The Interests Of Others

Anas Zubedy shares with us his understanding of Muslims and Christians within Peninsula regarding the use of the word Allah. I have sought to summarise part of his article by creating four headings. The views expressed under each heading are extracts from the author’s article.

THE CHRISTIAN POSITION

We Muslims must understand the frustration our Christian brothers all these years when dealing with the Government (which is perceived as Malay Muslims, as the officers are usually Malays) for example whenever they want to build churches and when dealing with issues regarding their faith.

They are also frustrated and upset over cases involving Article11(4). Muslims must understand that like us, the Christians see it as their religious duty to spread their creed and they must have found Article 11(4) hindering them from spreading and sharing their religion, as a setback as a good faithful Christian. Muslims would probably have felt the same if placed in a similar situation. We Muslims must emphasis, how we would feel if each time we are to build a mosque, we have to wait and wait and wait for approvals after approvals. Rasa lak sikit, tak kan tak boleh rasa kot?

THE MUSLIM POSITION

The Christians must understand that while the Quran has no issues about Allah as the universal name of God, the Malay’s understanding and emotional attachment to the word Allah is unique to the Malaysian world. Rightly or wrongly, your Muslim brothers and sisters are deeply hurt as they perceive that you are doing this with bad intentions – to convert their fellow faithful as they do not see you actively wanting to also change all the other Bible translations like English or Chinese making the word Allah a universal name for God.

More so, the Malay Muslims cannot imagine that Allah Yang Esa/Satu now can also be the Allah as part of the Trinity. For example, their current worldview cannot fathom words that describe Jesus as Son of Allah.

THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

My Christian brothers and sisters, may I ask you a favour? Personally, I have no issues with you using the word Allah, but there are many who do and there are some among them who are less tolerant and can get dysfunctional to the extent of burning down churches.

So…..

Can we please choose to be more Christ like? Remember that “an eye for an eye will only make the world go blind” Are you being Christ like here?

Did Jesus not teach us to go beyond the letter of the law in our daily lives? Did he not tell us to do away with personal revenge? Did he not model his ministry based on love, care amd empathy? Can you not find a compromise?

How about using another name that you are also familiar with? At least till the Malay Muslims relearn that the word Allah is not only for them? I was thinking how about Eloi or Eli instead of Allah? Any Christian who is worth to be called one, would have heard these names during church sermons, that is, when Jesus cried out loud while on the cross, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46, in Mark 15 : 34 it is Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani, translated into English as “My God, My God whay have you forsaken me?”)

What do you think? Boleh compromise ka?

THE MUSLIM RESPONSE

Firstly, we need to have more faith in ourselves and must be willing to be challenged not just in matters of the world, but especially in our aqidah.

So, should we really continue to support Article 11(4)? Or should we have more confidence in our capable religious leaders and ourselves in preparing the community with an unyielding and rock-solid aqidah that can buttress any external dakwah? Can we set a target date to do away with Article 11(4)?

Secondly, we need to stop being like a “katak di bawah tempurong”. Get to know the larger world of Islam and understand that in the Middle East, even from the time of the Prophet, Jews and Christians call God, Allah. We must learn not to monopolize Allah or the Arabic language. Even “Assalamulaikum” pun ada yang nak monopolize.

Thirdly, we must be always fair and just. We cannot support lopsided laws. If we can preach to others, we should allow them to do the same towards us. Tak ada maruah ka kita ni? If we do not want them to preach to our followers, than we must stop preaching to their followers too. We cannot practise double standards.

Obviously, we would not agree with many of the views expressed in this article. However, we are grateful to Anas Zubedy for seeking to teach his fellow Muslims an important Scriptural lesson, which we also must put into practice.

“Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

We Must Never Allow The Mob To Rule

A couple of churches were burnt by people who believe that non-Muslims should not use the name Allah when describing God. A very strange motivation indeed when we look at the scripture.

In Surah 22 Verse 40 of the Quran, it is said:

“Had not Allah checked one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure.”

Looks pretty clear to me. There is no scriptural justification to stop non-Muslims from using Allah to describe God. In fact the opposite is true, the name Allah is praised in “monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mos-ques”.

This is not my assertion, this is a quote from the Holy Quran, and there are more in the same vein.

Right, so all these people calling for the ban surely must find their justification elsewhere. There is the law, it is said. In particular, state enactments banning the use of Allah by non-Muslims. We must obey the law they assert.

All right, let’s look at the state laws then. Space prevents me from going through each enactment, so let’s just look at the Selangor enactment of 1988.

In the preamble it says:

“[This is] An enactment to control and restrict the propagation of non-Islamic religious doctrines and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam.

“Whereas Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution provides that State law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion, and whereas it is now desired to make a law to control and restrict the propagation of non-Islamic religious doctrine and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam, therefore pursuant to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution it is hereby enacted by the Legislature of the State of Selangor.”

And if we look into the Enactment, we do see a section which lists down words that can’t be used by non-Muslims (it includes Allah). However, the explanatory note to this section states that to do so is “an offence of distributing in a public place publications concerning non-Islamic religions to Muslims”.

Again, this looks very clear, the law was designed to prevent proselytising to Muslims. And the ban on the use of the name Allah by the state law is in the context of proselytising.

If used within the context of their own worship and their own religious community, this law does not apply.

And if we look at Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, the only specific limitation on the freedom of religion is that the proselytising to Muslims (even Muslim to Muslim proselytising) can be controlled.

Other than that everyone is free to practice his or her religion in peace. It is unconstitutional to stop anyone from using the word Allah in their worship if they so choose.

So, the Quran says there’s no problem with peoples of other faiths using “Allah”, the state enactments are limited in their scope, and the Constitution says that everyone can practice their religion peacefully. What other justification can be used to try to ban this word?

There are two more; firstly it is culturally unacceptable among the Malays in peninsular Malaysia to hear the name Allah on non-Muslim lips. Oh yes, this is a great argument.

It reminds me of similar arguments used in the past. For example, “it is culturally unacceptable to allow negro children to go to the same schools as white children”. Look, just because some people are bigoted does not mean we have to pander to them.

Secondly, there is also the argument that if Muslims see Allah being used by non-Muslims they will get awfully confused and in their simple-mindedness, they will become Christians. People who make this argument can’t have very high regard for Malay intelligence. Rather insulting, I think.

At the end of the day there is no scriptural or legal reason to ban the use of Allah by non-Muslims, and if the powers that be have an iota of principle in their collective bones, they would stand on principle and not cater to the small minded and ignorant.

Instead they try to be pragmatic, leading to ludicrous statements like “it’s all right to use Allah in Sabah and Sarawak but not in the peninsula”.

The Muslim community, particularly the leadership, must ask itself: Is the way Islam is taught in this country so weak that Muslims can get easily confused by just one word?

I do not believe there is any evidence of large scale conversions by Muslims to Christianity. It is illegal for Christians to try to convert Muslims anyway.

However, if this sort of unintelligent and vicious behaviour goes on, I can’t imagine a greater disservice to Islam.

The Catholic church must not back down on this matter. It is in the right and if it gives in now, it will set the precedence that a bunch of thugs with firebombs can dictate the type of country we live in.

For the good of the country as a whole, not just any specific religious or ethnic group, we must never allow the mob to rule.

Dr. Azmi Sharom is an Associate Professor at the University of Malaya. This article was originally published in The Star on 21 October 2010 and is republished with permission from the author.

Why I Use Allah: A Layman’s Perspective

In the current ongoing debate, some are of the opinion that Christians should just give in and forego the use of the word “Allah” so that the threats and attacks on churches will stop and Malaysia can continue to enjoy her peace and move on unhindered to developed nation status.

Now, more than ever the country needs clear-minded Malaysians and not “confused” citizens, Christians included.

There are ten salient facts and reasons and I would like to address these to the ordinary man in the street and lay people in the Church ((This article is in response to the many requests for clarification from lay people in churches)).

  1. The Use of “Allah” Predates Islam

    “Allah” is the Arabic name for God, and it indeed pre-dates Islam and even Christianity. The pagan Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula called God “Allah,” even though they worshipped hundreds of idols in addition. Christians all across the Arab World today use the word “Allah” for God, and if one were to read an Arabic Bible, he would find that God is indeed called “Allah.”

