Muslim-Christian ties deteriorate while extremists celebrate

by Sheridan Mahavera
The Malaysian Insider
January 04, 2014

What’s up with the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais)? This seems to be the catch-all phrase when describing its raid on the Bible Society of Malaysia office on Thursday where some 300 Bahasa Malaysia and Iban Bibles were seized.

And the more some leaders and pundits struggle to come up with answers through the fog of silence that shrouds Jais, the more it looks like “politics” instead of “law” emerges as an explanation.

This latest incident also highlights (again) the persistent contradictions and problems in the ruling Barisan Nasional’s (BN) handling of the “Allah” issue.

Also, it reflects a deep gap in the understanding of Islam, not just among Muslims, but also the authorities who are supposed to be in charge with regulating its practice.

A cursory look at the case and the 1988 Selangor enactment that was used by Jais to justify the raid reveals some problems, a law expert told The Malaysian Insider.

Associate Professor Dr Azmi Sharom said that the enactment, which prohibits the use of 35 Arabic words and phrases, including “Allah” and “nabi” by non-Muslims, was to prevent proselytisation or attempts to convert Muslims.

This is evident in the title of the enactment itself: Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation among Muslims) Enactment 1988.

“Books lying in a building are not evidence of proselytisation, even if they contain the term ‘Allah’,” said Azmi of Universiti Malaya.

To prove proselytisation, there has to be an act of one person giving the Bible to another with the expressed intent to convert, he added.

But even such an act can be challenged.

“Anyone can still go into a bookstore to buy a Bible. Muslims can also read the Bible if they need to study it. So how is Jais going to make this distinction?”

Azmi also pointed out that there was no federal law banning the use of “Allah” in Christian holy books.

The October 14, 2013 decision by the Court of Appeal to affirm the home minister’s right to ban the use of the term “Allah” by Christians only applies to the Catholic weekly Herald.

As had been pointed out on numerous occasions by politicians and lawyers, Bibles of all languages, including Bahasa Malaysia/Indonesia, could still be imported and used in the country.

The term “Allah” appears in Bahasa Malaysia Bibles widely used by the Christian Bumiputera communities of Sabah and Sarawak, who worship in Bahasa Malaysia.

Also, it was unclear whether Jais, as an organisation that regulated the practice of Islam, has any jurisdiction against non-Muslims, said Azmi.

“Going by the reports, Jais did not even have a warrant to conduct the raid.”

For PAS leader Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, Jais’ contradicting behaviour in the raid further tarnished the image of Islam among non-Muslims.

“Unless Jais comes up with firm evidence that Christians were propagating to Muslims, then the whole raid was an act of stupidity and ignorance.”

And instead of promoting “true” Islam he said, the authority which was supposed to regulate the faith, risked further confusing Muslims themselves.

“When there is misunderstanding, people in the extreme right take advantage the issue,” said Mujahid, who is also Parit Buntar MP.

Mujahid has been actively going around churches to explain the “Allah” ruling on the Herald and how the decision did not reflect true Islam.

As he and other PAS leaders have consistently argued, “Allah” cannot be a term exclusive only to Muslims.

However, both he and the party agree with the Federal Constitution’s ban on preaching to Muslims.

Just as Jais has to clear the air on the raid, Christian leaders, Mujahid argued must come out strongly and state that there has been no intention of converting Muslims.

Although Jais’ motives are still unclear, their effect on Muslims and Christians are not.

Christians are livid while Muslims, such as Azmi, Mujahid and prominent preacher Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin are shaking their heads in disbelief.

The only ones elated by the whole episode were the Malay supremacists and right-wingers, said Mujahid, such as Perkasa, Isma and elements within Umno.

Though these groups have insisted that the ban on “Allah” was to protect the sanctity of the faith, Mujahid argued that it was a stand taken more out of political interest.

Mujahid’s and PAS’ position on Allah has been echoed and supported by numerous well-regarded Muslim scholars worldwide.

Christian communities in the Middle East and in Indonesia continue to use “Allah” with no prohibitions.

It is a mystery as to why officers and experts within institutions such as Jais and ministers in the BN government continue to differ with world opinion on the use of “Allah”.

After all, if Malay Muslims can still be confused by the use of “Allah” by Christians, then what have they been learning for 11 years in primary and secondary school?

Wouldn’t they have learnt something as basic as this in all those compulsory classes? So that when Malay Muslims reach adulthood, they know Islam and its relation to the other Abrahamic faiths, such as Christianity and Judaism?

And if Malay Muslims are so vulnerable to be led astray can Umno – which has been responsible for religious education for the past 50 years – claim that it has really served the interests of Malay Muslims?

“If there is true ignorance, we can explain to them (Malay Muslim authorities),” Mujahid said. “But I feel the motives (behind not solving the ‘Allah’ issue amicably) are determined by emotions and politics.” – January 4, 2014.

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 4 January 2014 - 7:53 am

    People should be very worried because they are talking about the Federal Court deciding the outcome because the appellant has not said that its the only that they will abide by.

    They have been behind the curve of a mess THEY CREATED and when its already near disaster, THEY ARE STILL BEHIND IT..Again, Najib & UMNO proves its the Rakyat now frequently have to clean up their messes. What is the point of them having their job?

  2. #2 by yhsiew on Saturday, 4 January 2014 - 8:13 am

    Malaysia’s Islamic authorities seize Bibles as Allah row deepens – REUTERS By Niluksi Koswanage

  3. #3 by on cheng on Saturday, 4 January 2014 - 10:42 am

    Eat full too free, these ppl mau cari gaduh shj, they cannot do any thing constructive but only do destructive !!
    Was no issue from 1957, then suddenly become a BIG BIG issue !

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Saturday, 4 January 2014 - 2:43 pm

    Dis is TRULY SAD, in dis land of multi-religions in d 21st Century (we r not talking abt d DARK ages)
    Dis is really NOT an issue n NO PROBLEM in pre-merdeka period and since merdeka till recent years
    Only in recent years, a handful of ppl created dis issue/problem, messed up thinking (mayb with an ulterior motive)
    Y, Oh Y?

  5. #5 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Saturday, 4 January 2014 - 3:49 pm

    Bersatu KITA teguh bercerai KITA roboh berniat jahat KITA hancur

  6. #6 by worldpress on Saturday, 4 January 2014 - 10:42 pm

    SHUT UP..Those do not fully understand GOD

    Every Human are GOD created living being

    No special group hold exclusive rights named GOD to call

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