Friday, October 18, 2013

Allah ban all about “Malay pride”, says critic in Australian daily

OCTOBER 18, 2013
The ban on the use of the word Allah in Catholic weekly Herald is ultimately about the "maintenance of Malay pride", wrote a columnist in an Australian daily.
The Sydney Morning Herald's Waleed Aly, in a scathing commentary on the issue, pointed out that Putrajaya's decision to prohibit the word was a symbolic gesture of "ethno-nationalism", to defend against the threats to Malay supremacy.
"And that whole issue is becoming increasingly radioactive in Malaysian politics and society," Waleed Aly warned.
On Monday, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal reversed a High Court ruling allowing Catholic weekly Herald to use the word Allah. It reasoned that the word was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice.
Waleed likened the situation to national car maker Proton's "absurd" decision to develop an "Islamic car" – the first of its kind.
"This immediately reminded me of Proton's Islamic car: strip both these stories of the pious language that decorates them, and they're ultimately about the maintenance of Malay pride," he said of the Allah ban.
The "Islamic car" would have compartments for storing a headscarf and the Quran as well as a compass to indicate the direction of Mecca.
"If you're in any doubt about how thin this Islamic veneer is, consider that Proton was considering a 'secular' version for non-Muslim markets," Waleed went on, adding that there has been no news of the car since its announcement in 2007.
He, however, said that the Allah issue was far more serious, but nothing short of strange as the "Islamic car", as the word predates Islam and it was "hardly surprising" that Malaysian Christians used the word as Bahasa Malaysia incorporated lots of Arabic words.
"Why should this suddenly be a problem? The fear, apparently, is that Muslims will suddenly start practising Christianity if both faith groups refer to God by the same name.  Malaysian Muslims therefore need a form of protection from their own ignorance that no Muslim community has needed anywhere at any time," he said.
But the deeper issue, Waleed argued, was that the Malays actually feared losing the "privileged position" that they have held since independence, referring to the Malay special rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
"Now they're lashing out, as if trying to resist the death throes of their own supremacy. The ruling party, Umno, is a great defender of this privilege. For decades it has served them well.
"But that edifice crumbled in 2008, when it lost an astonishing 58 seats and barely carried the popular vote. This year it lost even that, and clings to power only thanks to a brazen gerrymander," he added.
The government's only solution then is to "divide and conquer".
"To sell the image of a Malaysia where Malay supremacy is threatened by insurrectionist minorities – and, indeed, where its own power is falling victim to a 'Chinese tsunami'," said Waleed.
The columnist also said that young, educated and urban Malays are rejecting Umno's politics and were more inclined to be sceptical of their privileged status.
"Special access to government contracts has simply meant that Malays with good (often familial) government connections get rich, while the majority watched on from their scarcely adequate dwellings. What began as empowerment ended in corruption." – October 18, 2013.

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