The failure of BN to defend the rights of religious minorities to use the word "Allah" is a failure to defend the Constitution.
One of the biggest imbeciles Malaysians have had to deal with is a person called Nazri Aziz. As a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Law & Parliamentary Affairs, Nazri has outdone almost every other individual in the Dewan Rakyat when it comes to lodging one’s head into one’s own anus.
It’s quite a surprise when people refer to this charlatan as a "Minister of Law" or a "former lawyer". He displays none of the qualities required for the two. This man has single handedly been responsible for perverting the Constitution, misstating the law and duping the public with his erroneous and reckless statements.
Another member of Nazri’s entourage is a moron named Hishammuddin Hussein who very unfortunately is currently Malaysia’s Home Minister. He too is a "former lawyer" but judging from his antics — waving a Keris and promoting racism and defending acts intended to incite racial/religious violence — this man clearly lacks a functioning brain and should volunteer himself to be sterilized.
Hishamuddin’s predecessor, Syed Hamid Albar, a bona fide jackass of the highest order, is the man responsible for the Allah saga. He has now been removed from Cabinet and is probably kept in cold storage in some dysfunctional "Suruhanjaya" or "Badan" or "Lembaga" that the Barisan Nasional is famous for concocting.
If there’s anything Barisan Nasional has been good at, it is its remarkable ability to churn out mediocre, embarrassing and useless leaders, almost all the time.
Now, what does Nazri say on the use of the word "Allah" by Christians?
Nazri has repeatedly stressed and has as recently as March 16th 2011 reiterated that there are State laws within various States in Malaysia that restrict the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims. One such example would be section 9 of the Enakmen Ugama Bukan Islam (Kawalan Pengembangan Di Kalangan Orang Islam) 1988.
This is a flawed statement. A simple reading of the Constitution shows that Nazri either doesn’t understand English or has succumbed to the pressures of those who desire to turn Malaysia into a theocratic state — to subjugate the rights of religious minorities.
Article 11(4) of the Constitution reads:
State law… may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.
There you have it. That is all there is to it. The restriction only applies insofar as it affects Muslims.
In fact, so clear and obvious is this that even the Enactments that Nazri keeps braying about expressly quotes the above in the introduction/preamble.
Therefore, non-Muslims are only not to use the word "Allah" when explaining or detailing their religion to Muslims, not when propagating their religion to other non-Muslims or practising their religion among themselves.
That there is the end of the entire Allah debate!
All non-Muslims are free to use the word "Allah" among themselves.
Hence, Nazri is wrong and should resign from his post as "Minister of Law".
You can debate all you want about Bible translations, theology, hurt feelings, etc. Ultimately, this is what the Malaysian Constitution and the State laws promulgated under it says. This is here to stay and most importantly, this is what the founders of this nation wanted.
The Proportionate Response
Now, it would amount to a crime for a non-Muslim to actively propagate his religion to people whom he knows to be Muslims but it would NOT be a crime for a knowledge-seeking Muslim to purchase, in his own volition, and read a piece of non-Muslim literature.
The greatest fear is still: How do we ensure that non-Muslim materials are not being given to Muslims for purposes of propagation?
Simple. All the Government needs to do is to ensure that the publishers and retailers of such materials make it clear that it is "Not for Propagation to Muslims" and perhaps, that sales of the materials be confined to the grounds of religious houses of worship and religious bookstores.
The above response, had the Government taken it, would’ve been reasonable, proportionate and respectful of constitutional rights. It would’ve also achieved its objective under Article 11(4). Nothing more needs to be done.
But of course, the decision taken by the Minister of Home Affairs against the Herald wasn’t really a decision based on political considerations. It was ultimately a religious decision which amounted to religious oppression i.e. imposing a particular religion on non-believers.
The then Minister of Home Affairs (Syed Hamid Albar) stated in his affidavit in Court:-
"Larangan yang dikenakan adalah kepada penggunaan kalimah ‘Allah’ di dalam penerbitan majalah tersebut kerana kalimah ‘Allah’ secara nyatanya adalah merujuk kepada Tuhan Yang Satu bagi penganut agama Islam sebagaimana termaktub di dalam Al-Quran iaitu dalam surah Al-Ikhlas"
(I have paraphrased the above as I believe the version quoted in the judgment contains grammatical errors).
