A former committee member of Selangor PAS's Ulama wing, who is making a name for himself among moderate Malays, has blamed the weaknesses in state religious departments for cases of apostasy among Muslims and not proselytising by Christians.
Wan Ji Wan Husin, an ustaz or religious teacher, said it was wrong for the religious authorities to blame apostasy on use of the word “Allah” by Christians.
"To say that Christians are using the word to convert Muslims or to confuse them is wrong and untrue.
"This has never happened. The word ‘Allah’ has been used by Christians even before the time of the Prophet but never once has the Prophet said they were using it to confuse Muslims," he told The Malaysian Insider.
The PAS member instead said Muslims have turned away from the religion because of the weaknesses of the religious bodies.
"There are also the weaknesses of zakat, which is supposed to help those in need.
"There have been so many cases of poor Muslims not getting the help they need from mosques. It is the churches that reach out to them with food and shelter," he added.
The Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) had previously said that the word “Allah”, if used in Christian Bibles, was bound to cause confusion among Muslims, who might be mistaken about the identity of "Allah" and would lead them to convert.
This led to the 2009 ban of the word in Catholic weekly Herald which Christians have protested against, claiming that the restriction violated their religious rights.
Wan Ji, in criticising the ban, said there was nothing in the Quran to suggest that the word “Allah” was exclusively for Muslims.
"In fact, in the Quran, Christians were told to swear on the name of ‘Allah’ when they had to deny a charge brought against them.
He said those who forbade non-Muslims from using the word “Allah” were using the "Malay sentiment" instead of the principles of Islam.
"There is no basis of this in the teachings of the Quran and hadith. This is the Malay sentiment."
On January 2, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided the Bible Society of Malaysia’s premises in Damansara Kim and seized more than 300 Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban as they had the word “Allah” in them.
The raid is widely seen as being triggered by Herald editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew’s remark that churches in Selangor would continue to use "Allah" in their Bahasa Malaysia services following a warning from Jais to stop.
Lawrence is being investigated and may be charged with sedition.
Wan Ji said the implications of stifling the religious freedom of non-Muslims could cause the rights of Muslims to be curtailed in other countries.
"Today, Jais is stopping Christians, who are a minority, from practising their religion and tomorrow, Muslims could see the same thing happen to themselves in countries where they are the minority," the 32-year-old added.
The graduate from al-Azhar University in Egypt also lashed out at Jakim, which had recently blamed Christians and Jews for divisions among Muslims in its Friday sermon.
"It is a baseless allegation. In Islamic history, Muslims have been divided since the Prophet's time. It has nothing to do with Christians and Jews.
The word ‘Allah’ has been used by Christians even before the time of the Prophet but never once has the Prophet said they were using it to confuse Muslims.
"Don't be so good at pointing fingers at others," he said, referring to Jakim.
"Check your own weaknesses first.”
The reason Jakim blamed Christians and Jews, Wan Ji said, was to cover up its own weaknesses.
"Muslims in Malaysia are divided because there are those who preach justice according to Islam and the others who put 'Malay-ism' above everything else, including Islam."
He said his education in Egypt and Pakistan had exposed him to the true teachings of the religion and was perplexed at the difference in Islam in Malaysia.
"It has been 'Malay-nised' and puts race before religion, which is dangerous.”
In the past, Wan Ji has also attracted controversy after he allegedly made seditious comments about Malaysian royalty.
He said he was questioned six times by police for those statements.
He, however, remained adamant in his criticisms against the monarchy, saying sultans could not be called the head of religion.
"What is even more wrong in Malaysia, monarchs are also called head of religion.
"If we use that term, it means the head of religion does becomes the religion itself."
However, some of the sultans' actions goes against the religion, the Islamic scholar said.
"The image of Islam deteriorates because of these things that they do which are not right in Islam."
He named fellow PAS members Khalid Samad (Shah Alam MP) and Parit Buntar MP Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa as the "beacons of hope" in Christian-Muslim relations.
Both Khalid and Mujahid have been instrumental in "building bridges" with Christians after the “Allah” issue erupted in 2009 and have gone to more than 30 churches nationwide, holding dialogues with them.
"I am so proud of them. They epitomise what Islam is all about – peace and love.
"The weakness of Muslims in Malaysia is demanding that non-Muslims understand them when they themselves don't make any effort to understand those from the opposite faith.
"But here we have two Muslims who are doing just that and that will restore and mend strained relations between religions," he added. – February 9, 2014.