THE ALLAH ISSUE A CONSTITUTIONAL TRAP FOR CHRISTIANS
KEPALA SATU MAKHODA DUA-(Malay proverb)
“One man cannot serve two masters, for he will either love the one or hate the other”.(Bible)
When Fr. Lawrence Andrew was joined by the Bishop Rev. Ng Moon Hing in defying the exercise of a constitutional power by government injuncting the use of the word “Allah” in Christian publications, they brought into very sharp public focus and enlivened the fading doctrine of the separation of church and state (religion and government). They appear also to have ratcheted up the fight for a religious state and a religion based constitution. And by their defiance of local law and the constitution, they may well have awakened a sleeping giant, the Malays of Malaysia.
The Malays a people, long in patient pursuit of their rights to an Islamic state supported by the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, may just have been handed a golden opportunity to realize that right.
The midwife to the birth of a prospective Islamic state ( a theocracy) is that unwitting sponsor, the belligerent coalition of Christians. They are Bishop Ng Moon Hing, Fr. Lawrence Andrew and his Bishop Murphy Pakiam now joined by Hannah Yeoh and her evangelistas.
“Christian” defiance of law and lawful authority, under the misguided, misdirected influences of Moon Hing and Andrew, ably supported by the opposition, is nothing short of trampling on and discarding in the process, the federal constitution and the lawful authority of the Court of Appeal of Malaysia. In addition they appear to have set aside the idea of and secularism, in preference for the authority and their allegiance to Christian theology.
In their unholy haste to embarrass and humiliate government and the majority Malays (Muslims), the Christian coalition of Andrew and Hing appear to have shot themselves in the foot paving the way for a theocracy.
THE ALLAH ISSUE
The Court of Appeal in Malaysia recently handed down a decision overturning an earlier lower court decision which amongst other things decided that the federal constitution of Malaysia contains no prohibition of the (controversial) use of the word “Allah” by non Muslims.
The controversy began with the Catholic Church’s selective use of the word “Allah” in a publication, the Catholic Herald. That dispute is now commonly referred to as the “Allah” matter.
It is true that in a narrow sense it is not unlawful for anyone to use the word “Allah” in Malaysia. However in the context in which government injuncted the Catholic Herald from its use of the word “Allah”, its continued use by the Church in breach of that injunction makes their actions in this regard unlawful.
The Court of Appeal has upheld the government’s position in this regard. And there are good reasons for that injunction by government supported by the Court of Appeal decision.
If the word “Allah”, or any other word or action by any group in Malaysia (as is the case in most other countries) threatens peace and public order, the government under the constitution has not only the right and the power, but also an obligation to intervene to prevent any threats to peace and public order if the breach continues. In this case that breach and its ensuing threat is found in the use of the word “Allah” by the Christians in Malaysia.
As to judging whether the Malays and Muslims are being overly sensitive about the use of the word “Allah” as most opposition publications and leaders claim it to be the case, that’s irrelevant. The fact it upsets anyone (Muslims in this instance) and threatens peace and good order is what is relevant.
The disturbance arising from use of the word “Allah” by non Muslims in reference to God has provoked violence and a backlash likely to further escalate tensions between the two communities.
The continued Muslim baiting by Christians in Malaysia does nothing to calm an already volatile situation with the now more provocative expansion of their religious vocabulary to include public use of the phrase “Allah Hu Akbar” (Allah is Great) universally acknowledged as an exclusive Islamic phrase in praise to God.
CHALLENGE TO GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY -TREASON
By their conduct the Christians not only challenge government in their defiance of the injunction. They also openly challenge the legitimacy of a secular federal constitution. In its place they seek to establish the dominance of a set of non secular sectarian Christian theological imperatives through the politics of the pulpit, in a fight for supremacy over an otherwise tolerant functioning secular society.
The Christians (mainly Catholics) backed by their ‘stalking horse’ the opposition parties have been openly advocating treason in the name of their God. And by advocating disobedience to the constitution, disrespect for the Court of Appeal’s decision in this matter Fr. Lawrence and Ng Moon Hing and their congregations are expressly threatening peace and good order. The government must act.
CONTEMPT -THE RULE OF THE CHURCH VS THE RULE OF ISLAM
Two dangers have now unquestionably arisen out of the actions of Christians in Malaysia in this regard. Each of these directly related to the validity of federal constitution and the authority of government over them in Malaysia.
First, by their conduct, the Christians demand recognition of a theocracy over a secular Federal Constitution.
Further and by their conduct the Christians have legitimized and given momentum to the advancement of non secular politics in Malaysia.
Sectarianism, a Muslim theocracy is a constitutional concept long pursued by many Muslims in Malaysia since independence but eschewed by most in favour of the tolerance and diversity of a secular reading of the federal constitution.
Christian defiance and disregard of the current federal constitution on the other hand favours and advances a (Christian) theocracy against secularism; and further still by default in the second, their conduct promotes if not compels a re-write of the Malaysian federal constitution, paving the way through a simple process formalizing the Islamization of Malaysia. That is a concept and a declaration already expressed (lying dormant) in the federal constitution.
Malaysia’s Malay Muslims form the majority of a multi-racial population comprising also of the Chinese and Indians in the minority.
