The apex court of Malaysia, the Federal Court, has ruled in favour of the Appellate Court to deny the Christian Herald Weekly the use of “Allah” in its articles instead of “God” or “Lord”. Four out of the seven bench members voted to uphold the ruling by the Appellate Court while three dissented. While many jumped saying that it was an unfair decision, I did not see one person noting that one of the dissenting members is a Malay and a Muslim.
The ruling brings to a closure a divisive episode that began in 2006 that led to several unnecessary reactive incidents in early 2010 due to a High Court decision in favour of the Christian Herald Weekly. While BigDog argues that the apex court’s ruling upholds Articles 3(1) and 11(4) of the Federal Constitution, many think that it is their right to use Allah in reference to God.
Let me quote what was said as part of the judgment delivered:
‘The usage of the word Allah is not an integral part of the faith in Christianity. The usage of the word will cause confusion in the community.’
Many including outsiders such as Francis X Clooney SJ in his article entitled “Is Allah Not Our God? – America Magazine (Catholic) tried to argue for the Catholics in Malaysia without understanding the history behind this ruling and how Articles 3(1) and 11(4) of the Federal Constitution came about.
Perhaps, I may need to point out to Mr Clooney as well as uninformed Malaysians that while in the Peninsular Malaysia the use of Allah and several other words are regulated by various laws, they are not regulated for use in the Sidang Injil Borneo’s Bibles for the people of Sabah and Sarawak. Even in Indonesia some Christians use “Allah” – and this is all due to historical reasons.
In my blog post entitled The Case For God, I wrote about the history of the usage of “Allah” in Christian literatures:
Let us remember one thing. Malaya (Peninsula Malaysia) was never colonised as a whole by the British, save for Penang, Malacca, and Singapore, while Sabah and Sarawak came under direct British colonial rule. Penang was acquired through a deal to lease the island made between the British East India Company and the Sultan of Kedah; Malacca was acquired from the Dutch through the Treaty of Bencoolen; and Singapore was included in the Treaty of Bencoolen by making the severely weakened Dutch to not object to the British occupation of Singapore. The people of these three places, together with Sabah and Sarawak, became British subjects.
Through treaties with the Sultans on the Peninsula, the British helped administer the State of the respective Sultans, while the Sultans remained as the supreme head of these sovereign states. The administration of Islam came under the purview of the respective Sultans as the protectors of the state’s religion.
So, why does Indonesia have Bibles that use the word Allah to describe God?
Unlike Malaya, Indonesia was a nation of conquered people. Hello! Remember the Dutch? When Douglas MacArthur met Emperor Hirohito, he purposely stood next to the Emperor to show the Japanese people that the Emperor was not a demi-God. Victors get to do as they please, and this is probably the same case as the Ladang Rakyat issue in Kelantan. The Dutch conquered parts of Indonesia beginning in 1595, and as part of its attempt to call the Malay diaspora in Indonesia to Christianity, the Book of Matthew was translated into the Indonesian language in 1629; and where the Dutch set foot, other religions were formally prohibited although Chinese temples as well as mosques remained in existence.
Missionaries, too, made headway in Sabah and Sarawak, converting the populace to Christianity. Sir Stamford Raffles recommended to Rev. Thomas Raffles (Buitenzorg, 10th February 1815, Mss. Eur. F.202/6) that Borneo be given vigorous campaigns by the missionaries as “the island is inhabited by a race scarcely emerged from Barbarism.”
This does not mean that the Malays were free from attempts to proselytize them. In fact, Raffles, in a letter to his cousin in 1815 mentioned how “Religion and laws are so united” in Muslim dominated areas that the introduction of Christian beliefs will bring about “much mischief, much bitterness of heart and contention”.
Raffles contended that Christianity must be packaged in a new form and be conveyed to the Muslim majority through a gradual approach. The “pagans”, on the other hand, required no stratagems. His methods include the establishment of missionary schools where the Malays are taught to read and write in their own language. Then he set up printers to publish books in Malay. Missionaries were largely responsible for this effort with the help of local agents, and the most famous of these agents was a chap called Abdullah Abdul Kadir who is better known as Munshi (Teacher) Abdullah. He and other Munshis taught Christian missionaries the Malay language. His role went beyond that and became the first Muslim in South East Asia to translate the Bible into the Malay language, that he became the target of his contemporaries who called him Abdullah Paderi (Pastor Abdullah) among other things.
It is interesting to note, however, that Raffles never once attempted to convert Malays in the Federated and Unfederated Malay States where the Sultans rule and guard the interest of the religion of Islam. This is because it would be foolhardy to anger the Sultans whom the British had a treaty with, by undermining the sanctity of Islam by converting their subjects. In the case of Raffles, he only focused his efforts on those who are British subjects.
Here we see the subtle tactics of the Christian missionaries during Raffles’s times, and the Malay lackeys who colluded with them. We can see the similarities in events of nowadays. But the above is also why we have Allah in the Bibles of Indonesia and Sabah and Sarawak, but not in Peninsula Malaysia.
And the above continues to be protected and respected in Sabah and Sarawak by the 10-point agreement which also includes the immigration right to refuse entry to any undesirable persons that the Opposition has said is a violation of their rights.
