Don’t politicise God!

By P. Ramakrishnan   

When God is politicised we are in big trouble. That is what is happening in Malaysia. And that’s why we are in such a big mess.

Religious zealots have come out with edicts that defy logic and override the supreme law of the land, the Federal Constitution.

They have paid scant attention to the High Court ruling way back in 2009 that the word “Allah” can be used by the Christians.

The government has appealed against this decision. But nothing has happened for more than three years. Seemingly it is meant to be so! There is no urgency to solve this matter as soon as possible. Most people think that the delay is deliberate and politically motivated.

The claim by some members of certain organisations who had aggressively demonstrated on the premise that Muslims and Christians will be confused if “Allah” is used by non-Muslims is ridiculous and laughable. There is no merit in their claim. There is no justification for this view. What is the basis for this ridiculous claim?

Why is the word “Allah” confusing? And confusing to whom? What is so confusing about the word? It had been in use for thousands of years; yet we have not come across anyone in any part of the world who was ever confused because the word “Allah” was commonly used by Muslims and non-Muslims.

Have the ordinary, average Muslims, who are the majority in this country, ever complained that they are confused when Christians use the word “Allah”? Until this controversy, which has been recently created deliberately by the religious zealots, the word “Allah” has been used widely and commonly in Malaysia by the various communities without anyone getting confused or upset!

It would appear that the only ones who are confused must be the minority of narrow-minded religious zealots! Are they really confused – or are they, for political reasons, desperately trying to confuse the majority of people who are sane and sensible and comfortable with the use of the word “Allah”?

The word “Allah” has been used all along in Malaysia without causing any problem or creating any unrest – until some religious zealots came along and suddenly claimed exclusive right to the use of the word. For heaven’s sake, this is an Arabic word used freely and universally without any problem or confusion in the rest of the world!

Muslims throughout the world have understood this word and what it refers to. Locally Muslims, Hindus, Chinese, Sikhs, the Peranakan community in Malacca and the Orang Asli have used the word comfortably and freely and they have understood what it stands for and represents.

We have never ever had confused zombies walking around like lost souls and going astray. Yet, it is argued that the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims can cause confusion. Why is it that this so-called affliction only affects Muslims in West Malaysia? What is the rational explanation?

Are the Muslims in East Malaysia made of sterner stuff that they are not afflicted by this confusion? Could it be a case of Muslims in East Malaysia being better educated and instructed in Islam that nothing will shake them from their faith?

What has gone wrong in West Malaysia for the religious zealots to claim that the Muslims here will be confused? Are the Muslims in West Malaysia that weak and gullible to the extent that they are not capable of thinking rationally and discerning what is right and wrong? Are they really confused? Or is it a case of causing confusion where there is no confusion? What is the political agenda for creating this controversy?

The word “Allah” has been used for centuries. It has been around even before Islam came into being. Where Islam originated, there has been tolerance and accommodation. Both Christians and Muslims have used the same word freely in their daily conversation and prayers without upsetting any religious sensitivity. No prohibition was imposed because they understood the core value of their respective faiths.

Islam was not founded on denial. It is a compassionate religion whose tenets exhort Muslim to be tolerant and caring, to stand up for justice, to protect the rights of others, and to be accommodating and to never deny what is rightfully others. These religious zealots seem incapable of living up to the demands of their faith. Their doctrine is one of denial.

Is the faith of the Muslims in West Malaysia that shallow and precarious that they can be so easily led astray? Isn’t it an indictment that after all that has been done to protect and preserve Islam and to educate the Muslims into becoming better human beings with so much effort, it has been a total failure?

Shouldn’t these religious zealots be directing their attention and anger to the more serious malaise plaguing the Muslim community and deserving their wholehearted attention?

It is a fact that teenage pregnancy, incest, baby dumping, drug abuse, HIV infection and many more ailments are rampant among the Malay community. Seriously, these are the areas that the zealots should be involved in.

There is widespread corruption, abuse of power, human rights violations, injustice, deaths in custody, racism, co-habitation, rape, murder, discrimination, wastage and many more wrongs which should be the concern of these religious zealots. But there are no earnest attempts to resolve these issues. But strangely, the uttering of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims consumes their entire attention.

The Penang Mufti, Hassan Ahmad, has reminded all parties not to challenge the National Fatwa Council’s decision that “Allah” can only be used by the Muslims in the country.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court had ruled in a landmark decision in December 2009 that the Home Ministry’s blanket ban on the use of the word “Allah” is illegal. Would he care to rage and rail against the Malaysian judiciary for that ruling? Would he now state that the judiciary has no right to adjudicate on this issue?

The Perak Mufti, Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria has declared that if non-Muslims want to use the word “Allah” they must convert to Islam. There is no logic in this baffling statement. Would he dare to declare that the entire world is subject to his ‘ruling’? The rest of the world wouldn’t care two hoots for his views. He would become the laughing stock of the Muslim world.

Going by their logic, Islam must be insulted throughout the wide world on a daily basis because many adherents of different faiths utter this word in their prayers and conversations. What are these religious zealots going to do about this?

Now, what happens to the Holy Book of the Sikhs which has the word “Allah” in it? Are the religious zealots suggesting that it should be rewritten, dropping the word “Allah” to reflect their views?

Mizrahi Jews (descendants of the Jewish communities of the Babylonian era in the Middle East and the Caucasus) also use the term “Allah”. Are the religious zealots declaring that from henceforth the Mizrahi Jews have no right to use this word? How ridiculous can one get.

In the view of many thinking Malaysians, it is these religious zealots who are confused – not the rest of the Muslim community. It is time we settle this issue once and for all.

Now is the real test for these religious zealots. We hope that they will be brave enough and honest enough to be consistent in their narrow-minded views. There are some state anthems that have the word “Allah” in the lyrics. Will they now declare that the non-Muslims in West Malaysia should not sing these state anthems? That should be the case, going by their warped reasoning!

Will they be consistent in their stand by declaring that the Rukun Negara, the national code of conduct for all Malaysians, should not be observed by Muslims because of the word “Tuhan”? Will they have the guts to say that we sideline the Rukun Negara because, in their lopsided view, it can confuse the Muslims in West Malaysia?

And likewise, will they also forbid the Muslims of West Malaysia from singing the national anthem, Negaraku, which has been sung spiritedly since our independence, because in the lyrics there is the word “Tuhan”? Will they say that we must abolish the national anthem in West Malaysia?

Now, it is really confusing to all of us. The religious zealots must be genuinely and thoroughly confused as well!

FIrst published at this link on 9 January 2013

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

P Ramakrishnan is the long-serving former president of Aliran who served three and a half decades on its executive committee, has been with Aliran since its inception in 1977. Now an ordinary Aliran member, he continues to highlight issues of public interest to a larger audience.

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