Malaysia: On the Question of Moderation
By Jose Mario De Vega
I refer to the report of Yiswaree Palansamy’s “Bracing for protests over Allah, Christians meet Muslims bearing flowers”, The Malaysian Insider, January 5.
To quote from the article:
“Nearly 1,000 Catholics turned up for Sunday mass at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Klang, Selangor, this morning expecting an angry mob of Muslims protesting the possible use of the word Allah in prayers but instead, met a group bearing flowers.
“Among the few Muslims who turned up was social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who brought a bouquet of flowers, and was part of a group expressing solidarity with the Christians.”
I commend Marina for her bold and noble act. There is no shadow of doubt that what she did is a clear case of unity in diversity, a struggle for solidarity for the minority Malaysian Christians and a vehement defense of the country’s principle of Moderation — which is under attack these past few days.
Besides showing her concern and solidarity to the minority, she also “lambasted Putrajaya over its inaction and told it to forget about the ambitious Visit Malaysia Year launched with much fanfare last night.”
As she firmly stated before the various press outside the said Church:
“Who wants to visit a Malaysia like this where there is no moderation?
“Hardly an example of moderation, we are now known as a country which grabs Bibles…”
She “arrived at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, bearing a bouquet of flowers, with members from non-governmental organisation (NGO), Sisters in Islam (SIS), and several others who turned up in a show of solidarity with Christians.” Also included in their group is the “In the Name of Allah”.
They “gathered in front of the church distributing roses to parishioners as a symbol of unity amongst the Abrahamic religion believers.”
To those idiots, bigots and morons who would accuse her and her companion of betraying her/their religion, this is what our brave lady had spoken:
“We are here to show solidarity with the congregation. A lot of us here are Muslims and we believe Islam is a religion of peace.
“It is not something that we only say (in words), but there must also be action…”
True to her words, after the service ended, Marina “passed flowers to parish priest, Reverend Father Michael Chua, with worshippers cheering and applauding the act.”
This reasonable gesture, this very act is so symbolical in my view and undeniably has shown the true picture or the genuine image of Malaysia, the true one!
Marina’s act and so as the other Muslims there who accompany her has remind me the same moving and loving scenario and that is the picture of the Muslims protecting the Christians during a Mass and the Christians protecting the Muslims during their prayers the recent Egyptian revolution.
I joined R. Gomathi’s happiness in seeing the solidarity group at the church today.
I overwhelmingly concur with the said worshipper that:
“For me, it is a wonderful day to see people of all races coming together in the name of solidarity…”
For another devotee, Fiona Biggs, “the solidarity shown by Marina and the other Muslims was heartwarming.”
As she put it clearly:
“Nothing much from the government but the support from common people like Marina and her Muslim friends is nice…”
Last week, the “seizure of some 300 copies of the Bible by the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (Jais) in the Malay and Iban language further strained worsening ties between Muslims and Christians over the usage of the Arabic word Allah which translates as God.” Worst, the said act was done without the knowledge and concurrence of the Selangor State Government.
I agree with the position of some that the act of Jais is unconstitutional and immoral!
I overwhelmingly concur with the De Facto Opposition Leader, Anwar Ibrahim that Putrajaya must answer to this incident and must make it clear to the whole nation its stand with regard to the whole fiasco!
This is a clear case of a vulgar display of supra unreasonable power! When Jais were asked, why it is that they did not even inform beforehand the Selangor State Government, they said that: Opps, we forgot!
What a bloody lousy and super stupid excuse!
Are they implying to the whole of the Malaysian people that every time they will conduct a raid, they always forgot the Constitution, the laws, civility, courtesy, morality and ethics?
HOW ABOUT COMMON SENSE? Are the Jais proving Voltaire correct that: common sense is not so common? Bloody hell!
It clearly reminds me of their illegal and unmistakably unethical raid on a Methodist Church two years ago. The same raid, so as the seizure of the Bibles were done in bad faith and in a manner that is contrary to law and morality.
“Although global Islamic scholars have clarified that the term can be used by anyone, state Islamic authorities in Malaysia have reacted negatively to reports of churches using the word Allah in its Malay language sermons.
“The tussle over the word Allah arose in 2008 when the Herald was barred by the Home Ministry from using the Arabic word. The Catholic church had contested this in court and won a High Court decision in 2009 upholding its constitutional right to do so.
“Putrajaya later appealed the decision and successfully overturned the earlier decision when the Court of Appeal ruled last October that “Allah was not integral to the Christian faith”.
“Christians make up about 9% of the Malaysian population, or 2.6 million. Almost two-thirds of them are Bumiputera and are largely based in Sabah and Sarawak, where they routinely use Bahasa Malaysia and indigenous languages in their religious practices, including describing God as Allah in their prayers and holy book.”
No one has the exclusive right to own the word Allah. For in truth and in fact, prior to the advent of Islam, the people of the Middle East have been calling and addressing their God as Allah. Allah as a generic and as a religious word does not belong to a specific group of people or specific race. The word belongs to the whole people of the world!
Anyone who says that Allah is exclusive to Muslims will betray their idiocy, arrogance, ignorance and religious supremacy.
Malaysia belongs to all Malaysians and the Federal Constitution guarantees every citizen their constitutional right to religious worship!
Despite this statutory law, one bunch or a so-called coalition (the question here is: they are a coalition of what? For what?) of religious fanatics has even threatened a local priest.
As reported by Alfian ZM Tahir, “Apologise, or else….”, The Free Malaysia Today, January 5:
“The coalition wants Catholic weekly Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew to apologise for saying that Christians in the state would continue using the term to refer to God.”
This is absolutely absurd and preposterous. Those bigots wanted a priest and a citizen to betray his beliefs and renounce his constitutional rights to believe and practice his own religion?
This is ridiculous to the maximum!
It was also reported that:
“The Muslim coalition said the failure of Father Lawrence to apologise would result in a backlash from Muslims who want to defend purity of Islam.”
Is this a threat? How come the Federal Government is not suing them for sedition, when in fact and in truth their words are already seditious?
Why the Double Standard? Or, it is because they are friends and colleagues of Ibrahim Ali?
Is this their concept of moderation? Whatever the hell happened to the nation’s central principles of unity in diversity?
I am sad by what is happening in our beautiful land, yet I cannot end this humble exposition without saying in a categorical sense that despite my sadness and disappointment, I am also equally happy and hopeful seeing Marina and reasonably, critical and liberal-minded Muslims like them who has the courage to stand up for their fellow Malaysians who belongs to the religious minority.
It is beyond the shadow of doubt that there is hope in our Malaysian society.
Marina and her courageous companions has reassures us once again that Moderation is still alive in our collective community and their great example has emboldened us to further remain vigilant, patient and firm for our continuous quest and struggle for national solidarity, harmony and societal peace!
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
College of Arts and Letters
Polytechnic University of the Philippines
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