    “Allah” is also the name that Jesus Christ called God. “Allah” is the Arabic equivalent of “Elohim,” which is Hebrew for God. The “im” is a plural appendage of respect, and so the word is “Eloh,” which is very similar to “Allah.” In addition, the Aramaic word for God is “Alaha,” and Aramaic was the language which Jesus himself spoke.

    Moreover, the word “Allah” is found in the English version of the Bible which we read today. In Matthew 27:46 we read: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” The word “Eloi” is the Aramaic form of the Arabic “Allah” ((Hesham A. Hassaballa is a physician and writer living in Chicago. He is co-author of The Beliefnet Guide to Islam (Doubleday). http://www.middle-eastonline.com/English/?id=36608)).

    It is important to know the fact that Christians in Malaysia didn’t start using “Allah” only recently, as some contend.

  2. It is used all over the world by Christians

    The Arabic word is commonly used by Christians to describe God in such countries as Egypt, Syria and Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation.

    So it is not just a Malaysian word, for the Malaysian context only. One cannot just decide to copyright an “international” word and hope to escape ridicule.

    And anybody in Malaysia can tell you that it is more than just one word that can be involved. The focus now may be on one word, thereafter the contention will be expanded to include other words, and at a later stage any other word or words that the “authorities” may so decide.

  3. Allah was used by East Malaysians before Malaysia was formed

    The SIB church was formed in Sarawak state in 1928, nearly 30 years before Malaysia’s independence, and were already using “Allah” in their worship and literature.

    And some of them don’t even speak BM or English, only their own mother tongue and in their mother tongue, the word used is “Allah.”

    So it’s not only the Alkitab, the BM Bible. The other Scriptures which use “Allah” are the Kelabit and Lunbawang Bible.

    Daniel Raut, a senior leader of SIB Church — the largest Malay-speaking congregation in the country — said it will not drop the use of the word “Allah,” even though Christians fear for their safety.

    “Since our forefathers become Christians in the 1920s, we have been using Allah even in our mother tongue,” said Raut, who is from the Lunbawang tribe in eastern Sarawak state.

    Furthermore, how does one propose that it’s use be restricted to East Malaysians only? What happens when they come to work in West Malaysia? What about the thousands who are already in West Malaysia? What about our existing West Malaysia Bahasa Malaysia churches?

    What happens when an East Malaysian crosses over to Labuan (a Federal Territory) for the weekend?

    Some proponents of the “East Malaysia only” concept take it a step further and suggest (to those of us in West Malaysia), “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

    Though debatable, the new political landscape has all the major political parties, including the key partners of the Barisan, not aligned with Caeser, on this issue.

    The Malay equivalent is “Masuk kandang lembu, menguak. Masuk kandang kambing mengembek” (When entering the cattle pen, moo. When entering the goat pen, bleat).

    Perhaps it is time the new minority, moo and bleat with the majority.

  4. The success of our National Language education policy

    Since the introduction of the National Language policy, our emerging generation has become more proficient in Bahasa Malaysia. And with the continued emphasis, the next two generations can be expected to be not only proficient but dependent on the Bahasa Malaysia as the lingua franca in our nation.

    Alongside the Allah contention, there are clear intentions to further impose restrictions on other words like “Injil” (Gospel) and “firman” (Word) ((See the Pahang enactment)).

    So the logical question we all are asking is “how would this pan out?”

    Any strategists will tell you that in winning the generational war, ignore the “old diehards” and focus on the future generations.

    Our grandchildren and great grand-children, will find themselves reluctant to read Scriptures in a language they are less proficient and also not be able to access the Alkitab, and also, perhaps be the first generation who have never heard of “firman” and “Injil?”

    I can understand the zeal of the government to Islamize the nation, ((believe every true and faithful follower will want to share their faith, and Muslims are no exception.)) but I pray that they can do so with honesty and integrity. “Bring all to the table” and aim for the hearts. Malaysians will respect you for that.

    But no coercion, no bullying, no media misrepresentation, no scrambling the minds of our children and no re-writing of Scriptures!

    But I also pray that by the same token and in the true spirit of religious freedom, the day will soon come, when others, if they so desire be allowed to share their respective faiths with our Muslim friends as is fully acceptable and permissible in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Surely Indonesia is a great example to us on what freedom of religion is all about.

    Sharing one’s faith with another should not be narrowly interpreted as with ‘intent to convert’. Understanding one another’s faith is surely an excellent way of promoting goodwill, peace and harmony among the multi religious population in this lovely country of ours.

    Under the present circumstances, the many proposed “inter faith dialogues” and formation of councils to facilitate such dialogues will be nothing but a monologue, as the other faiths are “gagged” in the name of the constitution.

  5. Used by others as well

    The Sikhs use “Allah” in their Scriptures. Do we stop them next?

    What about Hindus, who also refer to one of their gods as “Allah?”

    Rigveda is the most sacred scripture of the Hindus, and one of the attributes given to God Almighty in Book no 2 Hymn no I verse II, is ‘Ila’ which if pronounced properly is the same as Allah ((Other references to use of Allah :

    BOOK 2 – HYMN 1 Verse 11 – Thou, God, art Aditi to him who offers gifts: thou, Hotrā, Bhāratī, art strengthened by the song. Thou art the hundred-wintered Iḷā to give strength, Lord of Wealth! Vṛtra-slayer and Sarasvatī.

    BOOK 3 – HYMN XXIII Verse 4 He set thee in the earth’s most lovely station, in Iḷā’s place, in days of fair bright weather. On man, on Āpayā, Agni! on the rivers Dṛṣadvati, Sarasvatī, shine richly.)).

    So it is not a Christian issue alone. What the Christians are asked to do, the Sikhs and the Hindus will be asked to do, eventually.

  6. Constitutional right to “manage” our own religion

    This right must include how we address our God.

    Over enthusiastic bureaucrats, consequentially are interfering with the worship & education of Christians – CDs have been confiscated, Sunday School materials are held up by customs, besides the confiscations of the Alkitab.

    According to Prof. Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi ((Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi is a Malaysian Senior Professor of law who has served Universiti Teknologi MARA in Shah Alam, Selangor in various capacities from 1971 onwards. He served as the Head of the Diploma in Law program (1979 – 1984), as Assistant Rector (1996-1999), Assistant Vice Chancellor (1999 – 2001) and Legal Advisor (1996 – 2006). He has also served on the faculties of law at the International Islamic University Malaysia, part time at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and a visiting professor at Universiti Sains Malaysia)), the Malaysian Constitution provides that Islam is the religion of the federation. But all other religions may be practised in peace and harmony: Article 3(1).

    In respect of religion, every person has the right to three things:

    1. To profess
    2. To practice
    3. And, subject to Article 11(4), to propagate his religion: Article 11(1)

    Every religious group has the right to:

    1. Manage its own affairs
    2. Establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes.
    3. Acquire and own property and administer it: Article 11(3).
    4. Establish and maintain institutions for religious education: Article 12(2). ((The Federal Constitution and the Social Contract by Prof. Dr. Shad Saleem Faruqi))

    Our constitutional right, to manage our own affairs, to practice religion freely has been increasing under threat particularly over the past two decades.

  7. Dictating what should be in the Scriptures of a major religion in the world

    This suggestion that another word be used is perhaps “the biggest joke.”

    Whether one agrees or not about the word is not the main issue.

    The basic issue, lest we forget the obvious, is that each and every religious Scriptures is the sacred book – of Christians (including the Kelabit and Lunbawang), the Sikhs and the Hindus. We are not talking about some supplementary textbooks or a “pseudo scripture” just written recently.

    Are those who argue for a substitute word suggesting that all these Holy Books be re-written to accommodate a few?

    If it is suggested by adherents of the respective faiths, this could perhaps be more acceptable. But when followers of one faith, suggest (and insist) that believers of another faith, re-write their Scriptures to pander to their “unsubstantiated convictions” then we are not too far from the “height of arrogance.”

    I know Malaysia is “boleh-land” but this move to “force” the other religious groups to rewrite their Scriptures is preposterous.

  8. Prominent scholars of Islam and Muslim organizations have supported the use of “Allah” by Christians

    In Malaysiakini dated 13th Jan 2010, Constitutional Law expert Abdul Aziz Bari contends that it is pretty clear that the use of Allah by Christians has some basis in the Quran.

    This is strengthened by the exposition of eminent scholars, including Egyptian scholar Shaykh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (Maal Hijrah award recipient 2009) who said that Christians, as part of the Abrahamic faiths together with the Jews and Muslims, can use the word ‘Allah’ ((http://national-express-malaysia.blogspot.com/2010/01/allah-decree-does-sultan-havepower.html)).

