Hornbill Unleashed

October 19, 2013

Pakatan stand is critical to ‘Allah’ calm

Filed under: Politics,religion — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
Tags: , , , , ,

Terence Netto

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has said that Pakatan Rakyat would announce its stand on the ‘Allah’ issue after its leadership council meets today.

Further, and more significantly, Anwar revealed that coalition component PAS would craft the Pakatan stand which its partners PKR and DAP would support.

Carping critics of Pakatan’s ideological cohesion ought to take note of the nuances: the opposition coalition is not as incoherent as they like to contend, and difficult questions pertaining to Islamic religion are ceded the partner best equipped to finesse them.

But it is difficult to see how the Pakatan stand, as crafted by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, an ulama, can be any clearer that what Hadi himself had expressed last Saturday – that the term ‘Allah’ is not exclusive to Muslims.

On the eve of the court’s ruling, Hadi had opined that Muslims cannot prevent Jews and Christians from using the term.

However, he held that Muslims would be concerned if such use is done in ways that subtract from the reverence the term ordinarily evokes among believers.

Christians, particularly those on the peninsula, could take heart at the opinion simply from its acknowledgement that the term ‘Allah’ is not exclusive to Muslims.

Such exclusiveness is the core of the Umno stance on the matter and the nub of last Monday’s ruling by the Court of Appeals.

It’s a political call

Today’s statement on the Pakatan stand is expected to restate the impermissibility of the term’s privatisation for exclusive Malay Muslim use and reiterate concerns about the term’s hypothetical debasement from trifling employment.

NONEFurther, the statement may well aim to caution proselytes against using the term to disturb or confuse the faith of ordinary Muslims.

If thusly constructed and stated, it is difficult to see how Christian Malaysians could take exception to the Pakatan stand.

Acknowledgement that the term ‘Allah’ has a lineage of revered use dating back to pre-Islamic times ought to be hugely satisfying to Malaysia’s Christians.

Whether this would prompt a rethink on the part of the Catholic Church in the Kuala Lumpur archdiocese of its intention to take its case for the right to use the ‘Allah’ term to the country’s apex court is doubtful.

There is just as good a case that can be made against the move to appeal as can be made for it.

Considerations against appealing hinge on an assessment of circumstance rather than on a judgement solely of the case’s merits. In other words, it is a political call.

Opinion is fast congealing around the interpretation that the Court of Appeals’ judgment was based on politics rather than on the constitution and the law.

Umno’s stance on the matter is also viewed as based on politics and a desire to control the Islamic narrative in this country rather than anything nobler.

Politics of this nature is inherently unreasonable but it is not impermeable to the currents of spreading education, the play of accumulating reason, and the passage of time in which reappraisals of positions can be expected on to take place in climates conceivably more propitious for change.

Interfaith dialogue

Take for example, the trajectory traced by Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the PAS MP for Parit Buntar and intrepid exponent of dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

NONEIf Christians consider what Mujahid (right) has recently been about and put it against the very first presidential speech that his father, Yusof Rawa, president of PAS from 1983 to 1989, delivered at the party’s muktamar in November 1983, they will shake their heads in bemusement.

Yusof, holder of the not inconsiderable distinction of having defeated Dr Mahathir Mohamad for the parliamentary seat of Kota Setar Selatan in the general elections of 1969, raised in his presidential address what was then a common Islamic trope: the supposed international plot to ‘Christianise’ Indonesia.

Non-Muslim observers of Islamic politics in Malaysia, appraising the PAS decision taken in 1982 to opt for ulama leadership of their party, could only wring their hands in dismay at what, from points raised in Yusof’s speech, the change in the ideological tone of the Islamic party’s leadership portended for the future.

Three decades on, Yusof’s son, Mujahid, is leading the fight forinterfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

Shall we say, past errors can urge grand retrievals by loved offspring on behalf of admired though fallible forebears.


  1. Pakatan’s stand must be in tandem with the Federal constitution and with universal Islamic teaching. The ban by Muslim judges sitting as Court of Appeal judges was unIslamic and a breach of constitutional guarantee on freedom of religion and practise in Malaysia.

    Comment by Irene Kana — October 19, 2013 @ 4:56 PM | Reply

    • They are either half past six judges or they were bought over by Umno Baru.

      Comment by Peter Sawai — October 19, 2013 @ 8:43 PM | Reply

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