Monday, January 11, 2010

Rights of Christians (and Sikhs) are being threatened (and was violated by the Government) - not the right of Muslims.

The attempt and actions against Christian Churches in Malaysia of late  allegedly by reason of the dissatisfaction over the usage of the term 'Allah' by Christians in Malaysia leads us to now reflect on what should the response be.

Should Christians (and Sikhs) back off, and stop using the word Allah in their prayers, worship, books, publications? I do not think so... as this is their religion that we are talking about, and people should the freedom and the right to practice their religion as they deem appropriate.

Some say that this is what they must do for the sake of 'peace' and for the good of the country, a country wherein about 60% are Muslims and the Federal Constitution states that 'Islam is the religion of the Federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.'[Art. 3(1)]. A concession would also mean giving way to 'terrorist' acts of a small number, and this would be setting a bad precedence.

The constitution guarantees the right and freedom to practice and profess, and the only limitation is with regard 'the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam'
(4) State law and in respect of the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, federallaw may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.- Article 11(4)

The duty to propagate to non-believers is certainly seen as an obligation in many religions including Islam and Christianity. The Federal Constitution deprives all persons of other religions from propagation amongst Muslims - and the denial of this right has been accepted...

Today, we have a new concern, i.e. the usage of the term "Allah", and some have ignorantly perceived the issue as an infringement of the right of Muslims, which it is not. It is an infringement of the rights of Christians (and Sikhs) when the UMNO-led BN government started interfering into what really is the practise of Christianity...

What right have the Government got in looking at the words we use in our prayers, worship, religious books and publications? There really must be a review of the powers and practices of the Home Ministry when it comes to religious publications and holy books. Rejections of approval, banning decisions and the imposition of conditions should not be done when it comes to such publications by the Ministry acting alone - the religious group/community must be consulted. The current body of the Ministry should also be re-named to reflect multi-religious Malaysia, and there must be representation from the various different main religions in this body/department of the Home Ministry.

The whole problem started when the Malaysian government interfered with rights of Christians. The interference was with regard to words already being used for very long time in worship and prayer in the Christian faith. The interference was with regard a Catholic magazine, which was all the time meant for circulation amongst Christians (no just the Catholics in Malaysia)...

We have to note that Bahasa Melayu is the language of Malaysia, and as such Christians have been using this language for prayer and worship for a very long time now not just in Sabah and Sarawak but also in Peninsular Malaysia. In Churches, other than the major towns in West Malaysia, services are conducted in multiple languages together - there would be songs/prayers in English, Chinese, Tamil and Bahasa Melayu in one service. In the major towns, where numbers are larger, this seldom happens.

Bahasa Melayu (or what preferably should be 'Bahasa Malaysia') is the lingua franca in Malaysia. This language systematically used to communicate between persons not sharing a  mother tongue. Hence, Bahasa Melayu has been used by Malaysian Christians for a very long time as this was the language that everyone understood. The word 'Allah' has also been used for a very very long time. Remember also that there are many Christians from Sabah and Sarawak in the Peninsular Malaysia, be they students, in the army/navy/air force, or those that are working and living here.

This is an issue that cannot really be resolved by the courts, and the action of the UMNO-led BN government's decision to appeal further prolongs and aggravates matters. The publicly reported position of the PM and some Cabinet members after the High Court decision also can be blamed for the current acts of 'terrorism' [or criminal acts] that is happening to churches and even schools.

SOLUTION. The government should forthwith withdraw the said appeal, and reiterate the freedom of practice of religion in Malaysia. There could be a re-emphasis about the prohibition of ' propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam'. All publication of religious groups, other than Muslims, should have the words "Not For Muslims" clearly stated. [Why not "Only for Christians" or "Only for Hindus"? Because there should be no restriction for these publications to be read by persons other than Muslims in Malaysia.]. There could be a further condition imposed preventing the attack of other religions in Malaysia, and this should also apply to Muslim publications.

While, we are looking at this, it may be time also to deal with the issue of jurisdiction Syariah Courts and the Civil Courts. Issues which affect disputes involving persons of different religions should be dealt with by the Civil Courts, or maybe a special "inter-religious" courts. Issues involving conversions also should be dealt with by some 'special courts'. 

The Malaysian Government should also take a greater concern with regard to places of worship of the people of other faiths. Maybe, there should also be government allocations for the building of new places of worship, and maybe an annual maintenance allowance for all existing places of worship. It is not enough for the government to just start giving money when churches are burned, as was done by PM Najib when he handed RM500,000-00 for that church that was destroyed by fire. Similarly, the government must look into maintenance burial grounds, cemeteries, crematoriums, etc - proper access roads plus regular maintenance should be responsibility of the government. 

1Malaysia - the government must do things to show that this is not merely a meaningless slogan but a change for the better where the government looks into the welfare of all Malaysians not just the Malays and the Muslims. How much has the Malaysian government expended for places of worship and burial places of Malaysians other than Muslims?


