Allah Controversy - KL High Court Plays For Time
This unnecessary controversy was sparked by that unthinking idiot Johari Baharum, deputy Internal Security minister who sent a directive ordering the weekly to drop the use of the word "Allah," when referring to the God who Christians worship. Instead, the newspaper should use the word "Tuhan," which is a general term for God. He further compounded his ignorance by saying that "Allah" referred only to the Muslim god, and its use was designed to confuse Muslims.
"Malaysians are truly dumbfounded that the use of a single, widely used term to refer to the Almighty could be the basis for denying a basic right -- the freedom to publish," cried Aliran in a statement. It challenged Prime Minister Ahmed Badawi, who touts the 'moderate' Islam Hadhari to speak out and clarify the issue.
Aliran and others have observed that the Arabic word "Allah" was used as a name for a supreme being even before Mohammed established Islam in the seventh century. Many Christian Arabs use the same word for God.
Fr. Lawrence Andrew, the Herald editor, said the ministry was trying to suppress the Bahasa Malaysia section of the newspaper. He pointed out that the word for God in the Bible in the Malay language is Allah, and said it was thus natural that that word be used.
"Surely we all know that no one can change the words of the Koran, likewise no editor can change the words of the [Bahasa Malaysia Bible]," he argued.
Andrew said many Bahasa Malaysia-speakers read the Herald, and by forcing the paper to stop publishing that section, the government was "curtailing the rights of Christian citizens who want to practice their faith -- to know more of the faith activities or be informed of faith events that are going to take place."
"This amounts to interfering in the internal activities of a religious group and ... contradicts the constitution," he said.
This isn't the first time the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims has caused contention in Malaysia.
In 2003, the issue prompted a government decision to ban a Bible published in the tongue of a small indigenous ethnic group. The ban was later reversed after protests.
In another recent sign of cracks along ethnic and religious lines in Malaysia, tens of thousands of ethnic Indian Hindus took to the streets in November to protest what they say are discriminatory policies that favor ethnic Malays at the expense of minorities. Among other things, the Hindus complained about the destruction of temples which officials say are illegal.
"The rights of one religious group should not trump the most basic of all individual human rights, the right to follow one's own conscience," said Michael Cromartie, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a statutory body that advises the administration and Congress.
With this High Court decision to defer the case, the ball has cleverly been placed in no one's court in particular and since there has been apparently no time limit being imposed for the 'discussions' we can safely assume that the controversy will be swept under the carpet. But things could have been worse if some spineless Malay judge putting his/her religious prejudices ahead of his/her sacred oath of office had abdicated his/her sworn obligation and duties and pushed the whole thing over to our Syariah courts. Luckily that didn't happen and we must thank Allah for small mercies.
In the meanwhile if the government has some brains and a true understanding of freedom to practice one's religion in a democracy, they will enable The Herald to continue publishing unmolested and allow the continued use of the word Allah as the editors have been doing all these years without converting or 'confusing' Muslims.
People like Johari Baharum who worry that Muslims are in danger of being pulled towards Christianity just because of the use of that one word, have actually deeply insulted fellow Malays and Muslims by insinuating that they are so shallow of mind and of so little faith. Johari B and his ilk exhibit symptoms of classical paranoia and therefore of unsound mind and should be referred at the earliest to a Muslim psychiatrist for professional help.
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