Here’s an exclusive interview Chrisanne Chin and I did for the Nut Graph!
In the light of the attacks on churches, do you think Christians should compromise on using "Allah"?
Chin: I don’t think churches are intimidated, I don’t think they’re going to stop using "Allah". It’s just part of language. Ibans call God "Allah Taala", it’s part of the Iban language. You can’t say it’s Indonesian. It’s not. How can you tell an indigenous Malaysian not to use his [or her] own language? It’s a little bit ridiculous.
Kit: I think that the Christian community, and specifically the Catholic Church, is under a lot of pressure to back down. If the attacks are indeed linked, and if Christians stopped using "Allah" because of them, we would be legitimising these attacks. We would be saying this method is the right way to resolve problems. This would be sending the wrong signal. The threat of violence is not the way to pressure any particular group. We need to rise above this and intensify our efforts to sit down together and work towards a solution.
The comments are exciting as the cartoons! All for critical thinking, okay? 🙂
This reminds me of Nero and the burning of Rome. Hmmm . perhaps Malaysia will be different.
The Home Ministry under the leadership of an Umno politician goes on the offensive to claim that the Christians have ill-intent to use Allah as the name of God.
The Christians are up to no good, trying to confuse the Muslims, they say. Instead of working to promote peace and harmony in Malaysia, the Home Ministry under the leadership of none other than Hishammuddin Hussein chose to fan religious and racial sentiments.
What they don’t tell the people is that Umno is behind why no Bahasa Melayu bible can be printed in Malaysia. That Umno is why churches are forced to import bibles from Indonesia. That Umno confiscates the holy books. That Umno is forcing the church to take the matter to court to fight for the right of East Malaysian bumiputera Christians to practise their religion.
Instead Umno and Utusan Malaysia are telling people that Christians are up to no good, that they want to confuse Muslims.
So, they have reaped what they sow. Now there are people out burning churches. They have achieved their goal. Now, Umno can show the people that they are the champions of Allah, even if they have to sacrifice the Christians, especially the East Malaysian Bumiputera Christians.
Er .who are those non-Muslim friends? I have plenty of Muslim friends who support our constitutional right to use the term “Allah” in reference to God in Bahasa Malaysia. They have come out in the public!
Muhyiddin said he had been receiving quite a number of messages from non-Muslim friends in Sabah and Sarawak who said there were Christians who felt that things would not have happened in the first place “if we, the Christians, would just not use the word ‘Allah'”.
So art-fully spoken!
In hindsight, the Allah issue could have been used by the Prime Minister to score even more points, especially among the non-Malays. Had the PM thrown his weight in support of the Christians while at the same time used the massive public relation machinations to explain the real issues to the Malays and to pacify them, then the PM would have killed two birds with just a single stone.
However, that was not to be. The PM and the Home Minister had chosen to appease the Malays by initially taking a loose stand against those who were planning to demonstrate in various mosques around KL after the Friday prayer. At the last minute, the Home Minister appeared to have changed his mind and came out with another indecision and almost lame position. He decided to leave it to the police to decide, when in fact, the police came under his Ministry!
The move backfired spectacularly when churches were torched. As of now, the political damage to both the PM and the Home Minister, as well as to the government, is almost irreversible.
By pandering to the hard line Malays, the PM, Home Minister and the government was not winning any new support. That is because the hard line Malays (or ultra Malays) have always supported UMNO anyway. So there was not going to be any change in the support of UMNO or the government by adopting the stand against the usage of Allah by the Christians.
I for one have been caught by surprise a little by their quick, cautious and reasonable response. But then again, maybe I’m not that surprised after all 🙂
PAS had already made some gains among moderate Malaysians in the 2008 general elections, but party leaders feel that by showing they are willing to risk their political base then more moderate Malaysians will be convinced to back them.
Sivamurugan feels there is an overemphasis on Umno.
“I do not know why the focus is on Umno, but after March 8, people tend to link all the wrongdoings to Umno,” said political analyst Sivamurugan Pandian.
He said that while Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been doing the right things, “there is a lack of collective effort” within Umno to properly address the "Allah" issue.
Sivamurugan added that PAS was also seen to be handling the issue better because of the emergence of younger leaders.
“PAS was seen as extreme party back then, but the emergence of younger leaders has helped in garnering the support that Umno had previously,” he said, commenting on the different image portrayed by PAS compared to ten years ago.
While PAS continues to play the moderate role, Umno leaders are now being forced to defend themselves against accusation that their strident stand against the "Allah" ruling had helped fan the flames that led to the church attacks.
A little dated by interesting comment by Tony Pua
Honestly, I’m happy and impressed. Essentially the party position is that there is nothing wrong with the use of ‘Allah’ by other Abrahamic faiths, but the term should not be misused. We have no problems with that. We call upon the Federal Government to accept the High Court ruling and not to appeal and prolong the matter further.
(Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the honourable President of the BN component party)