What does the above history have to do with modern-day Malaysia where history should or suggested be forgotten?
In my later post entitled The Case For God – Part 3 I wrote about the attempts to proselytise Muslims which is in contravention of the Federal Constitution:
As mentioned in the previous installment, too, I find the argument that Allah is the common denominator for God in this region a joke. The common denominator in the Indo-Malay speaking world would be Tuhan instead of Allah. However, Allah is the term that is inside the Quran for as long as time can remember. I cannot say the same for the Bible as it no longer reflects the Old Testament. Anyhow, you cannot find the name Allah inside the Old Testament. Just a Hebrew name that does not even resemble both the Arabic and Roman spelling of Allah. Even so, Elohim as called by the Jews, refers to The God that has no Son, nor an equivalent called the Holy Spirit. Mind you, even the Jews are totally against the concept of deifying a human being. I am sure my wife’s Iban relatives who are Christian would understand the term “Tuhan” without any problem since Bahasa Malaysia is derived from the Malay language, and the term for God in Malay is Tuhan.
We have seen the subtle tactics of missionaries of those days in the first installment and how their modus operandi is now refined by present-day missionaries. This blogger had had the opportunity to meet up with Muslims proselytized during the month of Ramadhan of 2012 and was told of the very fine and subtle methods used to proselytize Muslims in Malaysia. Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Malay people were not only bombarded with the Malay Bible, but also Christian publications in Malay such as Buletin Ariffin, Cermin Mata, Sahabat and Warta Melayu. Little has changed, but made only better. Recently, Johor’s Department of Islamic Affairs, together with the Home Ministry, confiscated 250 Christian literature in the Malay language. Imagine these books having titles such as Kaabah, Mengenal Rasul and Wahyu Illahi. With the state of Johor having around 58 percent Muslims, 2 percent Christians, and 40 percent other religions, who were these Malay literature targeting? Ibans? Christians? Chinese? Read more about the attempt to proselytize Muslims in BigDog’s post.
So, what about the use of Allah by Christians in Indonesia, Egypt etc.?
Tell me how good has that been for Indonesia and Egypt? How well do the Muslims and Christians get along in those countries? The very reason we do not have beheading of Christians in Kelantan or lynching of Muslims in Sarawak is because we do not step on each others toes.
I also wrote the following:
So is “Allah” an integral part of Christianity? I argued on this when the Appellate Court decided against the High Court ruling:
When the Turks charged at the British lines during the Battle of Gallipoli, they cried “Allahu Akbar.” The British soldiers retorted, “Come and get your Allah here!”
If the same British soldiers are here now, they would be utmost disappointed that the Christians in Malaysia now want to accept Allah – the name of the God they believed to be false – as the special noun to replace the word “god”.
Why am I still on this issue? Some lawyers now say whatever decree the Agong issues, is not binding for non-Malays and non-Muslims.
Fine. The Malay Rulers may not have intrinsic powers left apart from dissolving or withholding a cabinet or state assembly, appoint a Prime Minister or a Menteri Besar, and protect the religion of Islam and Malay customs. I shall not dwell too deeply into this but my friend SatD has written a very good piece on this in his blog Pure Shiite.
What is most important is that when the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) confiscated those Bibles containing the special noun “Allah”, they were acting on the provisions of Section 9 of the Selangor Shariah Criminal Enactment which prohibits the use of 25 or so Islamic words and nouns in non-Muslim publications. You will be committing a crime merely by having one in your house or car, let alone propagate one to a Muslim (or more).
What does the Shariah enactment have to do with non-Muslims, you may ask. Everything! It is NOT an Islamic law, it is a State law! Actually, it is a State Criminal Law! And a state criminal law applies to all be they Muslims or otherwise. And it is a STRICT LIABILITY law! Like I said, you have one, you break the law!
You constitutional law sexperts may also argue that the law is unconstitutional. It may be so. But it is the state law until and until a Constitutional court decides otherwise.
Oh, cry foul all you want and claim that the Apellate Court judges were all Malays. This is the part that I do not understand. All these challenges to the decision of the Apellate Court may be a norm to some of you common criminals and petty lawbreakers; the judges may not even hazard to act against them but the person who should be taking action, the Attorney-General, should. It is in contempt of a court ruling. What does that tell me, a layman? The A-G is simply useless for allowing lawlessness become a norm.
When Muslims cry foul to the Christians saying that “Allah” is an integral part of Islam, it is because the concept of trinity is an antithesis of the “Oneness” of Allah. The special noun refers to The God, One and Only God. Not a God that needs a trike to be able to “stand.”
The Christians lashed back saying that the Muslims should not tell them what is integral and what is not to them, saying that Allah is integral to the Christians. Else why quarrel over the special noun?
The word “integral” means something that if not present, does not complete something. Like tyres to cars.
Let me ask them this: if “Allah” is integral to the Christian faith, does this mean that the Popes, for 2,000 years, all the way from St Peter Petrus, have gotten it all wrong?
Maybe those adamant to use the special noun “Allah” can now shout to the Pope to come get his “Allah” here.