    Earlier on, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) on 4 Jan 2010, also issued a statement viz –

    With regards to actual and historical practices, Christian Arabs have been using the word “Allah” to refer to God in their religious sources since the inception of Islam, and have never been challenged by private Muslims or Muslim governments on this ground. Islamic law is clear that followers of the Christian faith have the right to practice their religion according to their own religious teachings.

    We call on the Malaysian government to uphold the religious freedom of Christians and to let the court ruling stand. We also urge Muslim NGOs to respect Islamic teachings and long-held Islamic traditions, and to withdraw their opposition to the use of the word “Allah” by their Christian compatriots. ” ((http://www.isna.net/articles/News/ISNA-Commends-Malaysian-Court-Rulingthat-Affirms-Religious-Freedom-of-Christians.aspx))

    We would like to hear from our government a more coherent and intelligent response to these prominent voices than simply quote “this is Malaysia.”

  9. Our State Anthems will take on a new meaning

    How does one sing the state anthems of Selangor, Kedah, Pahang, Johor, Kelantan and Trengganu now, since there are references to “Allah” in these songs, as it is now implied to refer to the Muslim God only?

    In schools, about 30 years ago, we were told we were singing to “God.” Now are our children to sing only to one particular God?

    Unless, of course, one is liberal and don’t mind singing to all gods or any god or just the Muslim god.

  10. We need to keep in mind that there was “good harmony” in the first 30 years after Merdeka, with freedom to use “Allah.”

    It never was an issue until enthusiastic politicians promulgated the infamous ISA gazette in 1982, referring to the Alkitab as a document “prejudicial to the national interest and security of the Federation.”

    The rest is history.

    What an insult! But the Christian community has always been a peace loving people.

    For the sake of harmony, Christians engaged in closed door meetings in the past, to negotiate “restricted use” of the word rather than to bring it to the courts. And we were always assured by the government that we could use our Alkitab.

    But today, they are saying we cannot use the word and the various government agencies started confiscating various Christian materials, not just the Alkitab. And the claim is we “used to accept it” – but that’s because we have been tricked into negotiating behind closed doors in the name of the Malaysian culture of “talk and resolve quietly.” So because “nobody” heard from us, now they (even rulers) take advantage and say, we accepted it all these while. This is absolutely not true. Christians have been moaning, complaining, objecting and writing to the government for years.

Should we concede for the sake of peace alone? Friends, perhaps the time of closed door meetings – where our views are deliberately misrepresented ((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’”. Malaysia Insider 14th Jan 2010 – we disagree with this view, as the leaders of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the component members being the Roman Catholic, the Council Churches of Malaysia and the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship of Malaysia, have met on several occasions over the last few years and have repeatedly affirmed the wishes of the Christians, both in East and West Malaysia, ie we would not compromise on the use of the word “Allah.” The dissenting voice is a very small minority and is obviously being used to portray a misleading view. I would urge all Christians to refer to the “Kuching Declaration” dated Sept 1989, where the Roman Catholics, the CCM and the NECF came together to formally adopt a united stand to use the word “Allah.”)) and compromised – where the minority is always bullied and threatened into submission for the sake of harmony and in the name of sensitivity, is perhaps over?

It is indeed sad, that after 52 years of independence, the country is still not ready for mature dialogue, and is still struggling to hear the voice of reason.

This is not a race issue, this is not a Malay supremacy issue, this is not even a religious issue. And this is definitely not an East-West Malaysia issue ((Just because a few Christians in West or East Malaysia, don’t understand the issue and voice their ignorance, this does not mean the whole of West or the whole of the East Malaysian communities are against the use of the word. We need to be aware of the sinister aims to make both the West and East Malaysian Christians misunderstand each other. By all means, “share” and educate each other. But beware of answering and correcting in the cyber space and give the impression, that the West or the East Malaysian Christians are ignorant, naïve or disunited – we would not want to fall prey to the schemes of the “dark side.” The “Kuching Declaration” clearly shows the Christians in both West and East Malaysia are united. And today, we remain resolute and unyielding in our stand.)).

Before us are simply constitutional and “human rights” issues, a call to respect the spiritual convictions and Scriptures of other faiths. This is simply a call to exercise common sense and to respect boundaries – ie no rewriting Scriptures!

I hope and pray that the above facts and reasons would help Christians understand that we are not insisting on using “Allah” to “irritate” the “easily confused people” of the land.

We continue to pray for peace and seek a reasoned solution, so that Malaysia can indeed shine as a land so affectionately known as “truly Asia.”

Eu Hong Seng
Pastor
19th Jan 2010.

Pastor Eu Hong Seng is the Senior Pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle, Subang Jaya and the Chairman of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship

Court Says Church Can Use Allah Word

The Kuala Lumpur High Court on 31 Dec 2009 granted an Order of Certiorari to quash the decision of the Home Minister and the Government to prohibit the Herald-The Catholic Weekly-to use the word Allah pending the Court’s determination of the matter.

The Court also made six declarations:

  1. The Government’s decision not to allow the Herald-The Catholic Weekly- to use the word Allah is illegal and null and void.
  2. Under Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution, the Herald has the constitutional right to use the word Allah.
  3. Article 3(1) states that Islam is the official religion but the Government cannot prohibit the Herald from using the word Allah.
  4. The Herald has the constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression to use the word Allah under Article 10.
  5. In the exercise of its rights to freedom of religion under Article 11, the Herald has the constitutional right to use the word Allah.
  6. Under Article 11 and Article 12, the Herald has the constitutional right to use the word Allah for the instruction and education of the Catholic congregation in the Christian religion.

The Case

The Titular Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur who is the publisher of Herald – the Catholic Weekly- was unhappy that its publication permit for 2009 issued by the Home Affairs Minister and the Government prohibited it from using the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Melayu edition. The Archbishop then applied to the High Court to a judicial review and declaratory reliefs (remedies).

Justice Datuk Lau Bee Lan in her 59-page judgment (31 Dec 2009) said Senior Federal Counsel’s contention that according to S13a of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, the Minister’s decision “shall be final and shall not be called into question in nay court on any ground whatsoever” is misconceived.

I am of the view that it does not apply to the imposition of conditions, more so where the conditions impinge on matters of the Constitution. In this regard, I agree with Mr (Porres) Royan, (lead counsel for the Herald), any provision that restricts a constitutional right should be strictly construed. There are numerous authorities which indicate that judicial review is not ousted to correct errors of law by an administrative body or tribunal.

Illegality

The Herald submits the Minister has failed to take into account one or more of the relevant considerations (produced by the Archbishop) which I have reproduced below as it is pertinent to the issue at hand:

