NEWS ANALYSIS BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
October 17, 2013
There is irrationality and irony in the Cabinet’s decision that the word Allah can be used in worship and in the Bahasa Malaysia bibles in Sabah and Sarawak – because one cannot compartmentalise religion by regions.
Nor can the Cabinet override the court’s decision.
Or the fact that the Bahasa Malaysia section of the Catholic weekly, the Herald, is actually meant for East Malaysians where most of the Catholics speak and read the national language more than anywhere else in the country.
After all, what are the chances that a non-Catholic would be able to lay his or her hands on one of the 14,000 copies printed weekly in Malaysia for some one million Catholics in the country?
If anything, the Cabinet decision that the Court of Appeal ruling would not affect Christians in Sabah and Sarawak shows that at the end of the day, everything is about politics.
While the ruling was specific to the Herald’s appeal against the Home Minister’s ruling, there was also the wider issue of considering the Archbishop’s argument that it infringed his right to freedom of religion.
What really is there to stop the enforcement of Syariah laws that prohibit usage of certain words by non-Muslims, now that the civil courts have agreed that the Home Minister is well within his rights to limit the Herald from using the word Allah?
As it is, several muftis have voiced their opinions that such religious laws can be used to punish non-Muslims and excommunicate Muslims who support a Christian’s right to use the word.
The Cabinet cannot just decide that it is fine to issue a letter limiting the words used by a publication depending on the religion and region or allowing it to be freely used elsewhere.
This makes a mockery of such laws and regulations.
While the appeal court have made its decision, the government of the day has to ponder the ramifications of its ruling and the subsequent challenge in court. State Islamic authorities too will have a larger say on the matter, even in Sabah and Sarawak.
Where will this end? Not with a Cabinet ruling on the matter because this country has separation of powers. To ignore a court decision brings with it the possibility that others too will ignore the ruling.
Stopping a low-circulation weekly from using the word Allah or confusing practice with propagation has turned Malaysia into an international joke as far as religious ties are concerned.
Trying to cover it up with more assurances is even more comical, if not sad.
The reality is that the government has decided it can regulate the words used by worshippers of any faith, without considering how futile that can be. But that is what politics is all about, the art of the possible. – October 17, 2013.