"…kalimah Allah adalah nama khas bagi Tuhan Yang Maha Esa bagi penganut agama Islam dan ini jelas termaktub di dalam Al-Quran dan dimartabatkan di dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan."
Underlying both reasons is a noxious undertone: "My Religion says this, and you must follow it!"
This is extremely dangerous. The Minister has blurred the line between Government and Religion; a Minister of the Federal Government is telling you how to conduct your religious affairs and he is using "Islam" as a justification to do so. This is imposition of beliefs by Government and it is against the Constitution.
The reasons above also prove that the Minister is a bigot and that he and his clearly idiotic subordinates need a lesson on religious pluralism and constitutionalism.
And this is why we need to secure Secularism and secure it quick; so that ALL religions, thoughts and beliefs are given space to breathe, to grow and to develop so that Man may find his Truth — so that He may live in peace and harmony.
Why all of a sudden?
A common question among socially unconscious Muslims is the question as to why is there a sudden overnight need by the Christians to use the word "Allah"?
The use of the word "Allah" in this part of the world was not undertaken overnight or single-handedly by Christians. The use has been documented for centuries. I merely need to refer to the affidavit by the Catholic church:-
(iv) The word "God" has been translated as "Allah" in the Istilah Agama Kristian Bahasa Inggeris ke Bahasa Malaysia first published by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia in 1989;
(v) The Malay-Latin dictionary published in 1631 had translated "Deus" (the Latin word for God) as "Alia" as the Malay translation (exh. MP27);
(vii) In Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, the word "Allah" has been used continuously in the printed edition of the Matthew’s Gospel in Malay in 1629, in the first complete Malay Bible in 1733 and in the second complete Malay Bible in 1879 until today in the perjanjian baru and the Alkitab;
(viii) Munshi Abdullah who is considered the father of modern Malay literature had translated the Gospels into Malay in 1852 and he translated the word "God" as "Allah";
(ix) There was already a Bible translated into Bahasa Melayu in existence before 1957 which translation was carried out by the British and Foreign Bible Society where the word "Allah" was used (exh. MP28);
(x) There was also already in existence a prayer book published in Singapore on 3 January 1905 where the word "Allah" was used (exh. MP29);
(xi) There was also a publication entitled An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine published in 1895 where the word "Allah" was used (exh. MP30);
(xii) Another publication entitled Hikajat Elkaniset published in 1874 also contains the word "Allah" (exh. MP31)
(xv) At least for the last three decades the Bahasa Malaysia congregation of the Catholic Church have been freely using the Alkitab, the Bahasa Indonesia translation of the Holy Bible wherein the word "Allah" appears
Much ado about Nothing
Over the months, I have heard numerous views forwarded for and against the usage of the word "Allah" by the Catholic church. One argument continually shines bright but in fact means Nothing.
It is the emotional plea that Christians should stop using the name "Allah" so as not to offend feelings or sensitivities. This is in fact barely an argument and is utterly immature. Our ability to communicate would be rendered illusory if we constantly had to keep tabs of who we might be offending.
If you feel offended because something conflicts with your beliefs, my advice to you is: grow up and realise that the world is bigger than you and your beliefs.
We will never grow as a Nation if we cower to the childish displays of those purported to be offended or instructed by their political masters to be offended. The claims of those "offended" have no basis, rationality or reason and should never be respected.
If any feelings have indeed been offended, it certainly must’ve been the feelings of the Christians; to be told overnight that you can no longer pray to and worship Allah is pure heresy. It is arbitrary Government intervention into the affairs of a Religious group and it must never be tolerated!
To be Christ-like
Jesus had a very captivating philosophy that seems to have transcended the spirit of his time and place. The man himself was courageous and honourable.
For a man who seems to have undergone one of the most horrific backstabs in history, an arbitrary arrest, detention without trial, degrading treatment which included people insulting him, slapping him, scourging him to a bloody pulp, forced labour and eventually a slow and painful murder, he stayed true to his words — if an enemy strikes you on one cheek, offer him the other. He never complained that his feelings were hurt or that he was offended. He never objected, never even said a word. Lived by his message.
