In their 2013 Christmas message, Malaysian Christian leaders expressed their wish for peace and harmony. This statement is made is the same breadth that they expressed their anxiety in the Herald’s quest to use the term “Allah” in replacement of ‘God’ which the Court of Appeal unanimously decided on 14 October 2013 in favour of the Home Minister.
Riong Kali dot com Christmas eve story:
For Christmas, Christian leaders hope for peace among Malaysians
BY JENNIFER GOMEZ
DECEMBER 24, 2013
This Christmas, Christian leaders in Malaysia have expressed hope that Malaysians will develop better religious ties among each other. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim,
December 24, 2013.
Peace and harmony among all, such is the hope of Christian leaders in Malaysia this Christmas, as 2013 closes a year they felt has been filled with racial and religious discord.
Both Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) Sabah president Rev Datuk Jerry Dusing and the Catholic weekly Herald editor Rev Father Lawrence Andrew said that particularly challenging for them was dealing with the “Allah” ruling.
“The Herald case was taken back to court and we had to calm everyone down over the verdict.
“But while we are disappointed, we are not going to give up hope,” Dusing told The Malaysian Insider, referring to the Court of Appeal ruling that upheld the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the Herald from using the word Allah.
The Herald had won the right in a 2009 High Court decision but the ruling was suspended pending the Government’s appeal.
The church has now filed a leave application to appeal against the Court of Appeal ruling at the Federal Court.
Dusing added that SIB’s case was also pending in court, where it was seeking declaratory reliefs related to the use of the word “Allah”, after its consignment of children’s religious publications containing the word “Allah” that was en route from Indonesia to Sabah was seized at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Kuala Lumpur in August 2007.
The books were seized on grounds that a government circular in December 1986 prohibited the use of certain words, including “Allah”.
The SIB case will come up at the High Court for mention next month.
Andrew said it was a challenge for him when the “Allah” case was resurrected, after the High Court in 2009 quashed the home minister’s order, ruling that the ban had violated the constitutional rights of the publisher.
“We had to go back to court this year for a few sittings, including the intervenors’ application and the appeal proper by the Government.
“A lot of time was spent working on the court case,” the Herald editor said.
Dusing said earlier this year, there was also a lot of uncertainty before the 13th general election in May, where the issue had even created factions among the Christian community.
“Various Christian groups had different views, including one faction that wanted to see a change in government, and this created some tension as well.”
Council of Churches Malaysia general-secretary Dr Hermen Shastri did not want to be drawn into the “Allah” debate, saying instead that the challenges he faced were to find ways to deal with certain forces in society that used religion to denigrate and cast aspersions on others.
“The situation becomes more complicated when such negativity takes on political dimensions,” Hermen said.
He said that when he was growing up, there was more openness among people of all backgrounds in neighbourhoods and schools.
“Unfortunately, today there are enough bad examples of people who are constantly harping on why one should build fences and promote religious chauvinism.”
All the Christian leaders are hopeful for better harmony and peace among Malaysians.
“Our country offers many opportunities for people to mingle culturally and inter-religiously.
“What we need are personalities who can inspire the younger generation to appreciate others and to share the rich diversity of cultures and religions in our country,” Hermen said.
He added that in Malaysia, people used to celebrate each other’s festivals in the spirit of sharing and understanding.
Dusing expressed similar hopes that the people would strengthen neighbourliness by going back to the concept of “open house”, saying this was the best way to foster understanding among the people.
“I want to emphasise that we are not fighting the Government or Muslims.”
In fact, in a pastoral communique in October, Dusing had said while the Court of Appeal decision on Herald had placed new restrictions on the constitutional rights to freedom of religion, the people were urged to continue their friendships with Muslim brothers and sisters and to extend love to them.
Andrew, too, hoped that this Christmas, people from all religions will not to see each other as enemies but as brothers and sisters. – December 24, 2013.
A recent study by a local think tank shows that majority of Malays reject the notion that Non Muslims use the term “Allah”.
