I will quickly compile this series of links so we can hear the various voices on the reaction to the recent High Court judgment. More personal reflections on the matter later.
It is unfortunate that things went to the courts. And one may agree or disagree with this course of action. But I hope my Muslim friends can at least understand why the Herald was pushed to the corner by the Home Ministry (which used religious sensitivity and confusion as their reasoning). Having said that, if this episode can draw us out to better ways of creating a climate of understanding, then all parties can contribute for the better.
. We are cognisant of the various interpretations of the authentic texts, historical and cultural context of the usage of the word Allah. It would be imperative to nonetheless make mention of the jurisdiction of two of the most outstanding contemporary scholars in the Muslim world, namely Sheikh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Sheikh Dr. Wahbah Az- Zuhaili – who recently visited Malaysia – concerning this issue.
Without any hesitation they concurred unequivocally that the usage of the word Allah has never been the monopoly of the Islamic creed. It is a terminology shared with the adherents of the Abrahamic faith. Islam identifies itself with the People of the Book as the “Abrahamic family” within the Semitic Tradition (Hanifiyyah), the tradition of Abraham who is recognised as the father of the three Semitic religions.
. We would hasten to add that it is politically incorrect and outrageously insensitive for “The Herald” proponents to force the issue to the courts. But that is the intrinsic problem, the myopia of our Catholic friends, their intentions and modus operandi now becoming increasingly suspicious and questionable.
In their blind enthusiasm to preach the word of Allah, our Catholic friends have lost sight of the bigger picture and design of Allah, which has always been founded on the language of love, knowledge and infinite wisdom. Instead, they chose to opt for man-made laws as the arbiter, a profane legal solution to their holy crusade.
It begs the question that if Allah is really another name for the Lord or God as devoutly believed by the Catholics, then should it not be officially promulgated by the highest of their religious hierarchy, namely the Pope in the Vatican. This is after all not a new issue.
Marina’s blog post Confident People Do Not Get Confused is worth reading even as a a model for self-reflection for any faith persuasion.
When asked on what she thought of the online battle over the issue, Marina said that it was very easy to misuse social networking services to aggravate the situation.
“Someone should complain to the Facebook administration and mark the page as offensive… the comments posted by people who wrote on my blog are that of urban people, most likely the same type of people who dragged the cow’s head in Shah Alam,” she said, in reference to the now-infamous incident in Shah Alam where 70-odd protestors dragged a severed cow’s head to the State Secretariat in retaliation towards the Selangor government’s relocation of a Hindu temple to a predominantly Muslim-majority area.
As an afterthought, Marina said that she was dismayed to see how the new year has turned out as she lamented how some Muslims were not progressing and that their mentality still remained the same.
“It is now the 21st century. What is the 21st century Muslim like? Different, or same as how we were in the past?
“Sadly, the way we are looking at things right now, I’d say we are the same.”
I think moving towards this position is helpful as many might “abuse” the whole incident not considering the even bigger picture of true national security.
In a statement made after the meeting, Hadi warned, however, that the word “Allah” should not be abused to confuse the public.
“PAS would like to state that based on Islamic principles, the use of the word Allah by the people of the Abrahamic faiths such as Christianity and Judaism, is acceptable,” said Hadi in a written statement which was read out by Information Chief Idris Ahmad.
“However, the word Allah must not be misused or abused so as not to affect racial and religious harmony in the country,” he added.
Hadi also urged all parties not to politicise the matter for political mileage.
“PAS strongly objects to any aggressive and provocative approach that can lead to tension in society,” he added.
The matter of conversion and how one propagates one’s religion is a relevant issue. In the explanation of one’s belief – Yes to transparency, No to manipulation.
. Influential Islamic scholar Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin stepped into the “Allah” controversy today by pointing out that Muslims should not protest against non-Muslims using the word “Allah” to describe God.
“Man should refer to the one true God as Allah. This proves the teachings of Islam in referring to God as Allah. Therefore all of mankind regardless of their religion should say that Allah has created the world, that Allah tells us to do good and so on.
“These words are the truth. It is not appropriate for a Muslim to protest when he hears a non-Muslim says such things,” he wrote in a posting on his blog today.
. However, he pointed out that non-Muslims should not be allowed to use the word “Allah” to propagate in such a way which insults Islam, such as to joke or to tease the name of God.
“Non-Muslims should also not manipulate the teachings of Islam by using the word Allah as bait. Action must be taken against such provocative acts,” he said, adding that using the word “Allah” in polite and respectful conversation between Muslims and non-Muslims was also acceptable.
Mohd Asri’s comments come after Father Lawrence Andrew, the priest who edits the Catholic paper, Herald, reassured Malaysians that the church was not on any campaign to convert Muslims.
“There are allegations we’re trying to convert Muslims. We’re not doing that,” Lawrence told The Malaysian Insider in a phone interview this afternoon.
“You cannot use the word ‘Allah’ anyhow. We have to use it accordingly,” he stressed and repeated his earlier explanation from Dec 31, just after the High Court ruled that the Catholic church had a constitutional right to publish the word “Allah” and overturned the home minister’s ban.
This incident can be redeemed as an opportunity for interfaith understanding. That’s where even if there is “confusion” all parties can engage in a educational process. All would benefit.
Perak Umno Youth chief Maslim Sham Razman told a joint press conference at the party headquarters here this evening that this was the “one time” that all Muslims and Malays should stand united in protecting what was rightfully theirs.
“We should all come together, regardless of the differences in our political beliefs because this affects us all.
“We need to protect the word ‘Allah’ from being used by others wrongfully,” he said.
He added that the general fear was that by allowing other religions to use the word ‘Allah’ as a Malay translation to their reference of God, confusion would occur amongst the young Muslims.
“We do not mean to insult those of the other religions or stop them from practicing their religions freely. We just feel that our religion and the word ‘Allah’ should not be insulted or have its holiness outraged in this manner,” he said.
The first BN component party to make a statement, and it’s obvious it’s different from UMNO.
On the court judgment, he said it was a matter of law in upholding the rights of Malaysians under the Federal Constitution and should be seen as just that.
“Conditions for the renewal of The Herald’s permit clearly state that the word “Terhad” must be affixed at the top of the masthead and the publication must only be sold within church grounds. These conditions are already being met.
“The court’s decision should not be stirred into a religious debate nor politicised as a racial/religious issue. MCA lauds the High Court for its bold and rational judgement. Our party calls upon all groups to respect the way of life of Bumiputera Christians and Sikh Malaysians, and not remove their constitutional rights,” Gan said