IT SEEMS like while our neighbours like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are progressing at a rapid pace, we are sadly regressing and focusing our attention on non-issues.
Though I may not be a politician, I can be pretty sure the members of the Cabinet have more important and pressing issues to focus on.
Following the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we still have plenty of rebuilding to do and our economy is still on very shaky ground.
As a Christian and a voter, I must say I find it rather shocking and disheartening to once again read that the use of the word “Allah” has become news.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and all Pakatan Harapan leaders alike must not forget that they are in Putrajaya today because voters of all races and religions voted for them, not just one particular race.
For some time now, it appears that the upcoming state elections are the centre of attention, judging from the six Hari Raya open houses and the string of goodies being announced for the states concerned.
Sadly, Anwar’s reaction to the “Allah” issue also seemed like he is only concerned about the outcome of the upcoming state elections.
As the premier, he should stand up for what the verdict states and not manipulate it to try to please certain individuals. Do you really expect Christians from Sarawak to pray differently when they come to West Malaysia and not use the “Allah” word that they usually do in Sarawak?
Anwar should understand by now that he is not required to make off-the-cuff decisions and comments. Some decisions can be deferred until after Cabinet consultation and input from stakeholders. Since when have leaders been required to make arbitrary decisions based on whims and fancies and the appeasement of vocal minorities?
Why do Christians use the word “Allah” and not “Tuhan”
Logically, there seems to be no basis to withdraw the appeal. Facts and evidence show that Sarawak Christians have been using the word “Allah” for a long time and have proven to be no threat to anyone.
We should not build a phobia that doesn’t exist. Nobody in Malaysia should try to limit anyone from practising their faith, so long as they do not impose it on others.
Also, we must remember that more than 60% of Malaysian Christians only speak Bahasa Malaysia (BM) and the word used for God in the BM Bible (AlKitab) since its translation in 1731 is “Allah”.
The word is used by Bumiputra Christians who only have BM as their common language in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, and by the Baba community in Melaka.
From the very beginning, the word “Allah” has been used in the liturgy, prayers and worship of those Christians who speak Bahasa Malaysia. But for centuries, there has been no opposition or uproar about their use of “Allah”.
Objections to the use of the word “Allah” come mostly from political discourse and because many do not understand the issue at hand.
Besides, in the Malay language, “Allah” means God and Tuhan means “Lord”. As is obvious when we read the Bible, both God and Lord are used in the Bible, and both have different connotations. Therefore, “Allah” cannot be substituted by ‘Tuhan”.
The word “Tuhan” has been applied to Jesus Christ and read as “Tuhan Yesus.” If Christians are to substitute the word “Allah” for Tuhan, it will render many Biblical references to God and Jesus incoherent because the meanings of “Allah” and Tuhan are different.
Being denied the use of the word “Allah” disregards the constitutional right of Malaysian citizens to freedom of religion under the Federal Constitution.
Article 11 of the Federal Constitution safeguards the right of each Malaysian to profess and practise their religion of choice, while Article 11(3) expressly provides that every religious group has the right to manage their own religious affairs.
Arguments that Christians in Malaysia refuse to stop using the word “Allah” because they want to confuse and convert Muslims, thereby posing a threat to national security, are totally unfounded and baseless.
The claim is ridiculous as there has been no evidence offered of any threat to security. Legally, since there is no appeal, the High Court’s ruling applies and it is not just for Sarawak.
The court did not say it was for Sarawak only, and while the Prime Minister can say it is for Sarawak only, it will not stick in court. Anyone now can use the word “Allah” and the court has made it permissible to do so.
The banning of the word is ultra vires to the Federal Constitution’s freedom to practise one’s religion. That is what this means at this stage, and someone should please advise Anwar before he shoots off his mouth.
Stop trying to win brownie points for the upcoming state elections and please stop being a “jaguh kampung” for a certain community. — May 18, 2023
Augustine A. Peters
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Main photo credit: Malaysiakini