Riong Kali dot com story:
Majority of Malays think ‘Allah’ exclusive to Muslims, says survey
DECEMBER 24, 2013
The term “Allah” should not be used by non-Muslims, say 77% of Malays polled by Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMCEDEL).
“The issue of Allah is still sensitive in the peninsula. Regardless of their political beliefs, it is obvious that Malays still think that the term ‘Allah’ is exclusive to Muslims,” said UMCEDEL director Prof Datuk Dr Redzuan Othman.
The poll also showed that the same number of Malay respondents disagreed that Christians in Sabah and Sarawak could use the term.
The survey, conducted from December 6 to 8, covering only the peninsula also showed that a mere 11% of the Malays polled agreed to the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. On October 14, 2013, a three-man panel of judges in the Court of Appeal overturned a 2009 landmark High Court judgment allowing the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its weekly Herald.
According to the leading judge’s grounds of judgment, the use of the word “Allah” was exclusive to Muslims and not integral to Christian worship, contrary to the church’s arguments that the word was irreplaceable and vital to their religious doctrine.
Two-thirds of Christians in Malaysia are Bumiputera, who are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak and number some 1.6 million.
The Catholic church has applied for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal ruling.
The Federal Court has fixed the leave application for hearing on February 24.
The church had filed its leave application on November 12 by submitting questions on the Federal Constitution, administrative law, as well as the power of the court to allow the minister to ban the use of a theological word.
The constitutional questions framed by the church lawyers were to debate on Islam as the religion of the federation, freedom of speech and religion, and the right to religious education.
The questions on administrative law centred on the home minister and his powers.
They also said that the home minister’s decision to ban the Herald from using the word “Allah” was illegal and irrational. – December 23, 2013.
What this academic research methodological outcome is reflective of the exact sentiments and resolve of too many Malay individuals and so many NGOs representing the Malay interests. Interestingly, there are substantial number of Non Malays (Chinese and Indian) also agree that kalimah “Allah” is exclusively for the Malays.
This is also very much the will of HRH Rulers.
Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak also vowed that the Malaysian Government would continue to defend the sanctity of Islam as the religion of the Federation of Malaysia.
The Catholic Church weekly publication Herald intention to use kalimah “Allah” in place of the ‘God’ is simply the subtle intent to made available of utility of the sacred word to the Malays, in greater readership form and eventually, a bigger audience. The strategic objective is legalise the Malay bible openly available for the majority of Malay-Muslim in Semenanjung.
Hence, the challenge for the use of kalimah “Allah” in place of ‘God’ in the court is to legalise for the attempt to proselytise Malay-Muslims into Christianity.
That would cause anguish if not fury to the Malay-Muslim majority. The growing reaction of the Malays to the issue so far is already a strong reflection that the situation would only worsen if the matter is being pursuit and more opinion against the minority trying the resurrect a perceived right against what has been enshrined in the Federal Constitution even before this nation was formally born.
It is clear that kalimah “Allah” should remain status quo and the appeal by Catholic Church weekly publication Herald at Federal Court would just prolong and complicate the situation further. Especially when the matter is being continuously discussed by the various parties representing both sides of the religious divide in this legal battle.
It is clear that the democratically enacted Federal Constitution which enshrined the sanctity of Islam could also be substantiated by the principle of the concept of democracy where the interest of the majority surpass the minority.
Therefore, if the Christian leaders are really sincere in achieving peace and harmony in this country then they should drop the appeal and leave the matter status quo. It should be deemed an insult to the Malays if they affirm their position of continuous peace and harmony but instead would not put the kalimah “Allah” matter to rest despite the unanimous Court of Appeal decision.
Historically, the Malays are generally accommodative. They are even willing to share the equal rights for this nation. However, their generousity and hospitality is not a bottomless pit. Their limit on very sensitive issues such as the position and role of Islam and HRH Rulers as Constitutional Head of matters pertaining to Islam in this country should not in any form or circumstance be tested.
The Malays as the majority of this nation have the right to a peaceful and harmonious state of tanahair, without their sentiments being challenged.