As I mentioned earlier, this really is an issue that cannot be resolved by the courts...If the Court of Appeal reverses the decision of the High Court, then you will have another big section of the populace unhappy with the decision for this after all is a matter of religion.

People have a right to their opinions...that is well and good. But the government of the day, must not get emotional and must act rationally for the good of all Malaysians, paying special attention to the rights of minorities. As I stated earlier, it was this government that started this mess...

I wonder whether all these criminal acts against churches is meant to influence the decision of the Court of Appeal...for after all, one of the grounds of her decision (as reported in Star) was that the government had failed to prove how the use of the word "Allah" could threaten national security. Would the recent incidents against the churches now be used by the Government to 'prove' how the usage of the word could threaten national security? I hope not... for as it is, some think that is the very reason why we have all these crimes against churches now. Odd, that these things did not happen before the High Court decision for after all this matter has been before the court for some time now... Will the government during the appeal try to adduce this 'new evidence' to enable the Court of Appeal to overturn the High Court decision?
Justice Lau ruled as grounds for her judgement that both the respondents – the minister and the Malaysian government – had failed throughout the trial to prove how the use of the word “Allah” could threaten national security. Star, 1/1/2010, High Court grants Catholic publication Herald the right to use ‘Allah’ word again

The Friday protests were really 'mild' and the indication is that the majority of Malaysians are of the position that the High Court was right. PAS has come out very clearly that Christians can use the word 'Allah". So has the PKR...and PRM.

The best thing that the UMNO led-BN government could do now is to withdraw the said appeal...and spend time educating the, the few 'hardcore' persons...

See earlier posts, including:-

'Allah' is not only for the exclusive usage of Muslims - that is what the High Court reminds us, and it is time to move on...

PAS makes clear position on the 'Allah' issue - What about Anwar Ibrahim's position?

Magnimously consented to AG's request... that 'Allah' issue case.

125 NGOs & 5 Political Party : Malaysia will not bow to acts of violence

PRM kutuk habis-habisan perbuatan ganas membakar gereja

Malaysian Bar deplores violence against places of worship

The Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church in Negri Sembilan was the latest target of an attempted arson, which left its front wooden doors charred.

This morning's attack brings to eight the total number of churches targeted since Friday.

seremban church door burned 110110 02Contacted later, Pastor Eddy Marsonyasir, 34, said he discovered the damage when he arrived at the church this morning.

"A few church members and I left the church at 11.30pm last night but when I came in this morning, I found the wooden door destroyed," he added.

Accompanied by DAP's Rasah MP Anthony Loke, the pastor later filed a report with the Seremban II police station.

Loke told Malaysiakini that there was no evidence of molotov cocktails having been used.

He also pointed out that the church sits only 1km from the Seremban district police headquarters.

"I strongly condemn the attack. This is part of a growing trend which is alarming. "We urge the police to take stern action to safeguard churches and other houses of worship," he said.

Founded in East Malaysia, the church is frequented by Sabah and Sarawakian students, with sermons conducted in Bahasa Malaysia.
Chemical substance used
azlanSeremban district police chief Saiful Azly said a chemical substance was used in the attack.

"The fire and rescue services department is now trying the ascertain the kind of chemical that was used," he added when contacted.

According to Saiful, the incident most probably occurred between 1.30am and 8.30am. No arrests have been made so far.

The attacks on churches followed the Kuala Lumpur High Court's ruling on Dec 31 to allow Catholic weekly Herald to use the word 'Allah' in its Malay-language edition.

However, the court granted the Home Ministry a stay of execution pending appeal a week later, after the attorney-general intervened, citing national interest.

To defuse tension, the government announced today that it will hold inter-faith dialogues between various religious leaders to reach a common understanding.

Both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat politicians have condemned the attacks and appealed for calm. - Malaysiakini, 11/1/2010, Church in Seremban attacked


Unknown said...

Have one ever wonder why the Christians are so eager to use the word "Allah" and not any other name, eg. "Jesus" which have been used before? There are so many other words that can be used, but why "ALLAH"? when it is widely used by the Muslims.....Why are the rights of the Muslim are always being question? and Why are the non-muslim always condemning Islam, in almost every aspect? Think!! The muslims have a very strong reason on why they are protesting simply because the meaning of "Allah" to them is "ONLY ONE GOD" and not the trinity concept. Just imagine how confuse the situation would be if the word is allowed, especially to the young people or school children who are still learning? Is it a way for the Christian to confuse and trying to introduce their belief to the Muslims community? If we respect each other religion and do not treatened each other religion, then peace will be on our side. The problem is that the non-muslim always trying to instigate anything to do with Islam. Lets try not to interfere with other people religion and just concentrate on one own religion. This what happen when the interference becomes serious. The Muslims will definitely fight & protect their religion just like the Christians if the same situation happen to them too, right? Just think again!...

PinkMaggit said...

Typical small minded and generalized rebuttal. Nobody's questioning anyone's rights. Not worth wasting my time.