Vatican City ambassador to Malaysia Archbishop Joseph Marino's controversial support for the use of word 'Allah' amongst Christians has created a religious furor with Malay Muslim groups demanding immediate apology or ouster of the diplomat.
Marino was reported lauding the local church's campaign to include the Arabic word 'Allah' as god amongst Christians.
The archbishop's open support has not gone down well with several Muslim groups who have considered the move as insensitive and highly offensive for Muslims and Malaysians.
Malaysian High court's ruling in 2009 had said the term 'Allah' was not exclusive to Islam. However, the decision has faced major flak in the Muslim-dominated country and the Home Ministry has ever since tried to overturn the ruling. Even PM Najib Razak had in April expressed his support for the withdrawal of the ruling which many Malaysian Muslims found was against their religious beliefs.
The recent Marino's open support for the opposite has snowballed into a major storm.
Malay rights groups Jati and Perkasa have been quite vocal slamming the Vatican envoy's comments and demanded an immediate apology within seven days lest he would be ousted.
Jati president Datuk Hasan Ali told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, "We strongly criticise the statement made by Archbishop Marino. The diplomat has misused his immunity by interfering with matters of the country."
"He has only been here for a month and half and already he has caused us so much concern. What more two years?"
Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali also clearly stated his displeasure saying, "First, we criticise his statement. Second, he has seven days to retract his statement."
"Third, if he fails to do so, we will urge the government to shut the embassy and chase him out," he said while cautioning, "He has to mind his words," reported Malaysian Insider.
Ibrahim also urged the PM's support in taking a firm stand and dealing with the matter at the earliest.
While Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom from the Prime Minister's Department said in a statement on Saturday, "The religious tolerance in this country should be taken into account when issuing statements that could be interpreted as disrupting racial harmony in Malaysia."
However, the president of the Council of Churches Malaysia, Bishop Philip Lok upholding Marino's support said that Christians have always been subjected to bashing from groups like Perkasa and others and wanted the PM's intervention to "do the right thing and reject extremism".
The archbishop's move was lauded by The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) deputy president Jagir Singh who said Marino had done the right thing and supported what was true.
As for retraction of Marino's statement, Singh believed it was unjustified, "It is not fair to ask him to do that. It is his right. The Archbishop's stand is correct."