In any democratically held referendum on the federal constitution reinforcing Malaysia’s position of being a “Muslim Nation” in the constitution, the outcomes in favour of an Islamic state will prevail. It will only take a mere administrative formality for the majority Muslims in Malaysia dominating the referendum to succeed. Christians by their present belligerence and defiance of law and constitution can take credit for fostering that change if and when it comes.
GOVERNMENT? WHAT GOVERNMENT?
What’s perhaps most disturbing in all of this is the inaction of a government in power acting as if under siege from all sides.
The current religious and racial tensions have been allowed to escalate to a point it is threatening to spill over into a religious inter ethnic war in the country. And to the detriment of the country, the constitution and the rule of law, government appears to have bent too far backwards unnecessarily to pacify the Christians and opposition parties to a point it has eroded the power and authority of the courts and undermined the federal constitution.
Perhaps in a way Fr. Lawrence and Bishop Ng Moon Hing have to be thanked by the Malays and Muslims of Malaysia for demolishing whatever remains of the credibility of that faded fictitious constitutional doctrine of the separation of church and state.
In doing what Lawrence and Hing have done they are paving the way now for an Islamic state in Malaysia like Brunei has recently declared itself to be. Such a view is neither new nor novel. It is supported by what is already stated in the federal constitution about the official religion of Malaysia being Islam.
To their credit, the Malays have for decades refrained from imposing their constitutional right to an Islamic state upon their non-Muslim fellow citizens. This, called tolerance in some circles, is sadly viewed as stupidity amongst others.
A CUT TOO DEEP-GOVERNMENT INACTION ENCOURAGING CHRISTIANS
By their use of words like “Allah”, the Christians publicly and insensitively boast of their defiance of government and constitutional conventions. Their celebrated taunts against the constitution, government and the majority Muslims include that much publicized conversion of Muslim(s) into Christianity (like the conversion of Aslina Joy) as a ‘right’ for Christians to exercise in breach of the so called “social contract“.
That “social contract” of unwritten agreements underpinned the spirit of the federal constitution till recently, prohibiting amongst other things as the sensitive taboo of religious interference in Islam by non Muslims and practices such as the conversion of Muslims into other religions.
Now emboldened by government inaction, they have added a more disturbing dimension to this humiliation of Muslims with the slogan “Allah is Great” (Allahu Akbar), and “Jesus is the son of Allah” in banners hanging from the outside walls of prominent churches in Malaysia.
Government’s inaction is being misinterpreted as appeasement of the opposition encouraging them to further fan the flames of racial and religious intolerance into an inferno threatening to engulf us all.
As it happened immediately prior to 13 May 1969, the opposition leading the Christians may well have now crossed that rubicon. Therein lies the danger for everyone in Malaysia.
WHEN TOLERANCE IS NO LONGER A VIRTUE
By attacking that doctrine of separation of Church state, the constitution and the authority of the Court of Appeals decision, the opposition have further prized open the door to religion playing a dominant role in government and the affairs of state. Secularism to the Christians and the opposition is dead.
They have demolished and eroded the long tolerated position of secularism the Malays and Muslims have protected and upheld for decades in Malaysia.
ODD MAN OUT
Malaysia stands out as the odd man in all of south east Asia with its levels of tolerance and preservation of religious and cultural rights of its minorities.
In its neighbourhood of ASEAN, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, Chinese settlers have long been forced to adopt local native names over their own on the pain of legal sanction.
Minorities in these countries have by law been prohibited from overtly displaying any signs and symbols of their culture or script of their languages in public places, whilst Malaysia, an oasis of multi-cultural tolerance, has for centuries celebrated the freedoms of minorities to do otherwise.
It now appears that the tolerance of the Malays and their government for all these years has been like the proverbial Arab and the camel in his tent.
Gradually and discordantly minority groups have chipped away at all things Malay and Muslim even claiming now unto themselves Tanah Melayu and the rights of Malays as custodians of their own land against all accepted internationally recognized norms.
There is a mistaken misguided belief even amongst the elite Malays that the White Man brought the idea of constitutional government to Malaysia.
What most Malaysians fail to realize is that the Malays were an old and highly sophisticated civilization with a monarchy in their states and constitutions that were both conventions and in written form, strictly observed, distributed and maintained in an orderly fashion.
The Sultanates of Johor, Perak, Malacca and Kedah had sophisticated forms of constitutional monarchies and a civil service long before the Indians, Chinese or Europeans arrived. It was the Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed who demolished the previously held myths of the ‘uncivilized Malay’ raising the self-esteem and dignity of the Malay to the status so many enjoy today.
Malays have a rich history which non Malays with the connivance and misinformed upper class Malays seek to re write with their Hang Li Po’s and Parameswaran’s and the British residents as if Malays were nothing but a bunch of ulu fishermen in loin cloth civilized only by benevolence of the colonials both eastern and European.
If government and UMNO do not crack down on this so called opposition of defamation, insults and denigration of the Malays, Islam and the Malay culture, the ordinary Malays themselves will do what is necessary whatever the cost.
Keutanan Melayu has been forced upon Malays. It is the birthright of all Malays, it is about the Malay identity and about their collective dignity.