Who really speaks for the people of Malaysia? I heard Dr. Patricia Martinez mentioned this piece in her excellent presentation at the 8th National Christian Conference 2009 on Day 1. The survey may be dated in her opinion as an academic, but then it’s still food for thought.
In response to the question "Is it acceptable for Malaysian Muslims to live alongside people of other religions?" a resounding 97.1 per cent said "yes".
In response to other questions, 79.5 per cent said that Muslims should learn about other religions in Malaysia and 83.8 per cent responded that Muslims could participate in dialogues with people of other faiths.
These findings indicate a greater level of acceptance of the reality of Malaysia’s diversity than appears in current public discourse. The responses can also be interpreted as the security and confidence that Muslims have regarding their religious identity, and the innate tolerance and justice of Islam.
These results indicate also an outcome of the daily interaction of ordinary Malaysians who are not cocooned in their chauffeured cars but who travel, study, shop and work alongside each other.
In other words, Muslims are able to come to terms with what it actually means to live in a multi-religious nation, without detracting from their strong sense of identity as Muslims.
How did this happen? Why did this happen? to what end?
We are ALL watching closely.
Time will only tell if there is resolve to follow through with law reforms. And whether these directives and reforms will be implementation by the civil service and the courts, which will for certain come under pressure from religious groups to assert loyalty to their faith.
A paragraph by paragraph reply to an earlier article Inconsistent, insensitive translations of ‘Allah’
Prof Dzulfikli Abdul Razak: The use of the term ‘Allah’ has captured the attention of the media again. Of late, even a newspaper from down south carried a commentary on the issue. The slant is usually political, and not religious, and does not throw any new light on the issue. It also does not appeal to the intellect; instead, it seems to border more on emotions that further confuse the issue.
[We disagree with the above sentence. In our response to what follows we challenge the subjective views of the author. Our statements are based on historical facts and intellectual objectivity. (Editor’s Note)]
To all Muslims the term ‘Allah’ is laden with the concept of Tauhid – that ‘Allah’ is “the One and Only” as defined in the Quranic language, which happens to be Arabic. ‘Allah’ cannot be understood without this concept of his oneness. Any attempt to do so will amount to a vulgarism of sort, and an affront to Muslims.
Fr Martin Harun: All Christians in the Arabic world and Indonesia and Malaysia who use the word ‘Allah’ for God, confess ‘Allah’ yang Esa. Christian Trinitarian belief is monotheistic, although not in the same sense as Muslim monotheistic belief. Each religion has of course its own specific definitions, as has been acknowledged by Muslims and Christians from the very beginning.
Another area where ALL eyes are watching. What does freedom of religion mean in Malaysia?
According to Shad, the authorities’ treatment of the Ahmadiyya stands in direct contrast with its treatment of cases such as Lina Joy‘s, in which a Muslim sought to publicly renounce Islam.
"We are effectively saying that an individual’s affirmation of faith is not enough for them to follow the religion of their choice," he said.
MAIS billboard outside the Ahmadiyya headquarters in Batu Caves
(Pic courtesy of Ainul Yakin Muhd Zain)
"In Lina Joy’s case, she is being prevented from leaving Islam, while the Ahmadiyya are being forcefully kicked out and yet are still liable to punishment by the Islamic authorities," he said.
Shad said that as far as the law was concerned, the Ahmadiyya should enjoy constitutional protection for their freedom of religion if they are considered non-Muslims.
"But if they want to declare themselves Muslim and follow their version of the faith, then the superior courts will defer to the syariah courts," he said.
The Ahmadiyya movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, in 1889. They are sometimes inaccurately referred to as Qadianis.
Although Ahmadiyya consider themselves Muslim, mainstream Muslims reject this because the Ahmadiyya believe that Ahmad was the metaphorical second coming of Jesus.