Current Affairs

1 Malaysia, 2 Allahs?

by Tony Pua
According to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Joseph Kurup, the cabinet meetingon Wednesday decided that the term ‘Allah’ can be used by Christians in Sabah and Sarawak in their worship, including in the Malay-language bible al-Kitab.
If the above report is true, then the Najib administration has just created the most untenable situation in the country where we are supposed to be “1 Malaysia” but now have 2 sets of laws governing the same religion in East and West Malaysia.  The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak who is supposed to be the “champion” of moderation has made a complete mockery of Article 3 in the Federal Constitution which enshrines the freedom of religion.
In Sabah and Sarawak, Christians may pray to Allah but those who are in West Malaysia whose native tongue is Bahasa Melayu are not allowed to make reference to Allah.  What then happens when East Malaysians come over the West Malaysia for work or travel – can they pray to “Allah”?
However what is most significant in the Government announcement of continued freedom to use “Allah” in East Malaysia is an endorsement that the judgement of the Court of Appeal is flawed and misguided.
The Court has found “Allah” not integral to the Church and hence they “find no reason why the respondent is so adamant to use the name ‘Allah’ in their weekly publication.”  By allowing the continued use of “Allah” in East Malaysia, the Government is in fact conceding that “Allah” is integral to Christianity. This is unless the Government wants to argue that “Allah” is integral for Sabahans and Sarawakians, but is not integral for Christians in West Malaysia.  Such a move to split the country will certainly create widespread “confusion”, and should instead be banned.
By conceding that Sabahans and Sarawakians should be allowed to continue the use of “Allah” for their worship also makes a mockery of the Court of Appeal judgement which said that “the welfare of an individual or group must yield to that of the community”.  In this case, if the Government saying that in actual fact, “the community”  wants to retain “Allah” worship against these fews who are urging for the total ban of the term for non-Muslims.
In addition, given that the Government is seeking to limit the “ban” ruling to only “The Herald” newsletter, does it mean that The Church can produce new newsletters for their Bahasa Melayu congregation under a different publication name?
Based on the above, since the Government does not agree with rationale given by the Court of Appeal, whose judgement by extension means all use of the term “Allah” by non-Muslims are banned. In that case, we would like to call upon the Government, via the Attorney-General file for a revision of the judgements and for a new hearing to be held.  More importantly, after the Church files its follow-up appeal to the Federal Court, the Attorney-General chambers should not contest the appeal.
The “Allah” ban by the Court of Appeal, as well as the ludicrous proposal to split the Christian community in Malaysia into two, have made the country a laughing stock internationally.  It is time for the Prime Minister to rescue his own reputation as a moderate Muslim and share his position via a nationwide address to sooth both sides of the divide.

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