28 JANUARY 2014
Finally the Prime Minister saw fit to speak about the ‘Allah’ issue but what he said brought no assurances to the Christians who had been hoping against hope that he would, for once, behave as the prime minister for all Malaysians instead of his usual pandering to a small group of ultra Islamists. Our disappointment is beyond measure. The bottom line is that the 10-point agreement is worth nothing as it is subject to existing state and federal laws. What is left for Christians in Peninsula Malaysia, where the states have passed enactments to stop non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ and other Arabic words?
The Prime Minister’s statement last week confirms beyond a shadow of doubt that he is a man whose words cannot be believed. It is clear that the 10-point solution was merely a political ploy to pacify Sabahans and Sarawakians before the Sarawak state elections in 2011. We have been well and truly conned. This solution was drawn up and offered by the government without restriction in 2011. Why is the PM narrowing its ambit now? This man, who has no moral fibre and even less integrity, should resign as the prime minister if he cannot be the leader of all Malaysians. How far is he going to allow himself to be pushed around and used by the likes of Perkasa? Even after he gave them what they wanted, they are not satisfied and are braying for more.
The patron of Perkasa, former PM Mahathir Mohamad has also been showing the world his true colours since his retirement with many irrational and racist statements, the latest one being that the word ‘Allah’ was used by certain parties to convert Muslims into Christianity. There has never been any proof to support this accusation and the former PM invites ridicule in making such baseless claims. That a former PM should make unfounded and irresponsible accusations such as this only serves to invite speculations about the state of his aging mind.
However, I have to concur with him when he said that Muslims never had problems with Christians in this country for a long time but I differ with his answer as to why the issue was being raised now if not for an ulterior motive. Why, he has the audacity to ask. My question to him is - who was it that first created the problem if not the Home Ministry in issuing the ban on the Herald? Mahathir was right – we lived in harmony and there was no friction between Muslims and Christians. None until the tsunami of the 2008 election, when UNMO realized it needed to salvage the support of the Malays. Before that, no Muslim claimed to have been confused by the use of the word ‘Allah’ by Christians, a word that had been in their vocabulary for centuries. After 2008, the UMNOputras decided that the Muslims should be confused and started fomenting fear and mistrust between them and non-Muslims. Where no fear existed previously, the UMNOputeras planted the seeds of fear. That was when the problems started.
The MP for Pulai, Nur Jazlan Mohamad made an astute observation that the problems arose when UMNO shifted from its centrist position towards the right in an effort to be more Islamic than PAS and continues to play the race and religion card to win the Malay Muslim votes. As pointed out by the MP, UMNO is not going to win the Malays over by playing these cards. The people need a PM and a government who will address the real issues faced by the people, such as the soaring prices of goods. The people are tired of the manufactured issues used by the UMNOputras to instill fear and divert attention from the real issues facing the nation.
We must constantly remind ourselves that the majority of Muslims are rational and secure in their beliefs, and that they do not allow themselves to fall into the clutches of the UMNOputera supremacists. Among these enlightened Muslims is Marina Mahathir, who understands the concept of freedom of religion in a multi religious society. This shining apple has certainly fallen far from the tree, and I am thankful that there are Muslims like her who are not afraid to stand up for the truth, and support the right of all Malaysians to freedom of religion.
Many lawyers and scholars have pointed out that the states have the authority under Art 11(4) of the Federal Constitution to enact legislation to regulate the preaching of religion to Muslims, but that they have no jurisdiction over non-Muslims. The state laws which purport to ban the usage of Arabic words without any reference to attempts at proselytization are arguably unconstitutional and open to challenge. It is inconceivable that state laws should take precedence over the Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of non-Muslims to practice other religions. We are heading towards being controlled by a regressive and oppressive Islamist regime. Make no mistake about it – our foreign investors are having doubts about the wisdom of their decision to invest here. Should they pull out, we will be well on the way to being a bankrupt nation, if we are not there already.
Where does Najib’s stand on the 10-point solution leave the thousands of Sabahan and Sarawakian Christians working in Peninsula Malaysia who are now supposedly banned from using ‘Allah’ in the states which have enacted such bans? Bahasa Malaysia is the main language spoken by them and is the language used in their worship. How are they to pray now? This bewildering treatment is not what our forefathers signed up for when they agreed to the formation of the federation.
Christians in Peninsula Malaysia are under severe attack in their position as pawns in the UMNOputera’s quest for supremacy. As pointed out by Clive Kessler, the proclamation by the Sultan of Kedah that the word ‘Allah’ is exclusive to Muslims is a significant one, the sultan being the most senior of the sultans and sitting as Agong for the second time. The words of this particular sultan have great impact and Islamist groups such as Perkasa may agitate for this stance to be taken by the sultans collectively in the Council of Rulers. If this happens, I agree with Clive Kessler that it would signify the end of Democratic Constitutionalism in Malaysia. What would this nation become then?
As a direct result of the PM’s weakness and lack of direction, his double standards and his inaction, extremist groups have been emboldened to take provocative and violent action in their attempts to cause conflicts between Christians and Muslims. This is evident in the throwing of Molotov cocktails into a church compound in Penang on Sunday. We are waiting to see what other tricks these UMNOputeras will pull out of their bag next. Maybe the pig’s head in the mosque stunt? The past attempts at provocation have not worked, but nothing will stop the mob from trying again unless the PM digs deep within himself for some fortitude to prove his mettle as a leader. For that, we hold little hope but offer fervent and constant prayer.
Malaysians must stand firm in demanding for the protection of our constitutional guarantees. We must work together to ensure that we will never become a country that allows extreme political Islam to divide us, borrowing the words of Perpaduan Anak Negeri (PAN) in Sabah. True Islam is a religion of peace and love. Christians and Muslims in Malaysia can live in peace in harmony again if left alone to practice their faiths without interference by desperate politicians and dangerous extremists. Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim has made the call for a national consensus to address affecting religious and racial harmony. The PM and BN would do well to show their willingness to address these issues by accepting the offer of a dialogue.
I urge that the Malaysians silent majority work together to ensure that our beloved country be preserved and remain truly democratic in line with our forefathers’ dream and that the Federal Constitution remains the supreme law of this land.
ADUN N70 Ba’Kelalan/ Chairman, PKR Sarawak