Hornbill Unleashed

November 19, 2013

Listen, learn and do no harm

Jeswan Kaur

The Barisan Nasional government, state rulers and bigots refuse to listen and learn on the Allah issue

First God was ‘put on trial. Then came the politicising of  to whom God or Allah ‘belongs’ to. And despite there being sufficient proof that shows Allah is not exclusive to the Malays, the truth has been hard to digest by zealots who continue to stake claim on ‘Allah’.

The country’s leaders and the judiciary remain adamant that only Muslims can utter the word ‘Allah’.

The High Court even refused the Herald, a weekly publication of the Catholic Church the right to use ‘Allah’ in its writings.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had said previously that the ruling would not affect Sabah and Sarawak, while separately another Cabinet minister claimed that Christians from the Borneo states could also use the word in peninsula Malaysia.

They were silent, however, on whether the Herald ruling meant the publication could be distributed in Sabah and Sarawak.

According to a 2010 census, Muslims are Malaysia’s largest religious group, followed by Buddhists. Christians are the third largest at 2.6 million, which comes up to about 10% of the entire Malaysian population.

Bumiputera Christians, who form about 64% or close to two-thirds of the Christian community in Malaysia, have been using the word “Allah” in praying and when speaking in the national language and in their native tongues for centuries.

The situation remains tense with the Federal Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) continuing to misuse Friday sermons to strike war between the non-Malays and Malays.

In its latest Friday sermon, Jakim urged the federal government to consider internet censorship to stop attacks against Islam.

The sermon stated that given the challenges posed by anti-Islam groups through information technology, it was important for Muslims to use whatever reasonable strategy available including social media to counter, answer and ward off the propaganda by the enemies of Islam.

Will non-Malays cower?

With the ‘powers that be’, courts and authorities partial to Malay interests and trying to cower the non-Malays into subjugation, what more has to happen for the latter to awaken to the rude fact that they are indeed being played about?

While the Oct 14 unjust ruling by the Court of Appeal hurt the non-Malays, did they resort to protests, threats or intimidation? No.

And did the racial persecution end after the court ruled in favour of the Barisan Nasional administration?

No. Instead, it has taken a life of its own, with Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Al-Haj, the Sultan of Selangor, decreeing twice that non-Malays in the nation’s richest state cannot use the word ‘Allah’ verbally and in writings.

It was hitting below the belt when Selangor mufti Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid said it was alright for everyone to sing and mention the word ‘Allah’ in the state anthem as it had been integrated under the law.

“Everyone can sing and say the word. It can be used. By singing the state anthem, everybody, including the non-Muslims, are praying for the sultan’s well-being. Thus it is not wrong,” he had said.

The ludicrous rationale allowing the non-Malays to partake in the Selangor state anthem is appalling. The non-Malays there cannot mention the word ‘Allah’ because Sultan Sharafuddin takes offense; yet the Sultan has no objection to the non-Malays uttering ‘Allah’ while singing the state anthem because it concerns his well-being.

Such self-interest rings true the words of the Bar Council Human Rights Committee co-chair Andrew Khoo who believes Sultan Sharafuddin may not have been fully advised by the state’s Islamic authorities, leading him to only hear one side of the issue.

“All I would say is that he has not been properly advised… Perhaps he had only heard from one side. I think it would be appropriate for His Royal Highness to talk to more people, like other communities.

“I don’t think he has talked to the Muslim community, but just the people who control Islam, people who manage Islam in the state. That is not the same as talking to Muslims, ” Khoo had told The Malay Mail Online.

Power vs faith

The word “Allah” is currently used in the Malay version of the Bible, known as the Al-Kitab which is imported from Indonesia.

Sultan Sharafuddin justified his decree by claiming that it was to avoid causing confusion among Muslims in Selangor.

“His Majesty urges all citizens residing especially in Selangor to respect and follow the decision made by the Muzakarah (Conference) of the National Fatwa Council, the Selangor State Fatwa Committee, the laws and the unanimous decision of the Court of Appeal,” said a statement from the state palace here.

The decision by the state Ruler comes after a discussion with the Selangor Royal Council on Monday, which decided that Selangor citizens should abide by the Selangor Non-Islamic Religion (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 which applies to every religion or race.

The sultan reminded his citizens of the Selangor Islamic Religious Council gazzetted ruling in February 2010 barring non-Muslims from using the word Allah to refer to God.

Once again, the non-Malays were ‘reminded’ that the special position of Islam in the country was protected under Article 3 of the Federal Constitution.

By urging the Muslims in Selangor to unite against “bad elements” who misuse the word Allah, the Sultan has ignited a war of faiths between non-Malays and Malays.

How should the non-Malays react when their fundamental right to belief and faith is dictated to by a third party?

Should they continue to subdue themselves to the powers that be, their forced subordination akin to a ticking time bomb?

Listen, listen

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Bar has concluded that political considerations may have prompted the Selangor Ruler to make the blanket decree as such limitations are not rooted in Islamic theology.

“(It was) a decision that is not supported by Islamic theology or history. Very sad. It may possibly be supported by political consideration in Malaysia. It is therefore disappointing.

“Ever since the decision by the Court of Appeal in the Herald case, comments from UAE, Indonesia, Bahrain, UK have been that the prohibition on use of the word ‘Allah’ is not part of the Islamic theology,” Bar president Christopher Leong told The Malay Mail Online in text message.

However will Sultan Sharafuddin bother making an about-turn on the ‘Allah’ issue or is he determined to let his superficial understanding misguide him on an issue so very sensitive?

“Islam is a fair religion and as a Muslim we cannot deny the rights of non-Muslims,”  and this is the belief that guides independent religious teacher Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussein who holds firm that there is nothing wrong in non-Muslims using the word ‘Allah’.

Wan Ji said non-Muslims have been using the word for many centuries and were entitled to it adding that non-Muslims could even take oath using the word Allah during trials.

Wan Ji, known for his outspoken ideas and views, said even the Christian Arabs and Jewish had been using Allah long before the birth of Prophet Muhammad.

“There is a lot of evidence that the non-Muslims have been using the word Allah and there is nothing wrong.

“The Quran permits it. It is proven by the hadith and even back then the prophet’s companions did not stop non-Muslims from using the word Allah.”

To American Muslim religious scholar, Dr Reza Aslan — who has written two books on Islam and one on Christianity, it was “almost a blasphemous thought to think that Allah has a name”.

“Allah is a construction of the word al-Ilah… Al-Ilah means ‘The God’. Allah is not the name of God,” Aslan told radio station BFM last month.

Meanwhile, Swiss-Muslim theologian Dr Tariq Ramadan, who lectures on contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University was not buying the Malaysian government’s stand that “Allah” cannot be used by followers of other faiths as it will cause confusion to Muslims.

And yet the Malaysian Barisan Nasional government, state rulers and bigots refuse to listen and learn.

Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: