The High Court of Malaysia’s decision in the Catholic Herald’s fight to use the word Allah is quite clearly provocative, deliberately precipitous, inflammatory and suspect.
DOES THIS DECISION MEAN THE JUDICIARY IN MALAYSIA IS NO LONGER CORRUPT?
One wonders if Malaysia’s legal fraternity, who together with the Catholic Church in Malaysia, once so willing to condemn the judiciary, will be consistent in their opinions held of the judiciary and now also condemn this decision as being the work of that same incompetent and corrupt institution for which they have nothing but contempt.
Or does incompetence and corruption have a different interpretation when they are the beneficiaries of decisions by the same ‘corrupt and incompetent’ judges?
WHATS AT ISSUE HERE
At the core of this argument is the controversial and provocative use of a word Muslims have for centuries in countries like Malaysia adopted, as their unique and inalienable right to reference God. Christians including the Catholics used Deo or God equally for centuries in places like Malaysia to refer to the almighty. Never Allah, for the perceived fear it would corrupt their spirituality.
Interestingly Catholics eschewed even the English language in Malaysia for centuries till Vatican 2. In its place on prescription was Latin. A language alien to many of its faithful who never quite understood a word of it at all.
The use of Latin as prescribed by the Vatican for centuries had been the subject of debate and irritation, let alone ridicule to many of the faithful.
Observing masses of illiterate Indian and Chinese peasants bowing before an alter, Latin chants and hymns playing out in centuries old rituals originating from their own cultures now distorted in a European Mid Eastern form and imposed on them as worship was as much entertainment as it was faith.
WHY USE ALLAH AT ALL
At a time of much uncertainty and political upheaval, the Church an arm of the sovereign state of the Vatican has seen it fit to enter into the divisive domain of multi racial and religious politics.
One might legitimately argue that the church does have a role to play in defence of its faithful. But it would be hypocritical and unnecessary a point when, one considers the shifting positions of the Catholic church, an undemocratic and unresponsive theocratic state, interfering in matters that concern the internal affairs of another sovereign state, Malaysia.
The Church for centuries had a prohibition on the use of any other language than Latin. It eschewed anything remotely relevant to its many diverse adherents in an elitist totalitarian domination of the world and in what is often described as an extension of the Holy Roman Empire.
Their argument in this case is that the word Allah had been used for decades in many places including Malaysia and that therefore gives them a constitutional right to continue to use it in reference to God regardless of the illogical circumstances and contexts to which it is applied today.
Why does the Church seek to only use the word Allah in its teachings and interpretation of the Bible? It is justly perceived by mainly Muslims as a sinister and deceptive exercise when applied particularly to Muslims from rural areas who could very easily be fooled into believing there is a nexus to Islam within the Church through its use of the word Allah?
Why would the Catholic Church not convert the language of the entire liturgy into Arabic from where the word Allah originates? Or perhaps the language of Malaysians, Bahasa Malaysia?
WHY IS MALAY AND ARABIC SO IMPORTANT NOW TO CATHOLICISM- OR IS IT?
For centuries under European domination of the peninsula, Malay was treated contemptuously as a lesser and therefore unworthy language limited in its use in its broken form when addressing the original inhabitants of the peninsula, the Malays. It was relegated to a level of insignificance at missionary schools and never was given any prominence till around 1968 for the same reasons the Church now seeks to capitalise on the use of the word Allah. A form of nationalism. In the case of the Catholic Church Vatican Nationalism.
The church equated and associated the use of the Malay language in its proper form as a bridge to Islam and therefore actively discouraged its use till now. Suddenly they appear to have fallen off their horses and seek to embrace A word “Allah” common to Malays but not to Catholics. Why?
The Pontiff, in the form of Nazi, former Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict not long ago called Islam evil and joined the west in an unholy chorus of anti Arabic (inspite of it having a relatively large constituency amongst Arabs) anti Islamic sentiment. Why now the backing for selective use of the dispised evil Arabic Allah? What is his real motive?
The Pope’s anti Islamic rhetoric we must recall was driven by the Vatican’s unquestioning support of American foreign policy however flawed it was and for its support of its other sychophant, its new convert to Catholicism, Britain’s Tony Blair.
Sadly that anti Islamic campaign now associated with the Catholic Church and its western allies turned out to be a campaign of mass murder with no justifiable cause, unprecedented in its savegery, contempt and disregard for human life in modern history. It turned out to be something reminsent of a modern day hi tech Spanish inquisition another holy, unjustified and bloody campaign run by the Catholic church.
Ratzinger and his ambassadors cannot now simply wash their hands of so much blood with a simple publicity campaign of “Reaching out to Islam“. They must repent with deeds. When will the Church’s politics and interference in the affairs of other states stop? When will Catholics become an example for others to emulate?
A PYRRIC VICTORY A SINISTER PLOT
There is a political battle being fought out there for control of the hearts and minds of a large population of Sabahans and Sarawkians being engineered by both the Catholic Church and their rivals for souls. The American style evangelical Christians.
They collectively, one not to be oudone by the other, will apply every Amway style of multi level marketing, sinister political and economic tools and bait, to rope in as many disgruntled Malays and Muslims and to galvanise them into a vote bank for the next general elections.
This practice is not much different to what they did to Indians in the rubber plantations and poorer Chinese offering them the incentives of a good Catholic school education of they did convert during the time of the British. That practice endures to this day in India where it is meeting with stiff and violent resistance and quite rightly so.
Catholics often frown and campaign against Malays or Muslims proselytizing. At the same time suprisingly the Catholic Church appears terribly oblivious, insensitive and ignorant of the pain this same phenomenon and “virtue” inflicted by them on Muslims feels like. It is a practice equally offensive to Malays and Muslims.