  1. The word “Allah” is the correct Bahasa Malaysia word for “God” and in the Bahasa Malaysia translation of the Bible, “God” is translated as “Allah” and “Lord” is translated as “Tuhan”
  2. For 15 centuries, Christians and Muslims in Arabic-speaking countries have been using the word “Allah” in reference to the One God. The Catholic Church in Malaysia and Indonesia and the greater majority of other Christian denominations hold that “Allah” is the legitimate word for “God” in Bahasa Malaysia
  3. The Malay language has been the lingua franca of many Catholic believers for several centuries especially those living in Melaka and Penang and their descendants in Peninsular Malaysia have practised a culture of speaking and praying in the Malay language
  4. The word “God” has been translated as “Allah” in the “Istilah Agama Kristian Bahasa Inggeris ke Bahasa Malaysia” first published by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia in 1989
  5. The Malay-Latin dictionary published in 1631 had translated “Deus” (the Latin word for God) as “Alla” as the Malay translation
  6. The Christian usage of the word “Allah” predates Islam being the name of God in the old Arabic Bible as well as in the modern Arabic Bible used by Christians in Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and other places in Asia, Africa, etc;
  7. In Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, the word “Allah” has been used continuously in the printed edition of the Matthew’s Gospel in Malaysia in 1629, in the first complete Malay Bible in 1733 and in the second complete Malay Bible in 1879 until today in the Perjanjian Baru and the Alkitab
  8. Munshi Abdullah who is considered the father of modern Malay literature had translated the Gospels into Malay in 1852 and he translated the word “God” as “Allah”
  9. There was already a Bible translated into Bahasa Melayu in existence before 1957 which translation was carried out by the British and Foreign Bible Society where the word “Allah” was used
  10. There was also already in existence a Prayer Book published in Singapore on 3.1.1905 where the word “Allah” was used
  11. There was also a publication entitled “An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine” published in 1895 where the word “Allah” was used
  12. Another publication entitled “Hikajat Elkaniset” published in 1874 also contains the word “Allah”
  13. The Bahasa Indonesia and the Bahasa Malaysia translations of the Holy Bible, which is the Holy Scriptures of Christians, have been used by the Christian natives of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak for generations
  14. The Bahasa Malaysia speaking Christian natives of Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah had always and have continuously the word “Allah” for generations and the word “Allah” is used in the Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesian translations of the Bible used throughout Malaysia
  15. At least for the last three decades the Bahasa Malaysia congregation of the Catholic Church have been freely using the Alkitab, the Bahasa Indonesia translation of the Holy Bible wherein the word “Allah appears
  16. The Herald is a Catholic weekly as stated on the cover of the weekly and is intended for the dissemination of news and information on the Catholic Church in Malaysia and elsewhere and is not for sale or distribution outside the Church
  17. The Herald is not made available to members of the public and in particular to persons professing the religion of Islam
  18. The Herald contains nothing which is likely to cause public alarm and/or which touches on the sensitivities of the religion of Islam and in the fourteen years of the publication there has never been any untoward incident arising from the Applicant’s use of the word “Allah” in the Herald
  19. In any event the word “Allah” has been used by Christians in all countries where the Arabic language is used as well as in Indonesian/Malay language without any problems and/or breach of public order/ and/or sensitivity to persons professing the religion of Islam in these countries
  20. Islam and the control and restriction of religious doctrine or belief among Muslims professing the religion of Islam is a state matter and the Federal Government has no jurisdiction over such matters of Islam save in the federal territories
  21. The subsequent exemption vide P.U.(A) 134/82 which permits the Alkitab to be used by Christians in churches ipso facto( by virtue of this fact) permits the use of the word “Allah” in the Herald
  22. The Bahasa Malaysia speaking congregation of the Catholic Church uses the word “Allah” for worship and instruction and that the same is permitted in the Al-Kitab.

The Herald further submits that none of the factual considerations were ever disputed or challenged by the Minister as factually incorrect. I am inclined to agree with the Herald as the response of the Minister is a feeble denial.

Therefore, I find the Minister in the exercise of his discretion to impose further conditions in the publication permit has not taken into account the relevant matters, hence committing an error of law warranting this Court to interfere and I am of the view the Minister and Government’s decision ought to be quashed.

Unconstitutionality

The Herald’s grounds for the legal right to use the word “Allah” in the Herald are based on its constitutional rights to freedom of speech and to practice its religion in peace and harmony, to manage its religious affairs, to instruct and educate the Catholic congregation in the Christian religion as enshrined in Articles 2, 3, 10 11, and 12 of the Federal Constitution.

Any prohibition of the use of this word is a serious violation of its constitutional rights.

Unreasonableness and irrationality

The Herald also said the Minister and Government’s action are unreasonable:

“A decision which is so outrageous in its defiance of logic or of accepted moral standards that no sensible person who had applied his mind to the question to be decided could have arrived at it.”

“It is utterly irrational and unreasonable on the part of the Minister and Government
on the one hand not to prohibit the congregation of the Catholic Church to use the word ‘Allah’ for worship and instruction in their faith and in the Al-Kitab and on the other hand to state that the same word cannot be used in the Herald which serves to assist these persons in their worship and provide a medium of instruction and to disseminate news and information.”

“It is also utterly irrational and unreasonable to require the Bahasa speaking congregation of the Catholic Church to use another word the Bahasa word for ‘God’.

The Government responded that it was acting within its jurisdiction considering the status of at Islam under the Constitution, the various enactments on control and restrictions is on the propagation of religious doctrine or belief among Muslims, government policy, public security and safety and religious sensitivity.

One would have thought that having permitted, although with the usual restrictions (to) the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” for worship and in the Al-kitab, it would only be logical and reasonable for the Government to allow the use of the word “Allah” in the Herald. Indeed, I am inclined to agree with the Herald that the Minister and the Government are acting illogically, irrationally and inconsistently and no person similarly circumstanced would have acted in a like manner.

I find there is merit in the Herald’s contention that when viewed on its merits, the reasons given by the Home Ministry in the various directives defies all logic and is so unreasonable.

The Constitutionality of the State Enactments

The government said it has to consider the laws to control and restrict the propagation of religious doctrine or belief among Muslims in various states (as) these laws are valid under Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution.

If the Home Minister allows the use of the word “Allah”, when there are such laws in existence, the decision will be illegal because it is going against them. One of the reasons for its decision is to avoid confusion and misunderstanding among Muslims (as) there is no guarantee that the Herald will be circulated only among Christians and will not fall into the hands of Muslims and it has gone online and is accessible to all.

We are living in a world of technology; information can be easily accessible. Are guaranteed rights to be sacrificed at the altar just because the Herald has gone online and is accessible to all? On must not forget there is the restriction in the publication permit which serves as an additional safeguard which is the word “Terhad” (which) is to be endorsed on the front page and the Herald is restricted to churches and to followers of Christianity only.

Public security and order

Senior Federal Counsel submits that the grounds of public security, public order and religious sensitivity are legal, rational and reasonable of the Court is in no position to question the issue and must accept these reasons.

A mere statement by the Home Minister that the exercise of power was necessary on the ground of national security without adequate supporting evidence is not sufficient in law. The Herald claims that there has never been any untoward incident arising out of the use of the word Allah in the Herald in the past 14 years is to be accepted as it was not rebutted by the Government.

Issue of justiciability (whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear the case)

I had dismissed the applications of the Majlis Agama Islam Federal Territory, Johore, Selangor, Kedah, Malacca, Terengganu, and the Chinese Muslim Association. Therefore their contention that whether non-Muslims can use the word Allah is at the absolute discretion of the Rulers is non- justiciable and irrelevant at the hearing of the judicial review application and need not be considered by this Court.

The Federal Constitution and the State Constitutions clearly provide that the Rulers and the Yang di Pertuan Agung as the head of Islam in their states and the Federal Territories have exclusive authority only on Islamic affairs and Malay customs.

The control of publications are governed by federal law. Under this Act, only the Minister can decide what is permitted to be published and in this regard the Rulers and the Agung have no role whatsoever under the scheme of this Act.

The present judicial review is not a judicial review of a decision of the Rulers or the Agung as Head of Islam. It is only a review of the Minister’s decision to impose a prohibition on the use of the word Allah by the Herald. Since the Rulers and the Agung cannot make any decision in respect of any publications, the issue of whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear the case, does not arise.

Since the Minister has taken the position that only he has the exclusive power to impose a condition on the Herald’s publication permit to prohibit the use of the word Allah, the argument that only the Rulers and the Agung have such powers makes a complete mockery of the Minister’s power under the Act.

This is an unofficial summary with some paraphrasing and emphasis added. The Government has given notice to appeal to the Court of Appeal. This summary is also published in Bahasa Malaysia.

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Mahkamah: Gereja Boleh Menggunakan Kalimah Allah

Pada 31 Disember 2009, Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur telah mengeluarkan perintah Perintah Certiorari untuk membatalkan keputusan Menteri Dalam Negeri dan Kerajaan Malaysia yang melarang Herald – The Catholic Weekly untuk menggunakan perkataan Allah dalam penerbitan mereka, sementara menunggu penetapan pengadilan Mahkamah tentang masalah itu.

Mahkamah juga membuat enam perintah:

  1. Keputusan Kerajaan melarang Herald – The Catholic Weekly untuk menggunakan kalimah Allah adalah tidak sah dan batal.
  2. Mengikut Perkara 3 (1) Perlembagaan Persekutuan, Herald mempunyai hak perlembagaan untuk menggunakan kalimah Allah.
  3. Perkara 3 (1) menyatakan bahawa Islam adalah agama rasmi tetapi Kerajaan tidak boleh melarang Herald menggunakan kalimah Allah.
  4. Di bawah Perkara 10, The Herald mempunyai hak perlembagaan untuk kebebasan bercakap dan bersuara untuk menggunakan kalimah Allah.
  5. Di bawah Perkara 11, Herald mempunyai hak perlembagaan untuk kebebasan beragama dan boleh menggunakan kalimah Allah.
  6. Mengikut Perkara 11 dan 12, Herald mempunyai hak perlembagaan untuk menggunakan kalimah Allah bagi tujuan pengajaran dan pendidikan jemaat Katolik dalam agama Kristian.

