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New 'Election Weapon' of Malaysian Islamists: Christian Candidates

(UPDATED) First-ever Sunday election causes 'moral and spiritual dilemma' for Christians; meanwhile, ruling party tries to resurrect debate over Christian use of 'Allah.'

Update (May 9): Christians took a "bold political stand" in the run-up to Malaysia's significant elections last weekend, notes World Watch Monitor in a thorough report.

Churches were particularly incensed by the latest slur on their faith. Pro-Government election billboards plastered prominent pictures of churches with a message in the Malay language declaring: "Do you want to see your grandchildren praying in Allah's house? … [Not] if we allow Allah to be used by churches."

The blatant attempt to pit Muslims against Christians and resurrect Umno's ban on churches using the word ‘Allah' to denote their God has outraged the Christian Federation of Malaysia. In an outspoken statement on Tuesday, its chairman, Rev Eu Hong Seng, demanded that the authorities "act swiftly to douse the sparks of such religious fear-mongering from catching fire once more".

CT has previously reported the debate over Christian use of the word Allah.

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Update (May 3): With election day set for this Sunday, May 5, churches in Malaysia are starting to campaign for worshipers to vote, Malaysia Insider reports. Churches previously had complained that election officials set election day on a Sunday in order to discourage Christians from voting.

Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center reports that "82 percent of Malaysians said they were satisfied with the way things were going in the country, up from 76 percent in 2007."

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In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, where only 10 percent of residents are Christian, believers are taking a new approach when it comes to politics: They're running on the Islamic party's ticket.

The Wall Street Journal reports that several Christian candidates are running for election on May 5 on the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) ticket, "a surprising bid to capture the center ground in a number of key battle-ground constituencies, or electoral districts."

Analysts say the Christian candidates, a first for the Islamist party, represent PAS's attempt to keep ethnic Chinese and Indian candidates out of elected positions. In addition, the WSJ states that "selecting Christians and members of other faiths might also might help reduce some of the potential friction with PAS's coalition allies."

But one thing likely won't reduce friction between Muslims and Christians when it comes to elections: This year's Election Day falls on a Sunday, causing a "moral and spiritual dilemma" for Christians, according to Malaysia's National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF).

The WSJ also reports that the Sunday polls are a "sheer inconvenience imposed on Malaysian Christians, particularly in rural areas, some of whom would have to travel long distances to get from their morning church services to polling stations on May 5."

CT previously noted a similar election-related tensions in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, where the recent inauguration of a Christian VP was delayed in Jakarta.

Related Topics:Asia
Posted:April 22, 2013 at 10:37AM
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