Thursday, January 7, 2010

Allah or Tuan, Malaysia continues on the road of the benighted

The issue causing much bleeding of printer's ink is whether Christians in Malaysia can use 'Allah' in place of 'Tuan' when Malaysian Christians invoke or speak of God, in church ritual, publications, and among themselves.
The Catholic newspaper 'The Catholic Herald' has been using it for the last two years, thereby causing a legal 'sturm und drang'. The mullahs have raised objection to the use of 'Allah', which in the national tongue Bahas Melayu, is the word for God. Pressure has been put on the government to move against the 'Herald', forbidding the use of the Arabic word for God which is the same in the local language. Straightaway, let's state that the Muslim dominated government ruled by a coalition where UNMO [United Nasional Malays Organisation] has held the reins of power for more than 50 years, allows the printing and distribution of the 'Herald' only for Malaysian Christians. This well known fact is besides the point in religiously turbulent Malaysia, which for the past quarter century or more, has tilted more and more away from a secular, multiracial society, towards a Muslim domination which discriminates in ways many and not so subtle, against the Chinese and Indian minorities. Let's also point out that Bahasa Melayhu is a language in which touches on all aspects of a Malaysian's life. Knowledge of English or Mandarin or Tamil for example, is secondary, since all education is Malay.
As a result the Catholic paper has been in litigation for the past 24 months. 'The Herald' recently won a victory in court. A Malaysian judge of Chinese origin ruled in its favour.The UNMO dominated government immediately appealed the decision, on the basis that for a Christian to use the Malay word for God, that is 'Allah', would confuse Malaysia's Muslims, and what's more would open the door to conversions. Which simply adds confusion to the panic to ban Christians the use of Allah and pushing them back to the older term Tuan. And this in a society which at the drop of the hat emphasises its Muslim and Arabic roots, and is trying to revive the use of 'jouai' or Arabic script for Malay, which has fallen out of widespread use, and replaced by the more practical Romanised alphabet.
With strong government pressure on a Muslim judge, it is more likely than naught, that the judgment will be overturned. Yet a slim ray of commonsense meay prevail, and it won't. Which goes a way to explain the fractures in the Malay dominated UNMO party, long beset by corrupt, scandal, and restive minorities who for the past 40 years have lived under an 'apartheid' style regime, which puts up road blocks in employment, education, home ownership, loans, and the like.
Ironic it is that the current prime minister Razak is the son of the man who waged a coup d'etat after the May racial riots which documents prove began by UNMO's youth organisation, mainly against the Chinese, which corseted Malaysia tightly in a rule of questionable laws, for Malays, thereby providing the glue of corruption of a society which has modernised through the wealth of its oil and natural gas, and through the commercial genius of the discriminated, second class Chinese.
A cloud of murder and scandal tracks the younger Razak. Elected under the banner of reform, his government has weakened in that his successor Abullah Badawi, lost a 50 year hold on parliment, and major urban areas to the opposition. More, not only does scandal and corruption dog his government's tracks, but it now turns out thatd all some of his ministers have been cselling government military aircraft to unname South American countries, for personal gain!
Ironic, too, is that the major opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim, once a shinning star of UNMO, put on trial and sentenced for malfeasance and buggery, has been able to cobble a heteroclite coalition of parties to topple UNMO's stranglehold. Ironic because Anwar in his younger days was a rabble rouser who preached an embracing of Islamic dress and observance, and by extension, a tightening of discriminatory measures against Chinese and Indians. He wrote a manifesto which won public acclaim and wide readership. He succeeded all too well since a slab of Malays took to the preaching of Al Qaeda and provided the leadership of Jamiyat Islamiyah which has been very active most notably in Indonesia. Although he repudiated his youthful transgression more in deed than apology, Anwar bears great responsibility on the Islamisation of secular Malaysia.
Equally to blame is Mahatir Mohammed the long reigning prime minister who not of Malay origin did everything to out Malay the Malays in pushing for a pronounced Islamic character to Malaysia. And what's more Kuala Lumpur has welcomed Al Qaeda gathering, the most noticeable being the planning for 9/11 [which it seems implausible that Mahatir's secret service remained in the dark!]
Mahatir has raised the issue on the use of Allah by Christians by pointing out that it is only in the last two years that they began using the word, substituting it for Tuan. A reasonable objection until you examine the fact of the central importance of Bahasa Melayhu in public discourse, and that it compared to the poverty of the language compared to Indonesia's Malay, it is a language of constant upgrading. And the 'Catholic Herald' is merely following a trend, to improve the spoken language it uses for its faithful, no more,no less.
GuamDiary has spoken on the issue months ago. Take the Bible in Arabic translation. The word for God is Allah. In Christian services, it is widely used. And it is in current use among Muslims, Jews, and Christians, in the course of everyday use. Take as an example, 'tabakara Ullah'..may God bless you, is coin of the realm. Of course, this has been pointed out to Malays but as proof
that Allah is the word for God in Arabic and in the language of the prophet Mohammed, it has barely sunk in. What has is the fear that by allowing say Christians the use of Allah, the political and religious power of Malays will crumble. Eye wash.
The struggle will go on, but time is against the changing tides and times in today's Malaysia. Change will come about one way or another. The pride of place of prejudice favouring Muslims, is long a thing of the past, but like all things, it will persist until the Malaysian electorate gain a better governing class.

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