Latar belakang kes

Uskup Agung Titular Katolik di Kuala Lumpur yang merupakan penerbit Mingguan Katolik Herald tidak puas hati dengan permit penerbitan yang dikeluarkan oleh Menteri Dalam Negeri dan Kerajaan untuk tahun 2009, yang melarang mereka daripada menggunakan kalimah “Allah” di dalam edisi Bahasa Melayu Mingguan tersebut. Uskup Agung kemudiannya membuat rayuan kepada Mahkamah Tinggi untuk (judicial review) mengkaji-ulang keputusan tersebut dan memohon satu pernyataan perlepasan.

Penghakiman

Yang Arif Hakim Datuk Lau Bee Lan dalam penghakiman bertulisnya setebal 59 halaman (31 Dis 2009) menyatakan bahawa pernyataan Peguam Kanan Persekutuan tentang perkara §13a dari Akta Mesin Cetak dan Percetakan 1984, yang mengatakan keputusan Menteri “adalah muktamad dan tidak boleh dipersoalkan di mahkamah atas alasan apa pun” adalah satu persalahfahaman.

Saya berpandangan bahawa hal itu tidak berlaku untuk pengenaan syarat-syarat, lebih-lebih lagi bila syarat-syarat tersebut bersangkutan dengan perkara-perkara Perlembagaan. Dalam hal ini, saya bersetuju dengan En (Porres) Royan, (peguam utama untuk Herald), sebarang peruntukan yang menghadkan hak perlembagaan harus ditafsirkan secara ketat. Ada banyak pihak berkuasa yang menunjukkan bahawa pertimbangan penghakiman tidak diketepikan untuk memperbaiki kesalahan perundangan oleh badan pentadbiran atau tribunal.

Ketidaksahan (Pengharaman)

Mingguan Herald mendakwa Menteri tersebut telah gagal mengambil kira satu atau lebih pertimbangan-pertimbangan yang relevan (yang dihasilkan oleh Uskup Agung) yang telah saya terbitkan di bawah ini kerana ianya berkait-rapat dengan masalah yang sedang dibicarakan:

  1. Kalimah “Allah” adalah perkataan Bahasa Malaysia yang benar untuk “God” dan di dalam Alkitab terjemahan Bahasa Malaysia, “God” diterjemahkan sebagai “Allah” dan “Lord” diterjemahkan sebagai “Tuhan”
  2. Selama 15 abad, umat Kristian dan Muslim di negara-negara berbahasa Arab telah menggunakan kalimah “Allah” untuk merujuk pada Tuhan Yang Esa. Gereja Katolik di Malaysia dan Indonesia dan majoriti besar dari denominasi Kristian yang lain memegang teguh bahawa “Allah” adalah perkataan yang sah untuk “God” dalam Bahasa Malaysia
  3. Selama beberapa abad Bahasa Melayu telah menjadi lingua franca untuk banyak penganut-penganut Katolik terutamanya mereka yang tinggal di Melaka dan Pulau Pinang. Keturunan mereka di Semenanjung Malaysia telah mengamalkan satu budaya bertutur dan berdoa dalam Bahasa Melayu
  4. Kalimah “God” telah diterjemahkan sebagai “Allah” dalam “Istilah Agama Kristian Bahasa Inggeris ke Bahasa Malaysia” yang pertama kali diterbitkan oleh Konferensi Uskup-uskup Katolik di Malaysia pada tahun 1989
  5. Kamus Bahasa Melayu-Latin yang diterbitkan pada tahun 1631 telah menterjemahkan “Deus” (Perkataan Latin untuk God) sebagai “Alla” dalam penterjemahan Bahasa Melayu mereka.
  6. Kalimah “Allah” telah digunakan oleh orang Kristian di Alkitab Bahasa Arab yang lama dan Alkitab Bahasa Arab moden jauh sebelum kedatangan Islam. Ianya telah digunakan orang Kristian di Mesir, Lubnan, Irak, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei dan tempat-tempat lain di Asia, Afrika, dll;
  7. Dalam Bahasa Malaysia dan Bahasa Indonesia, kalimah “Allah” telah digunakan secara berterusan dalam edisi cetak Injil Matius di Malaysia pada tahun 1629, Alkitab Bahasa Melayu edisi yang pertama pada tahun 1733, dan Alkitab edisi kedua Alkitab pada tahun 1879 sehinggalah ke Perjanjian Baru dan Alkitab pada hari ini.
  8. Munshi Abdullah yang dianggap sebagai Bapa Sastera Moden Bahasa Melayu telah menterjemah Injil ke dalam Bahasa Melayu pada tahun 1852 dan ia menterjemah perkataan “God” sebagai “Allah”
  9. Sudah ada Alkitab yang diterjemahkan ke dalam Bahasa Melayu sebelum 1957 yang dilakukan oleh British and Foreign Bible Society di mana kalimah “Allah” telah digunakan
  10. Ada juga sebuah Buku Doa yang diterbitkan di Singapura pada 3.1.1905 di mana kalimah “Allah” digunakan
  11. Ada juga sebuah penerbitan berjudul ” An Abridgment of the Christian Doctrine” (Sebuah Singkatan Doktrin Kristian) yang diterbitkan pada tahun 1895 di mana kalimah “Allah” digunakan
  12. Satu lagi penerbitan yang berjudul “Hikajat Elkaniset” diterbitkan pada tahun 1874 yang juga mengandungi kalimah “Allah”
  13. Terjemahan Alkitab dalam Bahasa Indonesia dan Bahasa Malaysia yang merupakan Kitab Suci orang Kristian, telah digunakan oleh penduduk asli beragama Kristian di Semenanjung Malaysia, Sabah dan Sarawak untuk beberapa generasi
  14. Pribumi Kristian yang berbahasa Malaysia di Semenanjung Malaysia, Sarawak dan Sabah, dari dahulu lagi dan secara berterusan telah mengunakan kalimah “Allah” untuk bebebrapa generasi; dan kalimah “Allah” digunakan dalam terjemahan Alkitab dalam Bahasa Malaysia dan Bahasa Indonesia yang digunakan di seluruh Malaysia
  15. Sekurang-kurangnya sudah tiga dekad jemaat Katolik telah menggunakan Alkitab dengan bebas, di mana kalimah “Allah” digunakan dalam Alkitab terjemahan Bahasa Indonesia.
  16. The Herald adalah mingguan Katolik seperti yang dinyatakan di bahagian muka mingguan tersebut, dan dimaksudkan untuk penyebaran berita serta maklumat mengenai Gereja Katolik di Malaysia dan di tempat lain, dan tidak untuk dijual ataupun diedar di luar Gereja
  17. The Herald tidak diterbit bagi masyarakat umum dan khususnya kepada orang-orang yang beragama Islam
  18. The Herald tidak mengandungi sesuatu yang berkemungkinan besar akan menganggu ketenteraman awam dan/atau menyentuh kepekaan agama Islam. Selama empat belas tahun penerbitannya, tidak pernah ada sebarang kejadian yang timbul daripada penggunaan kalimah “Allah” di The Herald
  19. Setiap kali kalimah “Allah” digunakan oleh orang Kristian di semua negara di mana Bahasa Arab digunakan dan dalam Bahasa Indonesia/Melayu, tidak pernah timbul masalah dan/atau melanggar ketertiban umum dan/atau menyentuh kepekaan orang-orang yang beragama Islam di negara-negara tersebut
  20. Islam dan kawalan serta sekatannya dari segi ajaran agama atau keyakinan di kalangan umat Islam adalah urusan di bahagian negeri. Kerajaan Persekutuan tidak mempunyai bidang kuasa atas hal-hal tersebut kecuali di wilayah-wilayah persekutuan
  21. Melalui pengecualian P.U. (A) 134/82 yang membenarkan Alkitab digunakan oleh orang Kristian di gereja-gereja ipso facto (berdasarkan fakta ini) membolehkan penggunaan kalimah “Allah” di penerbitan The Herald
  22. Jemaat Katolik yang berbahasa Malaysia menggunakan kalimah “Allah” untuk beribadah dan doa dan itu dibenarkan dalam Alkitab.

