(NOTE: above picture shows the latest issue herald – 6 jan. 2008. it has the word ‘we have our permit!’ in big bold words right on top. inside is a press statement from fr. lawrence, and the 2 letters from the government are also inside)
yep in my updated post about herald getting its permit, it was mentioned the NaSTy paper did mentioned that herald still can’t use ‘allah’ while the star mentioned it was ok to use it.
well, now it is confirmed. the cabinet had copyrighted the word ‘allah’ to malaysian muslim. the cabinet had decided herald can’t use ‘allah’ because…
“One of the reasons given to uphold the restriction is because that it has long been the practice of this country that the world Allah refers to God according to the Muslim faith.”
so said abdullah mohd zin, minister in the prime minister’s department.
‘practice of this country’. so is he admitting that only in malaysia, allah is copyrighted to the muslim?
t was only proper for other religions to use the word "God" and not "Allah" when referring to their God in respective beliefs, Abdullah said, adding that the use of the word “Allah” shall not be made a public debate that may give the impression as if there is no freedom of religion in the country.
freedom to practice our own religion, yes, BUT restrictions are always put on for other religions apart from islam. thus it will be safe to say there isn’t absolute freedom! what do you call this restriction on herald not to use the word ‘allah’? herald is not free to use a word that had been used centuries ago by christians – so where is the freedom, huh, abdullah??
"The use of the word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims may arouse sensitivity and create confusion among Muslims in the country,” he said.
pigilah! again the word ‘confuse’. confuse muslims. oy abdullah, don’t lah insult the thousands of muslims in the country. or you think they are so naive. as the malaysian asked?
As if our followers of Islam are so naive as to be led astray or tricked into converting to Christianity because of the word ‘Allah’ being used in a church newspaper?
precisely! it is a church newspaper which are not circulated to the public at all. just how many muslims would have come across it? well, even if they do, i believe my muslim friends are not so stupid (like the cabinet) to be confused over the ‘allah’ word used.
to wrap off, i’m going to recommend you to read this well written interesting letter from yong chee keong in malaysiakini. go on, hop over to read, since it is a letter, you can read without subsribing.
another good writing to recommend you to read is from malaysiakini’s columnist, helen ang, a friend i got to know during our bangsa malaysia gathering in penang. here is the article below. do subsribe to malaysiakini to read her article and you will get to read other interesting articles too, like the one from KJ john who also wrote about the herald-allah issue.
Allah and the language of Bangsa M’sia
Jan 3, 08 12:05pm
Che Ghani Che Mohd Nor used to drive 90km a day to send his children to a Chinese school. He lives in Kemaman, Terengganu.
There’s a Malay-medium national school just one kilometre from his home in Air Jernih. However he chose to enrol all four of his children in SJK (C) Lok Khoon, in Bandar Seri Bandi which is 15km away. With his children separately attending the Chinese school’s morning and afternoon sessions, plus their co-curricular activities, there were times when Che Ghani had to make six trips a day.
His eldest son Mohd Syaifullah has just entered first semester at a local public university but before that helped dad at work. Che Ghani is a freelance operator in the tourism industry; they organise river cruises to see fireflies at Sungai Yak Yah, Kemaman.
Mandarin-speaking Syaiful, 19, assisted in conducting the Chinese tour groups, including those from Taiwan. He proved so popular that he’s already been snapped up by Ping Anchorage to work with them after he acquires his professional qualifications as nature guide. Ping is the successful Chinese-owned travel agency which is largest in the East Coast.
Che Ghani, 41, tells me why he opts for the Chinese education system for his offspring. He says he is attracted by the community’s ethos, where even when the kids are at play, they have a book in hand. “That’s healthy. I also like the way of thinking … how the Chinese bring up children to respect their elders,” he adds.
He is happy with how things have turned out and the Chinese companions Syaiful hangs out with. He endorses the Chinese orientation towards productivity and is proud of how his son has never been idle during school holidays. During term breaks, Syaiful would either be doing part-time jobs, taking courses or interning.
‘Ya Allah’ they do say
In Std One, Syaiful had emerged 4th boy but by the second term in Std Two, he had topped the class beating his Chinese classmates, Che Ghani recounts. If Syaiful was an outstanding pupil, the father predicts that his younger son, 10-year-old Nizam would fare even better having already shown a great facility in the Chinese tongue.
Nizam’s brother, 6-year-old Aiman, is in the same school but their sister Nurul Akma Amira, 16, had dropped out of the Chinese stream. For some reason, Che Ghani’s boys had gelled with the Chinese environment but not the girl. I ask if his decision on their children’s schooling receives the support of his wife, who’s also Malay. Che Ghani replies ‘Yes’.
He explains that when he was working in Singapore, he had many Chinese friends. Today he has a Chinese partner in business who speaks fluent Malay. But then a lot of Chinese in the East Coast do. Kampung Chinese in Kelantan, particularly, possess native speaker competency.
Che Ghani and his Malay friends get a kick from telling feel-good stories about their Chinese chums. They are ordinary Malaysians imbued with the goodwill to see the best in other races and to appreciate their positive traits.
They like to say that if you heard the Chinese there talk (but without looking at his face), you’d mistake the voice as belonging to a Malay. One anecdote went about how a group of Malays in conversation had quoted some verses from the Quran when the Chinese guy piped up to correct the Malay individual: the verse should rightly be recited as such and such.
