Thursday, January 16, 2014

The common unifying language for Malaysian Christians have been Bahasa Malaysia for a long time now...

The use of Bahasa Malaysia by Christians in Peninsular Malaysia is really not just due to the increase in numbers of Sabah and Sarawakian Christians here in the Peninsular. For a lot of us in the Centre and East Coast of the Peninsular, and other smaller towns, the common unifying language for a long time has been Bahasa Malaysia - not English - the ligua franca. Many Christian communities do not have the numbers to have services in just one language, so we have services using all the 4 different main languages - English, BM, Chinese and Tamil ...and guess what, the common language which may have been English is today BM (the language that everyone understands and speak)...In fact, in 2014, I would have to say that the main language of Malaysian Christians is Bahasa more English.

The current problem in Selangor is a State matter, and the solution lies with the Menteri Besar and the democratically elected reps in the State; but somehow...

Be it, Pakatan Rakyat or BN, State Leadership cannot just evade their responsibility for actions/omissions of a State Department or its officials, more so when they are acting in accordance with the very State laws that were enacted by the State Legislative Assembly, who now do also have the powers to repeal and/or amend such laws... 

See earlier posts:- 

Is the Selangor MB in control of JAIS? More evasions by Khalid and PR when what we need is real leadership..

Anwar, Mahfuz, PR and Selangor govt evasion of responsibility ... on 'Allah' issue in Selangor is pathetic?

And, we must also not allow this issue to distract us from the other major issues that affect all Malaysians...


Migration led to use of 'Allah', not propagation

ANALYSIS Although the 10-point solution allows Christians to use, import and print the Bahasa Malaysia Bible in Peninsular Malaysia, it is trumped by enactments in 10 states which prohibit the use of 34 words and phrases by non-Muslims.

These words, including 'Allah', appear in the Bahasa Malaysia and Iban language Bible, rendering the printer and distributor of these copies liable to criminal action.

Likewise, churches that hold services in Bahasa Malaysia and other indigenous languages, in which the word 'Allah' is used, also run the risk of having religious authorities banging on their doors.

As the ban is on publication, printing and uttering these words in a public speech, it is not a stretch of imagination that members of the congregation could run afoul of the law, too, and face a fine of up to RM1,000 if found guilty.

The National Evangelical Christian  Fellowship (NECF), which has a Bahasa Malaysia commission, has declined to provide figures for just how many Christians in the peninsula worship in Bahasa and indigenous languages for fear of backlash.

Formed after the Bahasa Bible was restricted only to Christians in 1981, the NECF is part of the tripartite Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM).

Sources within the federation say the number is “in the thousands”. Indeed, it has been reported that the Evangelical church, Sidang Injil Borneo, has at least 5,000 members in the peninsula.

The website of the Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia, a member of Protestant branch of the CFM, lists at least 25 churches in the 10 states which hold service in Bahasa Malaysia and Iban in locations as varied as big city Johor Bahru to sleepy Taiping and small town Jeli.

Migration from East to West

Those familiar with the situation say that the growth of number worshipers seeking Bahasa services has nothing to do with propagation, but is due to greater migration from East to West Malaysia.

In Terengganu, where less than half a percent of the local population are Christians, several Catholic churches in Kemaman, Dungun and Kuala Terengganu hold Bahasa services to cater to the growing East Malaysian student population who flock the public universities there.

In Johor, where at least four churches provide Bahasa services, Johor Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin announced the appointment of Sabah and Sarawak native chiefs for the state to deal with the growing community.

There are about 40,000 Sarawakians in Johor, mostly Iban, while there is no estimate for the Sabahan population in Johor.

Church leaders who spoke to Malaysiakini under condition of anonymity, said there are also Indians, Chinese and Orang Asli in the peninsula who opt to worship in Bahasa as they cannot read in other languages and are less confident in English.

“The Indians and Chinese, especially, are those who went to government schools and cannot read and write Tamil or Chinese. They prefer Bahasa and there are now two generations like this.

“To cater to them, churches in the peninsula have been providing Bahasa services since the 1970s, some as early as 1960s,” one source said.

Such services continued despite the prohibition as “there were already so many people affected and it would not be fair to them to stop services”.

A way out?

“Maybe they (religious authorities) did not know about it before,” he said as an explanation of why no action has been taken before this.

One possible reason for the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department’s (Jais) pro-activeness in acting on the matter, compared to its counterparts in other states, is the sultan's decree where the enactment was reiterated.

However, lawyer Syahredzan Johan said that the sultan's decree, like the 10-point solution, is not legislation and as a constitutional monarch, the sultan, too, is bound by the law.

So is there a way out?

Yes, said Syahredzan, but only by changing the anti-propagation state enactments - a method which is already proving too testy.

A proposal by three Selangor DAP assemblypersons for the legislative assembly to review the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment 1988 has been met with backlash from Muslim NGOs and DAP's Pakatan Rakyat partners PKR and PAS.

With the DAP holding 15 seats in the House, the trio is unlikely to get the 29 votes for the simple majority needed to amend the bill even if they choose to table a Private Member's Bill.

Alternatively, those charged under Section 9 of the enactment for using prohibited words could challenge its constitutionality.

Bar Council president Christopher Leong, in a statement responding to the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) raid, said that Section 9 is ultra vires as it does not require proof of propagation, although the preamble of the enactment states the law is to stop such activities.

He said the enactment is also pursuant by Article 11(4) of the federal constitution - the highest law in the country - which empowers the state to curb freedom of religion but only against propagation.

Article 11(3), he added, states that all religions have the right to self-regulate.

However, it is uncertain whether or not the BSM officers, who are being probed under the enactment, will challenge their arrest on Jan 2 on grounds of unconstitutionality.

In the meantime, Christians living in 10 peninsula states who have used the word 'Allah' in worship for generations, run the risk of prosecution regardless of what Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his cabinet say. - Malaysiakini, 9/1/2014, Migration led to use of 'Allah', not propagation

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