Herald selanjutnya mengajukan bahawa tidak ada pertimbangan faktual yang pernah dibantah atau ditentang oleh Menteri sebagai yang tidak benar. Saya cenderung bersetuju dengan The Herald kerana respon penyangkalan daripada Menteri adalah lemah.

Oleh kerana itu, saya dapati dalam menjalankan tugas untuk memberi persyaratan lanjutan dalam permit penerbitan, Menteri tersebut tidak mengambil kira hal-hal yang relevan. Dengan itu telah melakukan satu kesalahan perundangan dan membolehkan Mahkamah ini campur tangan. Saya berpandangan keputusan Menteri dan Kerajaan terbebut harus dibatalkan.

Tidak mengikut Perlembagaan

Alasan pihak Herald untuk mempunyai hak yang sah dalam menggunakan kalimah “Allah” di The Herald adalah berdasarkan kepada hak-hak perlembagaannya untuk kebebasan bersuara serta mengamalkan kepercayaannya secara aman dan harmoni. Juga untuk mengurus urusan-urusan keagamaan dan untuk mengajar dan mendidik jemaat Katolik dalam agama Kristian, sebagaimana yang termaktub dalam Perkara 2, 3, 10 11, dan 12 Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Setiap larangan penggunaan kata ini merupakan pelanggaran serius hak-hak berperlembagaannya.

Tidak masuk akal dan tidak rasional

The Herald juga mengatakan tindakan Menteri dan Kerajaan sebagai tidak masuk akal:

“Sebuah keputusan yang tidak munasabah, di mana tentangan mereka tidak logic dan standard-standard moral yang tidak boleh diterima. Masakan orang yang berakal-budi dan menggunakan fikirannya boleh mencapai keputusan sedemikian.”

“Ini sangat tidak rasional dan tidak berasas untuk Menteri dan Kerajaan untuk tidak melarang jemaat Gereja Katolik menggunakan kalimah ‘Allah’ dalam ibadah dan pengajaran iman mereka dan di dalam Alkitab. Tetapi perkataan yang sama tidak boleh digunakan dalam The Herald yang berfungsi untuk membantu orang-orang ini dalam ibadah mereka dan menyediakan satu landasan untuk menyebarkan berita dan maklumat.”

“Hal ini juga sangat tidak rasional dan tidak masuk akal untuk menuntut jemaat Katolik berbahasa Malaysia untuk menggunakan perkataan Bahasa yang lain untuk ‘God’.”

Kerajaan menjawab bahawa ia bertindak dalam bidang kuasanya dengan mempertimbangkan status agama Islam di dalam Perlembagaan. Pelbagai undang-undang kawalan dan sekatan adalah untuk penyiaran ajaran agama atau kepercayaan di kalangan umat Islam, dasar kerajaan, keselamatan dan ketenteraman awam, serta kepekaan agama.

Orang akan berfikir bahawa dengan memiliki kebenaran, walaupun dengan sekatan-sekatan biasa (untuk) Gereja Katolik menggunakan kalimah “Allah” untuk beribadah dan dalam Alkitab, maka hanya akan logik dan wajar bagi Kerajaan untuk membolehkan penggunaan kalimah “Allah” di Herald. Sesungguhnya, saya cenderung bersetuju dengan Herald bahawa Menteri dan Kerajaan telah bertindak tidak logik, tidak rasional dan tidak konsisten sehingga tidak ada orang yang sama bila ditaruh dalam keadaan yang sama akan bertindak seperti itu.

Saya mendapati ada kesahihan dalam Herald bila ia berpendapat bahawa jika dilihat dari semua hujah-hujahnya, alasan yang diberikan oleh Kementerian Dalam Negeri dalam pelbagai arahan mencabar semua logik dan itu sangat tidak masuk akal.

Perlembagaan dan enekmen-eneknem Negeri

Kerajaan mengatakan mereka harus mempertimbangkan undang-undang untuk mengawal dan menyekat penyebaran ajaran agama atau kepercayaan di kalangan umat Islam di semua negeri kerana undang-undang sah di bawah Perkara 11(4) Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Jika Menteri Dalam Negeri membenarkan penggunaan kalimah “Allah”, sekiranya undang-undang seperti itu wujud, maka keputusan akan menjadi tidak sah kerana itu akan bertentangan dengan mereka. Salah satu alasan keputusan ini adalah untuk mengelakkan kekeliruan dan salah faham di kalangan umat Islam kerana tidak ada jaminan bahawa Herald akan hanya beredar di kalangan orang Kristian dan tidak akan jatuh ke tangan Muslim. Apa lagi ianya sekarang sudah ‘online’ dan boleh dijangkau oleh semua.

Kita hidup di dunia teknologi di mana maklumat dapat diakses dengan mudah. Adakah hak-hak yang terjamin harus dikorbankan di atas mezbah kerana Herald sudah ‘online’ dan mudah diakses oleh semua orang? Kita jangan lupa ada sekatan dalam permit penerbitan yang berfungsi sebagai perlindungan tambahan iaitu perkataan “Terhad” (yang) harus dicetak pada halaman depan. Herald adalah dihadkan untuk gereja-gereja dan pengikut agama Kristian sahaja.

Keselamatan dan Ketenteraman Awam

Peguam Kanan Persekutuan mengajukan bahawa alasan keselamatan awam, ketenteraman awam dan kepekaan agama adalah sah, rasional dan masuk akal sehingga Mahkamah tidak mempunyai kedudukan untuk mempersoalkan isu ini dan harus menerima alasan-alasan tersebut.

Sebuah pernyataan oleh Menteri Dalam Negeri bahawa pelaksanaan kuasa diperlukan atas dasar keselamatan nasional tanpa bukti-bukti penyokong tidak cukup dalam undang-undang. The Herald mendakwa bahawa tidak pernah terjadi apa-apa kejadian yang tak diingini selama 14 tahun The Herald menggunakan kalimah “Allah”. Dan ini harus diterima kerana tidak dibantah oleh Kerajaan.

Masalah Perundangan (adakah Mahkamah mempunyai bidang kuasa untuk mendengar kes sebutan)
Saya telah menolak permohonan-permohonan daripada Majlis Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan, Johor, Selangor, Kedah, Melaka, Terengganu, dan Persatuan Cina Muslim. Oleh sebab itu dakwaan mereka samada orang bukan Islam boleh menggunakan kalimah Allah terletak pada kebijaksanaan mutlak Raja-raja Melayu adalah tidak dibenarkan dan tidak relevan pada sidang sebut semula kes ini, dan tidak perlu dipertimbangkan oleh Mahkamah ini.

Perlembagaan Persekutuan dan Perlembagaan Negeri jelas menyatakan bahawa Raja-raja Melayu dan Yang Dipertuan Agung sebagai ketua agama Islam di peringkat negeri masing-masing dan Willayah Persekutuan mempunyai bidang kuasa eksklusif hanya dalam urusan agama Islam dan adat-istiadat Melayu sahaja.

Kawalan penerbitan adalah ditetapkan oleh undang-undang persekutuan. Di bawah undang-undang ini, hanya Menteri sahaja yang boleh memutuskan apa yang dibenarkan untuk diterbitkan. Jadi dalam hal ini Raja-raja dan Yang Dipertuan Agung tidak mempunyai peranan apa pun di bawah skim Undang-undang ini.

Sebutan semula kes pengadilan sekarang bukan sebutan ulang keputusan adakah Raja-raja Melayu dan YDP Agung adalah Ketua Agama Islam. Ini hanyalah satu sebutan ulang keputusan yan dibuat oleh Menteri untuk menguatkuasakan larangan penggunaan kalimah Allah oleh Herald. Kerana Raja-raja dan YDP Agung tidak boleh membuat keputusan apa pun berhubungan dengan mana-mana penerbitan, masalah adakah Mahkamah mempunyai bidang kuasa untuk mendengar kes ini tidak muncul.

Kerana Menteri telah mengambil kedudukan bahawa hanya dia yang mempunyai kuasa eksklusif untuk menentukan syarat-syarat dalam permit penerbitan The Herald yang melarang penggunaan kalimah Allah, dakwaan bahawa hanya Raja-raja Melayu dan Yang Dipertuan Agung mempunyai kuasa tersebut telah menjadi satu ejekan/penghinaan tentang kuasa Menteri di bawah undang-undang ini.

