Will Abdullah lead the
Malaysian moderates from all faiths to defend the middle ground from
encroachments by extremist and intolerant groups undermining inter-racial
and inter-religious harmony – and start by striking down the Johari ban on
Herald from publishing Bahasa Malaysia section and use of “Allah”
by Lim Kit Siang
It is a great Christmas letdown
and disappointment that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi did not assure Malaysians that he will not allow the middle ground
to be intruded and encroached by extremists in UMNO or the civil service
by striking down unreasonable, arbitrary and unconstitutional restrictions
on Herald, the Catholic weekly.
I was expecting Abdullah to put to rest the controversy over the use of
‘Allah’ by Herald in its Bahasa Malaysia section when he attended the
Christmas High Tea Reception hosted by the Christian Federation of
Malaysia at Bukit Nanas, Kuala Lumpur yesterday, and I dare say that my
sense of disappointment was not mine alone but of the entire audience with
representatives from diverse religions in the country – Christianity,
Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.
In his speech, Abdullah reminded Malaysians not to allow extremist
tendencies to take root and undermine interracial harmony in the country.
He said the moderates should play a role in ensuring that members of the
public were not swayed by extremist propaganda which played on people's
emotions by raising sensitive religious and racial issues.
“I'm really concerned when issues involving religion are brought up from
time to time and the attendant problems that all of us would need to
“If moderates don't take centre stage, surely extremist elements will
occupy it, making us fall for their extremist approach being touted as a
religious or national approach.”
Abdullah cannot be more right that the greatest threat to inter-racial and
inter-religious understanding, goodwill and harmony stem from religious
extremists hiding in religious groups, political parties and the civil
service who have been intruding and encroaching into the middle ground,
edging out the moderates from the centre stage.
This is the main reason why religious polarization has surfaced in its
most serious and dangerous form in the past four years in the 50-year
history of the nation, gravely undermining national unity and the
The Prime Minister gave an excellent Christmas message when he called on
Malaysians to move forward and put the country’s interest before any
“narrowly-defined demands” as “over the past few months, narrow-mindedness
and intolerance propounded by a small group has served to test our faith
in each other”.
Ask the over two million Christians in Malaysia celebrating Christmas
whether they agree with the Prime Minister’s sentiments and I have no
doubt that there will be a thumping unanimous “Yes”.
Ask them to cite a recent example of “narrow-mindedness and intolerance
propounded by a small group” which had undermined the national interest
with their “narrowly-defined demands”, I also have no doubt of a thumping
unanimity of response by the Christians in the country – the narrow-minded
decision by the Deputy Internal Security Minister. Datuk Johari Baharum to
disallow the renewal of the Bahasa section of the HERALD, the Catholic
weekly and to ban the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslim Malaysians and
Abdullah’s Christmas message this year has served to illustrate in a most
vivid fashion the losing battle for the soul of the Prime Minister to
convince him to walk the talk to project Malaysia as a world model for
inter-faith understanding, goodwill and harmony.
It is clear that the writer of the Prime Minister’s Christmas message does
not belong to the the Putrajajya fourth-storey “movers and shakers” of the
Abdullah administration who exercise real power and are not just
wordsmiths but people responsible for a series of “narrowly-defined
demands” undermining the national interest in the past four years.
Is Abdullah prepared to strike down the most recent blatant example of
“narrow-mindedness and intolerance propounded by a small group”,
regardless of whether they are hiding in the bureaucracy or outside?
MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, MIC President, Datuk Seri S. Samy
Vellu and former Gerakan President, Datuk Seri Lim Keng Yaik has issued
very sweet-sounding Christmas messages. Will they support Abdullah in
striking down “narrowly-defined demands” undermining the national interest
emanating from within the government machinery, beginning with Johari’s
Johari has admitted that he was personally responsible for the decision
that the word “Allah” can only be used in the context of Islam and not any
other religion, and to impose the new condition on this restriction on the
Herald banning the use of the word “Allah” as well as the publication of
its Bahasa Malaysia section when the annual publishing permit of the
Catholic weekly comes up for renewal in the next few days.
Abdullah owes Malaysians an explanation whether he was privy to Johari’s
decision or he only knew about it when there was a public furore and
protest over the unreasonable, arbitrary and unconstitutional restrictions
for the renewal of the Herald publications permit.
A poster on my blog has most pertinently pointed out that if the term
“Allah” cannot be used by Christians to refer to God in Malaysia, then
Malaysia may become an anomaly among the nations of the world, because of
the following reasons:
1. The term “Allah” was in use
long before there was Islam religion in the world.
2. The term “Allah” was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians
before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed.
3. Malaysia is probably the only nation where the use of the term “Allah”
by Christians to refer to their God is prohibited, whereas its use to
refer to Christian God has never been prohibited in many countries in the
Middle-East and the Americas.
There are approximately 1.8
billion Muslims, making Islam the second-largest religion in the world,
after Christianity. How many Muslims and others objected to Malaysian
Christians’ use of the term “Allah” to refer to their God? Is it just only
the government of Malaysia with over 15 million Muslims, comprising less
than one per cent of the world Muslim population?
Several states, including Johore, Kedah, Pahang, Perak, Selangor, Kelantan
and Terengganu use the word “Allah” in their state anthems. Does this mean
that these State Anthems will have to be amended to conform to the new
Johari directive banning the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims?
Abdullah must not only rail speak up against extremist and intolerant
elements who are undermining the middle ground and national interests with
their “narrowly-defined demands”, but must be prepared to act against them
regardless of whether they hail from religious groups, political parties
or from the bureaucracy.
The unreasonable, arbitrary and unconstitutional Johari order to Herald to
ban its Bahasa Malaysia section and the use of “Allah” is an acid test as
to whether the Prime Minister is a leader of Malaysian moderates from all
faiths defending the middle ground from extremist and intolerant groups.
Is Abdullah prepared to strike down the Johari order to demonstrate that
he is a leader of moderates in Malaysia, not just in words but also in
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman