Allah, God, Sultans and Malaysia
After BN and specifically UMNO was slighted by the supposed loss of Chinese votes in last year’s Malaysian election, the machinery is out to punish, or so it seems. In October last year, the Malaysian court ruled that Allah can only be used by Muslims and Christians can’t use it in their bible or in any reference to their common Abrahamic God. Christians were offended and felt persecuted more when Islamic authorities seized bibles from a Christian group because of the term “Allah” in those bibles. There is no such restriction on Allah in Indonesia at the moment and those bibles were actually imported from Indonesia.
Expectations of protest and tensions are rife although there were also pockets of calm. With the court ruling on the use of Allah, this is a pivotal challenge to the Christians. Are they going to concede and give up a term they have used for years all because UMNO and the Sultans want to legitimise their Islamicness to voters? Their argument is that Allah is an Arabic term that was used even before Islam came around.The issue is more complex than that and encompasses how religions negotiate with each other, and how racial bumiputra and ketuanan Melayu politics is intertwined in Malaysia.
The emergence of Sultans as protectors of Islam is an emerging trend, besides the Brunei Sultan’s declaration of shariah law in that kingdom last year. The bible raid happened in Selangor as its Sultan put his foot down that Christians should not use the term Allah. The Johore Sultan recently decreed that weekends in Johore should be Friday and Saturday as it would be more Islamic. Sultans are now jumping into the game that they are more Islamic and Malay than UMNO and PAS. All this means is one up manship amongst each other, at the expense of the non-Malays. Rocky times up north with religion being used to win votes.
Monday, 06 January 2014 19:47
CHRISTIANS in Malaysia can no longer remain SILENT OR APOLITICAL
Written by Simon Neoh
A press conference was called by the Bible Society of Malaysia last week, only to be cancelled shortly thereafter.
No reason was given whatsoever, but judging from an earlier press statement that was released by the Society, it appears that the BSM officials did not want to kick up a fuss over what happened on the second day of the new year.
News about the raid shocked not only the local Christian community but the international community. In the most recent development over the court ruling, the international community including Islamic scholars have mocked the Malaysian Government’s stand on the ban against the use of the kalimah Allah by the Catholic Herald, despite the case still pending at the Federal Court.
In a press statement released by BSM, its officials had urged the Christian community to remain calm. This could be seen as its efforts to seek for peace with all parties, although this is against the basic teaching of Jesus Christ that one has to carry the cross and follow Him.
The Christian community has to learn to get out of their shell, and face the ugliness of Malaysian politics, which have been largely a reflection of UMNO Baru’s culture and its warlords who have been nurtured mainly by the contentious Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The Christian church can no longer live in isolation, and still remain effectively the ‘salt of the world’ – a description used by Jesus himself when talking about the preservation of society from further moral decay – rather, it is as good as salt that has lost its flavour, and only meant to be “thrown out to be trampled underfoot as worthless.” (reference: Matthew 5:13)
As aptly put it by Edward Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The church has only two options: to take the bull by its horns, or remain forever silent. It has come to the crunch as whose law it would obey.
However, the situation warrants public criticisms, whether the raid was instructed by someone higher up or otherwise. No one, including the Sultan, is not above the Federal Constitution, which is the supreme law of the country.
In the case of Selangor, the Sultan has to understand that, although Islam is the official religion in the country, the Consitution does not make provision to push for the supremacy of Islam over other religions, in the same manner where Dr Mahathir tried to create what he calls the supremacy of the Malay race.
It is dangerous that any religion should be given any form of supremacy. Today, it may be the Bible Society, but tomorrow it may be the Hindu shrine or the Buddhist temple, and this will become more rampant unless the non-Muslim community makes a final stand that it would no longer tolerate the nonsense anymore. The BSM has to take JAIS to task and bring it before the courts of this world, while waiting for the Final Judgement.
To desecrate another Holy Book is as good as putting one’s own holy book to the ridicule. Although not done in the public, this would have been done in private many thousands of times. Until such a lesson is learnt, the bullies will continue to intimidate and antagonize.
