslim extremists, Harrison had told his congregation
"not to be afraid".
"I believe the church's stand is to accept everybody, so even if it was an
Umno politician who wanted to speak in our church, we are not going to say no,"
Debbie, a housewife, agreed, saying that she and her friends were eager to
hear Anwar's plans.
"As Christians we are taught never to resort to violence, and we stick to
"But the country needs a change of political power because what we want is
unity not just in talk, but in action."
Another parishioner Andrew Loh agreed, saying that Christians were concerned
over the Allah issue and wanted to hear what Anwar had to say about it.
"The Allah case is in court because that is the only avenue for us. As Debbie
said, we will not resort to violence, but it is our right to go to court," he
Bernard, 45, agreed, saying that the case was about principles and the
"rights of Christians".
Marcel, 50, said he fully backed Anwar as Selangor menteri besar as it was
necessary for the latter to get back into mainstream politics.
Also present were Centre for Reform, Democracy and Social Initiatives
director Datuk Seri Dr Edmund Santhara and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali.
Others include his party colleagues comprising Subang MP R.Sivarasa, Batu MP
Tian Chua, Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming,Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, PKR vice
president Datuk Chua Jui Meng.
The Election Commission has set March 23 as the polling date for the Kajang
by-election, the country’s third since the general election last May, while
nomination is on March 11.
Early voting has been fixed for March 19.
PKR”s Lee Chin Cheh won the Kajang state seat in Election 2013 with a
6,824-vote majority in the constituency that is 48% Malay, 41% Chinese and 10%
Lee had garnered 19,571 votes followed by Lee Ban Seng of the BN with 12,747
votes. Mohamad Ismail of Berjasa obtained 1,014 votes.
The three independent candidates who contested the seat were Mohd Iwan Jefrey
Abdul Majib (249 votes), Ong Yan Foo (85 votes) and Mohd Khalid Kassim (83
The latest to indicate his intention to contest the seat is former minister
in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.
Zaid is the third independent candidate with former PKR links to join the
Kajang by-election, after Anwar’s former tennis partner Senator Datuk S.
Nallakarupan and Anwar's former legal assistant Yuktes Vijay.
The Barisan Nasional has yet to indicate its choice of candidate but MCA
vice-president Datuk Paduka Chew Mei Fun is widely tipped to be the party's
choice. – February 16, 2014.