Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Idris Jala must not defend the 10-point solution – Bob Teoh

FEBRUARY 25, 2014

Datuk Seri Idris Jala's defence of the cabinet's position over the “Allah-Alkitab” crisis and 10-point solution is untenable because it is fundamentally flawed.
Although he made it clear that this is his personal opinion, Idris is basically defending the cabinet over an indefensible policy.
Cabinet's 10-point solution in 2011 is flawed because it is essentially a one-country-two-laws policy. This is both wrong and unacceptable.
The Christian Federation of Malaysia's, the umbrella body, response was to reject the 10-point solution.

The 10-point was imposed unilaterally by the cabinet although discussions with some church leaders were held behind closed doors.

Other church organisations, denominations and pastors' fellowship adopted a similar posture with the exception of the Bible Society of Malaysia, which is not a spokesman of the church in any case but a Bible bookshop.
The use of the word “Allah” pre-dates Islam. It is not exclusive to Islam.
The 10-point solution fails to understand this. A senior pastor said last week that on the Day of Pentecost, as described in the Book of Acts in the New Testament, Arabs as well as people of other
ethnicities were present on that occasion, 600 years before the Quran was compiled.
The Bible also pointed out each people group was declaring "the wonders of God in their own tongues" (Acts 2:11). The Arabs would have no doubt used the word “Allah” to refer to God.

In the Malay-speaking world, portions of the Bible were first translated (in Indonesia) in 1612 in which the word God was translated as “Allah”.
This was not only the first non-European translation of the Bible but it was done well ahead of any translation of the Quran into Malay.
Even the legendary Munshi Abdullah translated the Bible into Malay preferring the word “Allah” for God.
The Christians were, therefore, first to use the word “Allah” in the Malay-language Bible.
This puts to rest the argument that the word “Allah” is exclusive to Muslims. The principle is that the first to use the term is entitled to claim priority over those who used it later.
Again, the 10-point solution has missed this moot point.
Even as Islam is the religion of the Federation, freedom of religion remains a most fundamental human right of every citizen recognised and protected by the Federal Constitution.
This, the cabinet has failed to accept or understand.
So fundamental is this right that even when a state of emergency is proclaimed under Article 150 of the Constitution, among other things, our right to freedom of religion cannot be tampered with or
removed.
We have lived through several emergencies or marshal law periods in our short history. Yet not once has our fundamental right to freedom of religion been curtailed or set aside.

Sub-clause 6A of Article 150 is clear: "nor shall Clause (6) validate any provision inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution relating to any such matter or relating to religion…"

This plainly means freedom of religion remains protected and guaranteed by our Constitution even under emergency rule.
The supremacy of the Constitutional guarantee and protection of our freedom of religion becomes clear at once, when read together with Articles 3 and 11.
The safeguard of freedom of religion, as rightly pointed out by Idris, is further amplified in what is known as the 18- and 20-point agreements submitted by the Sarawak and Sabah governments for inclusion into the new Constitution for Malaysia in 1963.

We are also acutely aware that freedom of religion is also a cornerstone of United Nations conventions on fundamental human rights and that the state should not intervene in matters of religion.
This was the position rightly taken by the High Court in the Herald case when it decided on December 31, 2009, that the home minister was wrong in imposing a condition that the weekly Catholic Herald's annual publishing permit would only be renewed if it did not use the word “Allah” to refer to God in its Bahasa edition.

Sadly, last year the Court of Appeal reversed the High Court judgment by ruling that the use of the word “Allah” is not integral to Christianity.
In doing so the Court of Appeal went beyond its jurisdiction and has usurped the ecclesiastical jurisdiction that belonged solely to the Church in Malaysia. It is up to the Federal Court now to restore the status quo. The remedy can be by a consent judgment.

Idris's contention is that Article 11 (4) allows for the various so-called State Islamic Enactments to "control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam".
That may be so, but the operative words are "control" and "restrict". But the various State Islamic
authorities started gazetting fatwas "prohibiting" non-Muslims from using a slew of words like “Allah”.
This "prohibition" is clearly in violation of the Constitutional provision. This strikes at the heart
of the supremacy of the Constitution.

Many have called for Idris to resign from the cabinet over the 10-point solution.
Many are also aware of Idris's Christian heritage from the Kelabit Highlands, the Bible Belt of Malaysia.
He preached his first sermon while in Form Three back in October 1973. Some believed him while some others doubted. The rest is history.

But history repeats itself. Today, when Idris tries to preach religious tolerance, there are many who believe in him just as there are doubters.
I may disagree with Idris, but as a fellow believer, I would still listen to his sermon. – www.sinchewdaily.com, February 25, 2014.
~ The Malaysian Insider

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