This is the story. Growing up, his was the only Chinese family in the kampung and when his Malay pals ‘mengaji’ (learned the Quran) he had sat outside on the veranda waiting for them to finish religious class. Through attentive listening, he had imbibed the Quranic recitations too. In fact, some Chinese in Kelantan and Terengganu exclaim ‘Ya Allah’ and ‘Mashallah’ in the same everyday intonation as their Muslim friends.
Living under one roof
I tease Syaiful that his father desires him to marry a Chinese girl, and ask what he thinks of the idea. The lad says he would wait for ‘jodoh’ or whatever will be, will be of his future romantic match. At the risk of embarrassing the modest young man, I shall employ my writer’s imagination to project a possible scenario.
In my opinion, Syaiful who is responsible, resourceful, industrious and well-spoken would make a desirable son-in-law. Pity I don’t have any daughter to betroth to him. As for the putative Chinese girl, she would be landing herself a doting father-in-law who’s already blessed the relationship and brothers-in-law conversant in Chinese and exposed to Chinese culture.
In Malaysia, the nature of things is such that she is expected to convert to Islam – something she might do for love or because she genuinely believes. Thus the ummah will gain a welcome addition through gentle persuasion rather than coercion.
On the other hand, the actions and pronouncements of some state religious leaders, for instance the muftis of Perak and Sabah, have antagonised the adherents of other faiths, as have the insensitive and intolerant Little Napoleons who have turned ‘Other’ Malaysians off Islam.
My ex-boyfriend is a Kelantanese Malay and the greetings ‘Asalamualaikum’ and ‘Walaikumsalam’ used to ring often in his family home in Kota Bharu. To wish ‘salam’ is a beautiful impulse – peace be with you.
Isn’t salam so much like the Jewish ‘shalom’, and ‘amin’ an echo of the Christian ‘amen’? Yet in Malaysia, we have race and religion supremacists who advocate divisiveness where there exists commonality.
Opening lines of communication
Language is what can draw us together. I speak proficiently enough so that when I’m in Kelantan or Terengganu, I’m able to converse wholly in Malay throughout my stay. I love the lilting cadences of the East Coast dialect. When one loves a language, how can one hate the people to whom that language belongs?
Better yet if our various languages – Malay, Chinese, Tamil and others – could be shared as one people so that we speak Bangsa Malaysia. The Swiss, for example, are famously multilingual. I’d thought our national language policy is about uniting Malaysians. Isn’t Malay already the lingua franca when a Chinese meets up with an Indian?
Nonetheless if Malay-speaking Christian Malaysians understand their God to be Allah, it’s a bureaucratic no-no. Non-Muslims are not allowed to use the word ‘Allah’ else they will “confuse” Muslims.
I don’t care to quibble over the ‘Allah’ versus ‘God-Lord’ exegesis since I’m neither Muslim nor Christian. I do take issue though with the communitarian petty-mindedness which decrees that one religion alone here has special rights-cum-privileges to professions of faith in the Almighty.
Our country, so unique among the community of nations, boggles the mind by copyrighting ‘Allah’.
Our country equally confounds the world by refusing to sanction Malays being anything other than Muslim, and making this proscription law. It is an unjust law that deprives Malays of their universal human right to faith freedom. If anyone’s at all “confused”, it is Malaysian authorities who insist on playing God.
a part of KJ john’s article (as i mentioned above) is too good not to put up here in my blog, hence here it is, an extract:
The debate over ‘Allah’
Does not the Federal Constitution reign supreme for all in Malaysia? Or, is the correct interpretation and review of the Federal Constitution focused only on the Malay-Muslim view of life and living, at the exclusion of every other worldview? In fact, all of these nuances and rhetoric are reflected in the now renewed debate over the use of the word “Allah” as the personal name of reference to our concepts of the Almighty. If God is really God, call him by every other name and his name shall remain as who He is. None of us humans can mar his character or change his personality, by the change of his name; regardless of what we call Him. We can never anthropomorphize God! But, we can surely be guilty of personalising and privatising the name of God, by interpretive bias.
Moreover, the reference for God as Allah is a pre-Islamic idea used by Arabs within their culture and context. Therefore, when the Ministry of Home Affairs “directs” the Catholic Herald not to use this “Arab name for God” in our spoken Bahasa Malaysia, what are they really saying? Are we not really saying that the operative interpretation of “all other religions and their practices” also comes under the ambit of the “ketuanan Melayu thinking?” Is this not also the case of claiming an overriding interpretive authority in an area not even privileged by the Constitution? Is this not maybe one of the reasons that many Muslims in Malaysia may also feel constrained by the particular and sectarian interpretation of the practices of mainstream Islam in Malaysia?
Likewise, to the bumiputera Christian in Malaysia, it appears that only some mainstream Malays in Malaysia have the right to use the Arabic and Pre-Islamic concept for God and thereby establish a copyright that even the Constitution does not privilege. But, herein lies our flawed thinking and worldview, which not even the Arabs are saying, as I understand from my Arab Christian friends that they have used the word ‘Allah’ for a long time before even the Muslim or even Jewish and Christians have claimed. It was used by people of that region from since the time of Father Abraham. And, as we all do know, Abraham is pre-Jewish, pre-Christian and pre-Islamic! Maybe we need to be able to differentiate culture from faith; then issues of faith do not cause us to stumble over cultural practices and thereby make them political problems. This is when true spirituality can be distinguished from external religion.