Freedom to practise other religions, as enshrined in the constitution, does not allow infringement of other religions. The JAIS has no reason to confiscate the Alkitab sold at the Bible Society of Malaysia on the premise that it was used to propagate Christianity to the Muslims, although the state enactment forbid the use of 34 words they claim to be peculiar to only the Muslim world.
With the Federal Constitution being the highest law in the country, any state enactments that go against the Federal Constitution have to be thrown out of the window. It is therefore up to the Selangor State Government now to remove these enactments that have become the centre of controversy between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in the State. The motion should not only be tabled by the non-Muslim state assemblymen, but supported vehemently by any right thinking Muslim politician from both sides of the political divide.
Language is basically a communication tool. Many of the words in Bahasa Malaysia are in fact borrowed from other languages – words like bumi, van, kek, bas, bag, beca, kad, gas, jag, gam, pam, cek, jem, pen, jip, zip, pin, tin, botol, sup, sos, and ros. There are in fact no word that can be copyrighted or becoming exclusively belonging to any community.
Words like Injil have often been used to refer to the New Testament, and prophets sent by God had existed for centuries before even Mohamad claimed himself to be a prophet. In other words, Mohamad would not have known that he was a prophet, unless the word had already existed. The enactment, formerly passed by the BN Government, along with the list of words, can be thrown out of the courts if found that it contravenes the Federal Constitution.
The raid by JAIS on the Bible Society therefore means the BSM can lodge a police report against JAIS for the illegal entry which amounts to trespassing the private premises belonging to another religious community, or file civil suit against JAIS and the Sultan, with ramifications on both sides if things come to stalemate.
While the BSM is contemplating its next move, there are others who trying to jump into the bandwagon to add insult to the injury.
Barking up the wrong tree
For example, Dr Mahathir said that the Christian community should not irritate the Muslims by insisting on using the name Allah. What the old maverick failed to understand is that the word Allah has been used even before the nation of Malaysia was formed, or the constitution drawn up.
Even within the Federal Constitution, it has only stated that Islam is the official religion; it did not restrict others from using words so-called belonging to the Muslim community. The name Allah, or Elah, does not belong to any community.
Allah cannot be defined, and can certainly not be confined to only a band of narrow-minded Muslim community in Malaysia, when everyone else around the world has condemned Malaysia’s official position about the use of the word.
Dr Mahathir has failed or probably chosen not to understand is that, in the Internet era, anyone who chooses to read a copy of the Alkitab in Bahasa Melayu can do so by just visiting http://www.youversion.com; it does not have to be just the printed copies of the Alkitab which were being confiscated physically.
What a lot of people fail to understand again is that JAIS does not report to the Menteri Besar of Selangor; instead, JAIS reports directly to the Selangor Islamic Council (MAIS) and to the Sultan of Selangor as Head of Islam in the State.
Therefore, for Penang Gerakan young lad Tan Keng Liang to call on Menteri Besar of Selangor to explain to the people what happened is simply barking at the wrong tree.
Call for Peace
Call for peace can only work when the invading party calls for truce. Under the present circumstances, BSM has to weigh its stance against the reality of more onslaughts.
If JAIS continues to raid religious institutions, it is obvious that at the losing end is the ruling coalition. For it to stay in power, it has to be able to win the hearts of the people, instead of using its political tools such as JAIS or the Utusan Malaysia to “play with fire” involving the religious sensitivities of 40% of the non-Muslim community.
Even former Home Minister, Hishamuddin Hussein is asking the rakyat to stop the ‘Allah’ row for country’s peace, when he could have dropped the charge against the Herald for using the name Allah, unless the word is used in a desecrating manner. After all, the Catholic Herald is meant only for the Catholics, and no other Christian demonization would have access to it – not to mention that any Muslim would have read the publication.
UMNO Baru, and BN, have to realise that not all Malays are supporting its cause. UMNO membership, if it is worth its salt, is just 11% of the country’s population, and with just the Christian population of 9%, with the help of Sabah and Sarawak Christian community, it is enough to finish off the Barisan Nasional Government come the 14th General Election. – Malaysia Chronicle