During the entire "Allah" saga, particularly in the period after the Court’s decision when some 11 churches were either firebombed or vandalized, I must say that my admiration for the Christians of Malaysia grew exponentially for they clearly practiced what they preached.
The Christians of Malaysia stood firmly by what Jesus himself said: "…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." That they certainly did. No Christian ever retaliated. Not one mosque or surau was attacked by a Christian. No Christian leader in Malaysia ever preached for hatred or bloodshed.
The Christians of Malaysia are the real heroes during this "Allah" saga. At all times, they were humble, sincere and forgiving. They embodied the qualities all Malaysians should learn to inculcate in their lives.
And I say all of this as someone who isn’t a Christian.
A Secular State
I don’t believe in Allah. I never will. But I do believe in Religious Freedom for all. I believe that all men have the right to profess and practise their religion. It is a right inherent to all human beings by the sheer fact that they are human. In Malaysia, they are free to propagate their religion to all but they can be restricted in their propagation to Muslims. However, that does not bar a Muslim from holding a Bible, Gita or Dhammapada and reading it — that is his right and we must respect that!
Ultimately, we are all very fortunate for Malaysia, as intended by our founders, is a Secular state.
I believe in Secularism; I believe Government and Religion must always be kept separate. I believe only with such a wall of separation can there ever be Religious Freedom. Without Secularism, you can never have Religious Freedom. I believe that Man, as long as he causes no harm to anyone, must be allowed to live, think and act freely.
If we live by these principles and ensure that our Government obeys these principles, we will be a Free Society.
So, what can we do now? How can we move on?
At this juncture, the above questions are commonplace.
But before we answer them, let’s have a retake.
The Barisan Nasional government has failed the people of Malaysia. Nazri Aziz, Hishamuddin Hussein and Syed Hamid Albar have failed in their duties and are not competent leaders for a multicultural multi-religious Nation State like Malaysia. The Ministry of Home Affairs is a repeat offender for violation of human rights in Malaysia — it is a failure.
BN doesn’t care about the rights of religious minorities. BN has been perverting the language of the Constitution for its own religious theory. The Barisan Nasional government simply doesn’t care about you!
For decades now, the Barisan Nasional government has shown that it only cares about one thing — its own power. It only cares about keeping its power and expanding it whenever and wherever possible.
This Allah issue was just one of a series of violations perpetrated by BN. Previously it had banned the animated cartoon The Prince of Egypt and then a restriction on The Passion of Christ to Christian-only audiences, without a regard for the rest of the non-Muslims in Malaysia.
BN acted at snail’s pace when churches were being firebombed and vandalized. BN seems to be supporting any act that is meant to incite racial and religious violence, with a potential tipping point being the cow head protests.
Let’s also not forget the two reporters from Al-Islam magazine who had gone to a Christian church, eaten the Communion wafer, spat it out and photographed it. Despite such a disrespectful act committed against the Christian community, the BN machinery was silent on the issue and there were no prosecutions.
Then, they impounded the Al-Kitab Malay Bibles. Soon after, they defaced the Malay Bibles. No apology has been forthcoming.
I fear these are the beginnings and things will only get worse.
I would not at all be surprised if one day a Ministerial order is made that all Christian churches are not to publicly display a cross or crucifix. Wouldn’t exactly be a first too: Barisan Nasional MP Syed Hood once raised the proposal to remove crosses and Christian images in missionary schools, saying "Times have changed and I think that we cannot allow Malays to look at the crosses and statues without any explanation."
But regardless of what BN does, we must never forget that it is the people of Malaysia, and only the people of Malaysia, who can change their predicament.
These arbitrary actions by BN take place because Malaysians continue to put up with it. But enough is enough! And I think all reasonable minded Malaysians are fed up with the constant intrusion into private life, the moral and thought policing and the absolute disrespect BN has shown for the very citizens it was supposed to protect.
Aston Paiva dreamt of becoming an astronaut. He became a lawyer instead. However, he was successful in becoming a psychonaut.