Ini adalah satu kesimpulan tidak rasmi dengan penambahan beberapa parafrasa dan penekanan. Kerajaan telah memberi notis untuk mengemukakan rayuan kepada Mahkamah Rayuan. Rencana ini juga diterbitkan di dalam Bahasa Inggeris.

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Blind Men And Elephant

There is currently a heated (petrol-bomb driven) debate raging within the nation and especially in cyberspace, as to who has seen the proverbial Elephant; or more accurately, who is authorized to label the elephant, and whether “elephant is in fact a good and right label.” Of course, the original Eastern story in allegorical form states that seven blind men sought to describe the huge animal but relying only on their own experience and sensory apparatus; their five senses. And, as a result they were confused because the phenomenon was too big for their sensory capabilities. Only the person who can see the entire animal from multiple perspectives can claim and name the impression using their own label. Usually this privilege is given to a ‘Wise One’ depending on who is telling the story. Today, we also have the help of Thomas Edison’s light. I think there is a parallel here with our own confusion of categories, claiming ownership of it, and the right or privilege to label the phenomenon.

One of the more famous English versions of the same allegory is the poem “The Blind Men and the Elephant” by John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) which I found in Wikipedia:

“The poem begins:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind

They conclude that the elephant is like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they touch. They have a heated debate that does not come to physical violence. But in Saxe’s version, the conflict is never resolved.

The Moral goes:

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!”

Our current debate is about the use of the Arabic term, “Allah.” The debate is whether the Catholic Herald should have the right to use the term in its Bahasa Malaysia version of the publication meant for Bumiputera Christians and other Malay speaking congregations. The discourse centers on whether this is a unique and personal name of the Muslim God or whether this is the Arabic version of the generic name of God, but applied by Arab Christians when referring to the Lord-God. It also festers around whether there is a political intent by the Herald in using the particular language; especially in Peninsular Malaya. Please allow me to reflect on the same discourse using my genuinely limited reasoning and language skills in the light of Edison’s bulb.

Bumiputera Christians of Sabah and Sarawak have been using the term Allah in their Bahasa translations (most times this is technically an Indonesian version) since about 150 years ago. That is a historical fact which can be easily verified or falsified. But, maybe the more important question is, who are we to anthropomorphize God (to reduce our understanding of GOD into human levels of thinking and being or by giving GOD human attributes)? The second important question to my mind is who are we to also claim unique personal ownership of this “phenomenon (or, ‘neumenon?’) of God?” Can God, if we behold this “elephant-like impression,” ever be “reduced into a thing which can be possessed or owned?” That is the equivalent of the Persians, for instance, arguing that the Blind Men and Elephant is theirs alone; their Intellectual Property! The consequential question and moral imperative is: even if we know and can appreciate this phenomenon of God, how should we become “stewards or owners” of the phenomenon, or spiritual reality?

Therefore, to my mind, this discourse has three dimensions, all of which are equally important. First, can we understand each other’s categories of thinking, and are we all talking at the same level of analysis? Is GOD, the same God or Allah for all peoples and all times? Does the image of this “Other” change or shift based on our understanding, or lack of it? Does it really matter to GOD that we call Him by as many names, as there are observers? Is not the real beauty in the eye of the Observed, and not the observer in this case?

Second, even if we understand, know and appreciate this spiritual reality we call God does any of us have a unique human right to claim ownership? I certainly think not. If not, then stewardship of that personal understanding and knowledge is the only real issue. How then should we seek to communicate the characteristics of such great Knowledge? Is it really by claiming naming rights and towards excluding others’ rights to claim the same metaphorical elephant? Under whose authority then are we making the claim then? And, by what authority do we seek to enforce that “understanding which is already so ephemeral and spiritual.”

Thirdly, even if we spiritually can and do know this God, is not reflecting and practicing the characteristics and nature of this experience the more critical question? For example, if God is all-knowing, should we not also seek to demonstrate such knowing through our being as well?

For Christmas, when I was having a meal with some friends, this topic came up and one of them, a Malay Muslim said: The Allah issue is not a Muslim issue but rather a Malay one. Some have also said that it is not a legal issue but really a political one. I have a feeling it is both a Malay issue and a very political one; not a legal or scientific or a historical or spiritual one. The majority of Peninsular Malays may need to be informed and educated to know that the root word for Allah is an Arabic word but which does not merely have the Malay meaning. Neither can Malays claim ownership of the word. They also need to be taught to understand that once we make Malay a national language, one has lost the privilege of claiming private ownership of the national language. Every Malaysian ethnic group has now as much rights to use all such words and phrases because they too are called Malaysians. To deny anyone in particular this human right of faith or belief or conscience is to deny them their very humanity. Otherwise, 1Malaysia also becomes meaningless!

We therefore need to build bridges of understanding and communication, so that we begin to see each group’s blind spots, their blind men and their respective elephants. Furthermore, with modern communication tools there are many more elephants and blind men claiming even more explanations. My prayer is that we learn to understand and hear one another; more than try to make oneself heard! May God bless Malaysia!

K.J. John is a regular contributor to The Micah Mandate and Malaysiakini. His new column in The Micah Mandate, Truth Matters Forum, debuts this week.

Allah

‘The High Court has ruled that the Catholic weekly The Herald can use the word “Allah” in its articles to propagate Christianity among its followers.

Judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan said the use of the word was constitutional as long as the periodical was confined to educate the followers of the Christian faith.

She said the usage of the word was in accordance with Articles 3, 10, 11 and 12 of the federal Constitution, the supreme law of the land.’ (New Straits Times Friday, January 1 2010)

The Sun, Monday January 4, 2010, gave the reaction of Datuk Dr Ismail Ibrahim, former National Fatwa Council chairman, to the decision of the court.

There is a difference between the concept of Allah as believed by Muslims and that believed by Catholics, former National Fatwa Council chairman Datuk Dr Ismail Ibrahim said.

This has prompted the Muslims to protest against the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision last week in allowing the Catholic weekly newspaper Herald to use the word “Allah” in its publication.

“In fact, the name ‘Allah’ specifically refers to the God of Muslims in the context of the One and Only Allah. This is the concept of God in Islam,” he told the Sun.

“Muslims cannot share the same concept of Allah with the non-Muslims, including Christian followers who believe in the trinity concept, because Muslims believe Isa or Jesus is not Allah’s son.”

Ismail, who is also the holder of the Syeikh Abdullah Fahim Chair in Universiti Kebangsaaan Malaysia, said it is not the intention of the Muslim community to challenge the court’s decision.

“It is not our intention to challenge the court or question the legal process simply based on sweeping sentiments, but the prospect of appeal according to the law is still wide open,” he said.

He said based on the concept of unity in diversity and agree to disagree, Muslims in the country have never disrupted the non-Muslims in terms of their religious practice and faith.

In addition, Islam also recognises freedom of religion based on the policy that “for you your religion and for me, mine” as said by Allah in the Al-Quran.

“However, the usage of Allah by non-Muslims, to refer to the God they believe in, could create a lot of confusion, especially among the young Muslim generation these days,” he said.

However, Ismail said Muslims must accept with an open heart whatever decisions made by the court and whatever perceptions made by the general public on the word Allah and its different concepts.

What do Christians think of the above tolerant opinion? But even more important, what does God, the Father of Jesus Christ, think? The future course of the church in Malaysia might depend upon our finding out His answer!

Joint Civil Society Statement On Church Arson Attacks

We the undersigned Malaysian civil society groups from different spiritual, cultural and ideological backgrounds condemn unconditionally in the strongest possible terms the arson against at least three churches following the controversy over the use of the word Allah.

We express our solidarity with the Metro Tabernacle Church at Desa Melawati, Church of the Assumption, Petaling Jaya and Life Chapel, Petaling Jaya, and other churches that have received threats, and to the Malaysian Christian community at large.

Nothing warrants such deliberately provocative violent acts, amounting to terrorism, on places of worship. Such violence however must not be seen as a communal conflict of Muslims and Christians. It is as much an affront to Islam and to all religions as it is to the Christians.

While we celebrate freedom of expression, no demonstration must be carried out to intimidate others who hold different opinions.

These acts are truly a blot on the image that we promote of ourselves as a harmonious multiracial and diverse society. It is also tantamount to an attack on the cardinal principle of the Rule of Law and the institution of the Judiciary who must at all times be left to decide on a case without fear, favour or intimidation.

