Hornbill Unleashed

November 17, 2013

Concern rises Allah ban is Umno’s SINISTER PLOY but it may lead to a M’sia without Sarawak

Concern rises Allah ban is Umno's SINISTER PLOY but it may lead to a M'sia without S'wakChristopher Fernandez, Stan Lee

Now that the issue of restricting or prohibiting the Catholic weekly newspaper “The Herald” from using the word Allah is set to go to the apex court in the country, there are more puzzling questions that have arisen over what is seen as a “non-issue” that now threatens to disrupt and divide the fabric of the nation.

How on earth and for what good reason should this issue drag on and become a protracted crisis when it should not have erupted at all in the first place? While the home ministry has the right to impose restrictions and prohibitions on a publication if it is deemed necessary, in this event it appears to have gone overboard.

In fact, many now believe the entire episode is a devious conspiracy hatched by Umno, which leads the federal government, to undermine not just the rights of the Christians in Malaysia but also the constitutional rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians in their own land. In one fell swoop, so to speak, Umno gets to blast away at two more skittles in its path towards complete and some say, eternal political hegemony.

Sinister ploy by the federal government to change the Malaysia agreements?

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is the Umno president, has made the situation worse, failing to convince East Malaysians who became even more agitated by his double-talk. When visiting Sabahans and Sarawakians, he assured they could continue to use Allah and that only The Herald could not. But when he went back to the ‘semenanjung’ or peninsula, on ‘Maal Hijrah’ day, he vowed to defend the ‘exclusivity’ of the word for Muslims.

In any case, the Christians in Sarawak and Sabah are not ignorant. They have sought their own legal opinion and reject as ‘propaganda’ the view that the Court of Appeal ruling does not affecting East Malaysians. They believe they are being duped into accepting a sinister and fundamental change to their condition of becoming Malaysian citizens.

Certainly, this is not what they had bargained for when they joined up in 1963, and they now want immediate affirmation from the federal government of their status and their rights. They demand transparency and clarity and woe betide the Umno-BN should it fail to provide satisfactory answers.

It must be remember that East Malaysians too read The Herald and cannot comprehend why this newsletter, with a humble subscription and meant only for Christians, should not use Allah. For generations, Malaysian Catholics in the country have been using the word to refer to Almighty God, why now at this juncture should a prohibition be imposed?

Is there any evidence at all that “The Herald” is involved in proselytizing activities among the Malay community?

What confusion does the use of the word “Allah” by Christians create among Malay Muslims unless they are unsure and uncertain of their own Islamic faith? This certainly doesn’t call for any prohibition on the use of the word by The Herald.

A very ‘loaded’ non-issue: Sultan weighs in

It is most telling that just after the Sarawak Church gave due warning, calling for an end to the conflicting and unusually confusing verbal opinions from the various ministers including Najib himself, the Sultan of Selangor saw fit to issue a reminder that all non-Muslims must not use the word.

The evident political play has added to the sense that the shock ruling was not just another decision by some ‘loose canon balls’ at the Court of Appeal, nor a vendetta against The Herald, but may be a sly and deliberately engineered conspiracy to erode the rights of Sabahans and Sarawakians.

Upon the ruling by the Court of Appeal, after the High Court has already seen it rightly and fit and proper for The Herald to use the word, the influence and pressure of extremist Islamic groups and fundamental Muslims and Malay rights action groups were underestimated.

It was this capitulating under pressure by the BN government that is now set to cause tension and animosity and raise suspicion and distrust. In hindsight, there is absolutely no basis for the home ministry to poke its nose into a reputable newspaper like The Herald which is circulated in Catholic churches only and not available to the general public.

The issue threatens to undermine and question Malaysia’s democracy and the right to freedom of worship as enshrined in the Constitution. This clearly is a classic example whereby the home ministry has acted beyond its powers and understanding and crossed the line to create a breach of the rules of democratic governance.

But worse is to come as Catholics in the east Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak are referring to their 20-point and 18-point Agreement respectively when they joined the Federated Malay States to form Malaysia.

The home ministry has usurped its powers

From day one of this saga unveiling, the home minister had acted in a high handed and unreasonable manner as to suggest that he usurped his powers. There is absolutely no ounce of rationality in the decision by the home minister to prohibit The Herald from using the word Allah.

The prohibition imposed was rightly challenged by the Titular head of the Roman Catholic Church of Malaysia and Singapore, Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam as the Archbishop and the decision of the High Court should have been as good as binding until the appeal to a higher court was made by instigators who were absolutely clueless as to what they were doing.

The pressure from the lunatic fringe groups was strong and mounting and sparked fears of Islamophobia among Malaysians who were witness to how viciously the Catholic Church was being persecuted and for no rhyme or reason.

While The Herald all along for decades have been using the word Allah without misuse or abuse and have conformed perfectly well to the laws governing its printing, circulation and distribution, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the home ministry has erred gravely in law as to the right of the use of the word Allah.

In a further scenario, the prohibition of the use of the word Allah causes Malaysia to be viewed as being out of touch with prevailing global realities as this is the only country in the world where the use of the word Allah is prohibited in a well meaning publication.

It gives the impression that Malaysia has descended into the status of a rogue state where they apply laws and implement them according to their whims and fancies without any conformity to facts and truth.

The scenario ahead

The truth of the matter as it stands now is that this non-issue, a grave oversight on the part of the home minister, has caused a great deal of tension and misery and unhappiness especially in the east of Malaysia in the states of Sabah and Sarawak.

Conflicting statements have been issued since the decision arrived at by the Court of Appeal and it appears at this stage, unless they backtrack again, that only The Herald is prohibited from using the word Allah.

But why single out The Herald and victimize it? The cry from the east of Malaysia is that the word Allah should be allowed to be used by all Catholics in whichever way they choose, including in The Herald, which is widely circulated in Sabah and Sarawak.

There should be no prohibition or restriction whatsoever as these East Malaysian Christians point out in reference to their Agreements before joining Malaysia. This really is a flashpoint and a terrible slap in the face to the home minister for creating this thoughtless scenario.

There is absolutely no basis for this scenario where The Herald is prohibited for using the word Allah. It reeks of perfect mischief and can be viewed as a frivolous decision by the home ministry to set in motion and trigger a “playing with fire” episode in this country as religious issues tend to be.

The feel of the ground in the east of Malaysia now is rising anger and resentment over this issue but they are controlling their pent-up emotions in the hope that when the matter goes to the Federal Court, fair play and justice will prevail, if not just plain common sense.

But it is astonishing and astounding that such a serious matter such as this can so flippantly surface which goes to show that government officials should learn to put their thinking caps on before arriving at such decisions or at least consult the Catholic church with whatever queries they may have to clear the air.

As it stands, the decision to prohibit The Herald is a sign of the state of poor governance by Barisan Nasional in this country as it is out-of-sync with the prime minister’s directive that Malaysia is all for the Global Movement of Moderates and shuns extremism of any kind.

Clearly in prohibiting The Herald from using the word Allah, it has violated the spirit and nature of Malaysia being a moderate country that strives to take the middle path with that inclusiveness of all Malaysians in the spirit of Satu Malaysia.

1 Comment »

  1. Sabah and Sarawak must quit SapuMalaysia now.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — November 18, 2013 @ 12:00 PM | Reply

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