This would have been a different argument if the Catholics were seeking to use Bahasa Malaya in the entire liturgy to make it relevant to “Malaysians”. The question of language and identity so often and so unconvincingly argued by non Malays as being at the root of their grievances, their “heritage and identity as Malaysians” when it suits them, appears lost here to the Church and its non Malay supporters.
What Catholics appear to be seeking here is an extension to that form of racism. That whatever non Malays and non Muslims wish to do in the name of religion has to be tolerated in the name of a half written constitution. On the other hand arguing against everything that the Malays as a majority in a democracy do as being wrong and racist.
TOLERANCE IS NOT STUPIDITY
Catholics must learn to reciprocate in kind to a people in whose country they have been treated with much reverence, dignity and respect over centuries. Tolerance is a two way street. Malaysia although fundamentally a Muslim state has, advocated for and advanced Catholic (and other religious causes and purposes) without the let or hindrance or religious intolerance like that imposed officially by the Thais, Burmese, Philippines, Australians, Chinese and more recently the Swiss on their migrant communities.
Much of the reason we are able to debate such issues and to read and write about it today it is often argued, is the result of a good Catholic education. Wrong! It is equally the result of Malay Muslim generosity in allowing the propagation of the faith, vernacular schools and other institutions to thrive and the general tolerance of the values of non Malays. A cursory glance off the streets of Malaysia’s cities bears testimony to this indisputable self evident truth.
It is a pity that in return for this generosity, all that the Catholic church is capable of and all that it has to offer its Malay Muslim hosts in return is an insult to the Malays and Malay Muslims in pursuing such a worthless and insensitive policy of religious provocation.
There is a flawed perception that the constitution provides blanket freedoms to religious practices and interpretations of religious doctrines. It clearly does not do. The state always has residual powers in preservation of its sovereignty, to amend or to ignore aspects of the constitution when it offends or becomes irrelevant. It happens everywhere, everytime in the commonwealth and elsewhere in the interests of self preservation and as an expression of sovereignty.
In this particular case, we have a foreign state in the Vatican, by its local operatives, the Church, seeking to undermine national policy (however objectionable it may appear to some) through the sinister use of the constitution of its host state to undermine racial and religious harmony.
The Catholic Church unlike Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and other religions, is unique in that its directives come from a foreign government, that of the Vatican. This provocation therefore is effectively state (or foreign) policy of the Vatican.
The Church cannot therefore be arguing that some constitutional religious freedoms (which are not theirs as a foreign state), inconsistent with its own behaviour over the centuries, has been violated here. It may not argue that using the word Allah alone is therefore somehow a constitutional right or a religious practice because it is neither. This is the Malaysian constitution and not the Roman or Vatican constitution. And neither of the latter have currency in Malaysia.
Continued pursuit of the subject matter of this action is clearly a provocation. The Church knows full well there is resistance from the majority, Malaysia’s 60% Malay Muslims and is a breach of convention.
A valid counter argument to the Church’s position in this matter is, that this entire exercise is an unlawful interference by the Vatican in the affairs of another state by a foreign government, the Vatican. Additionally the Church in adopting its controversial position on the use of the word Allah, may inadvertantly be acknowledging the truth of the Quran which, if it is consciously doing may not be such a bad thing after all.
The Catholic church itself is not paragon of virtue nor the best example of a protector of its many faithful when one considers it conduct in favour of the rich and powerful against the abused in South America for centuries.
Closer to home its backing of Lee Kuan Yews attacks against a former priest (Fr. D’Souza) who had the courage to stand up for the rights of the oppressed in Singapore a decade or two ago. It is but one of many examples of the politics of expediency the Catholic church practices at the expense of the teachings of Christ.
The constitution in such cases must be read down and not up as appears to have been the case with the Catholic Herald (for want of a better description of the case) insistence on the provocative use o the word Allah.
THE CALIBRE OF JUDGES DECIDING THESE CASES
In all of this one cannot help but wonder if the justices who decided this matter were of the same calibre of one retired justice NH Chan. NH Chan’s history of judicial incompetence and the embarassment of his analysis demonstrated in the Perak Constitutional Crisis, his record of illogical and substandard judicial decisions are sadly hailed by many leading lawyers (in Malaysia) including the much celebrated Appeals court judge Sri Ram Gopal as being exemplary and creditable.
Chan remains an icon to the defiance of the laws of reasoning, when one reads his decisions, his capacity for argument and his grasp of legal issues apart from his embarassing inability to articulate himself with any form of conviction in English or Bahasa.
The constitution of Malaysia does not give license under the pretext of guarantees of religious freedoms to mischief or covert undermining of the peace and stability of the state. It is neither implied nor is it expressed in any form within the constitution. Yet this is clearly what the decision in this case implies.
WHAT THE CHURCH CAN DO TO FOSTER BETTER INTER FAITH TIES
In a demonstration of good faith, a belief in its own credo of Good Christian Charity and goodwill, the Catholic Church ought to withdraw the ridiculous and provocative demand now legtimised by a flawed decision and do so without further stretching tolerance too far. It should demonstrate that it ought not to be allowed the sinister use of one Arabic word Allah which is clearly a thorn in the side of its Malay majority hosts.
The Church may do so without any embarrassment to itself if it acts immediately. On the contrary with one fell act of goodness and respect it would build a bridge of understanding likely to last forever as a monument to its credo, rather than for the blemishes in its record of insults, abuse, its betrayal of Malaysia to the colonials and the undermining of the cultural and religious sensitivities and heritage of Malaysia’s majority.
If this matter were to be put up for reviewe independently or, in the event the government chooses to exercises its rights as a sovereign state, exercising its reserve powers, the Church may likely find itself with a pyrrhic victory in its hands designed for fools by a constitution constructed by Christians.
Gopal Raj Kumar