We denounce those who shamelessly manipulate ethno-religious sentiments for their political gains. This sad situation has escalated due in part to the irresponsible responses from the Administration which appears to be practicing double standards.

We further deeply regret that in postulating their grievances to advance their agenda, those quarters have sought to convolute the real issues touching on the constitutional right of expression and to practice one’s faith and, with the aid of certain segments of the media, both mainstream and otherwise.

We expect the police to now pursue the culprits in the serial arson attacks with their highest diligence and professionalism. Until the criminals are brought to book, the image of the Najib Administration and his “1Malaysia” slogan will be associated with violence and terrorism. We however categorically reject the proposed use of ISA against anyone. The arson suspects must be charged and tried in open court to delegitimize their barbaric act.

We call upon all groups with different views on the issue to seek rational dialogue and reach consensus.

No issue is too sensitive for rational debate in a democratic society. The threat of violence should not be used to kill democratic debate.

We call upon all Malaysians to come together collectively:

o to condemn and denounce acts of desecration of any places of worship, now and in the future;
o to create a healthy atmosphere for the most inclusive debate, dialogue, deliberation and resolution of all issues confronting our multi ethnic, multi faith nation.

Regardless of the developments, ordinary Malaysians will stand firm as a peace-loving nation and support each other.

Endorsing Civil Society Groups

1. 1BLACKMalaysia Facebook Group
2. Aliran Kesedaran Rakyat (Aliran)
3. All Women’s Action Society
4. Awal Nahdah
5. Bar Council of Malaysia
6. Borneo Research Institute Sarawak (BRIMAS)
7. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
8. Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)
9. Centre of Education. Research and Development (CEDAR)
10. Child Development Initiative
11. Civil Rights Committee, Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC KLSCAH)
12. Civil Society Committee of LLG Cultural Development Centre Bhd (LLGCSC)
13. Civil Society Initiative for Parliamentary Reform (CSI@Parliament)
14. Community Action Network (CAN)
15. Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM)
16. Council of Churches of Malaysia Youth (CCM Youth)
17. Durham Malaysian Scholars
18. Editorial Board of Horizon E-journal
19. Education and Research Association of Consumer, Malaysia (ERA Consumer)
20. Educational, Welfare and Research Foundation Malaysia
21. Federation of Hopo Associations Malaysia
22. Federation of Indian Non-Governmental Organisations
23. Free Public Forum (FPF)
24. Friends in Conversation (FIC)
25. Frin Jan
26. Gabungan Pertubuhan-pertubuhan Masyarakat India Selangor
27. Group of Concerned Citizens (GCC)
28. Hartal Mainstream Media (Hartal MSM)
29. Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf)
30. Indian Malaysian Active Generation (IMAGE)
31. Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD)
32. Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL)
33. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
34. Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM)
35. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Perak (JKOAP)
36. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia Sarawak (JOAS)
37. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
38. Johor Tamizhar Sangam
39. Kesatuan Mahasiswa Indipenden (KAMI)
40. Klang Consumer Association
41. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Hopo Association
42. Kuala Lumpur Hindu Youth Organisation (KLHYO)
43. Kuala Lumpur Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
44. Kuen Cheng Alumni Kuala Lumpur
45. Majlis Kelab Bell Belia Tamil Malaysia
46. Malaysia Hindu Dharma Mamandram
47. Malaysia Indian Progressive Educational Society
48. Malaysia Lekshmi Pooja Meditation Society
49. Malaysia Tamil Artiste Association
50. Malaysia Tamil Neri Kalagam
51. Malaysia Thanavasiya Association
52. Malaysian AIDS Council
53. Malaysian Archagar Sangam
54. Malaysian Associated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry
55. Malaysian Association of Indian University Graduates
56. Malaysian Ceylon Saivites Association
57. Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism Christianity Hinduism Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST)
58. Malaysian Dravidian Association
59. Malaysian Hindu Youth Council
60. Malaysian Indian Business Association
61. Malaysian Indian Development & Unity Association
62. Malaysian Indian Development Association
63. Malaysian Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
64. Malaysian Indian Historical Association
65. Malaysian Indian Youth Development Foundation
66. Malaysian Tamil Forum
67. Middle Eastern Graduate Society
68. Monitoring Sustainability of Globalisation (MSN)
69. Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
70. myFuture Foundation
71. National Institute for Electoral Integrity (NIEI)
72. New Millennium Indian Business Association of Malaysia
73. Nur Damai
74. Oriental Hearts and Minds Institute (OHMSI)
75. Penang Du Zhong Education Society
76. Penang Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
77. Penggerak Belia MPSJ Zon 23
78. Persahabatan Semparuthi
79. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Selangor
80. Persatuan Aruloli Mandram, Malaysia
81. Persatuan Kebajikan Dan Sosial Kamakshi Wilayah Utara
82. Persatuan Kebajikan MGR
83. Persatuan Kebajikan Namakkal Malaysia
84. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (Empower)
85. Persatuan Mahasiswa Islam Universiti Malaya (PMIUM)
86. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
87. Persatuan Meditasi Malaysia (Dhyana Ashram)
88. Persatuan Meditasi Projan Kuala Lumpur and Selangor
89. Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah
90. Persatuan Pergabung Tamil Malaysia
91. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor (PSWS)
92. Persatuan Silambam Malaysia
93. Pertubuhan Kesedaran Hare Krishna Klang
94. Pusat KOMAS
95. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
96. Robson Hill Study Group
97. Saiva Siddhanta Mandram Malaysia
98. Sarawak Central Region Friendship Association
99. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)
100. Sarawak Native Land Rights Owners (TAHABAS)
101. Sarawak Women for Women Society
102. Sarawakians Access (SACCESS);
103. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia
104. Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Kwang Tung Association
105. Selangor Indian Entrepreneurs and Professionals
106. Sisters In Islam (SIS)
107. Southeast Asian Centre for e-Media (SEACEM)
108. SPNS, Bidor
109. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
110. Sundararaja Perumal Devasthanam Klang
111. Tamilar Sangam, Teluk Intan
112. TENAGANITA
113. The Justice, Peace & Solidarity In Mission Office, The Good Shepherd Sisters
114. The Micah Mandate (TMM)
115. Thiruvalluvar Nanneri Mayam Cameron Highlands
116. Thiruvarul Thavaneri Mandram Malaysia
117. Universiti Terbuka Perak (Ureka)
118. Wanita Desa Sarawak (WADESA)
119. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
120. World Tamil Federation – Malaysian Chapter
121. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
122. Yayasan Penyelidikan dan Pembangunan Pendidikan Tamil Malaysia (Tamil Foundation)
123. Youth for Change (Y4C)
124. Youth Section of Melaka Chinese Assembly Hall
125. Youth Section of Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall
126. Youth Section of Persatuan Wui Leng Selangor dan Kuala Lumpur
127. Youth Section of Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall

Endorsing Political Parties

1. Democratic Action Party (DAP)
2. Human Rights Party (HRP)
3. Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS)
4. Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)
5. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)

Call To Prayer: Reports On Attacks On Churches

As reports come in of the various confirmed arson attacks on churches as a result of the High Court decision upholding the Constitutional right of Christians to use the word “ALLAH”, the Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) unreservedly condemns such irresponsible acts committed by people who are out to create terror and fear in the country.

At time like this we urgently call on the government to do everything possible to ensure the safety of Christians to worship freely. Firm action should be taken to apprehend these extremists.

The government must show zero tolerance for the use, threat or incitement, of violence as a means to pressure the decision of the court.

We also appeal to the King, the Council of Rulers and the Ulama to protect the safety of Christians against people who commit such acts in the name of religion.

Just as there are some extremists who are out to disrupt the peace and inter-religious harmony in our country, we know there are a great majority of people of all faiths who are willing to stand together and promote mutual respect, inter-religious understanding, and championing common values of love and peace, in the spirit of 1Malaysia.

To this end, the CCM calls on all Churches to remain calm and offer special prayers this month for unity and peace in the country.

CALL TO PRAYER:

“ In the midst of religious plurality, which can cause suspicion and hatred within communities, kindle your light O God, in the hearts of all peoples to honor each other as your children, born in your image, to respect each other’s beliefs, to end the use of religion to exercise political and social power, to stop discrimination and division based on religion.

In Your mercy, we pray your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

In Christ’s name – AMEN

REV.DR.HERMEN SHASTRI
General Secretary
Council of Churches of Malaysia