Monday, January 18, 2010


By Ceylonese Lawyer

I view the current impasse with the eyes of men and not angles or Prophets of which I am not one and will never be one.

Where is the eye of the storm?

Charles Santiago has expressed the learned view that On Friday, Malaysia sent a strong message to the world”. I wonder on what basis he concluded that this was a signal from “Malaysia” to “the World”. It may be that media groups, especially those from abroad and liberal blogs may wish to convey such a perception, but that is certainly not a signal that I or many, many Malaysians have sent to anyone. Yet from one partly burnt Church and a number of other paint and other such attacks he concludes that 52 years of , “nation building and national unity is in tatters” and to my surprise he went on to conclude that “Malaysians are now living in fear of a racial clash following the church attacks and rising orthodox Islamic tones in the country”.

Would he not have felt that when Anwar filed an application in the Syariah Court to require his accuser to produce 4 eye witnesses for an offence of sodomy, that Malaysia and a man holding himself out as its future leader was now requiring every other victim of rape and incest to produce 4 witnesses to confirm the commission of an offence against the victim? Would he not consider that this may well result in victims of rape etc being subject to such “orthodox” means of prosecution.

What signal did America send the world when a multi-billion dollar corporation waged a legal battle against a humble curry house over the use of two alphabets – “Mc”?

The manner in which the truth has been slanted in the interests of political expedience is both shocking and offensive and the fact that Members of Parliament like Charles Santiago have chosen to associate the actions of a few within the country as a whole, without an honest and credible attempt to draw attention to the overwhelming tolerance that prevails up and down this Nation which saw the unprecedented scenes of Muslim Youth taking to the streets to patrol the Churches of their Christian brethren – is an omission that cries for answers . The conduct of these members of the opposition is in stark contrast with that of the late Robert Kennedy who on the night of Martin Luther King’s murder was quick to sooth the tempers that were flaring in America but swiftly acknowledging that while the murderer was a white American his motivations did not represent America. Such was a leader who was prepared to sacrifice short term political mileage for long term national unity.

This storm did not arise from a debate on the broad based acceptance of the term "Allah" as the accepted alternative for God in a Bahasa Malaysia text, where one group left the debate hall and started a street protest. The flames of anger that have been unleashed seem to have engulfed a large number of people, many of whom may not be bestowed with theological depth or acumen. Many are simple men and women who have practiced the faith of the fathers in between leading harsh and challenging lives month to month in growing adversity that life has come to offer us.

Yet, the point that cannot be missed is the disproportionate reaction on the part of the Catholic Church from day one, which many seem to have forgotten. Let us put this matter into context. In recent years, all branches of the Government both Federal and State have taken concerted steps to reach out to the faiths of this Nation. The Archbishop was honoured with a Tan Sri ship, dignitaries openly visited Churches and questioned the past taboos over the construction of places of worship for Christians.

Against this back ground a single decision over the use of a single word emerged. It was about using "Tuhan" in a Bahasa Malaysia publication instead of the Arabic world "Allah".

What was the implication of this?

Its implication was that some cosmetic change was required in the printed publication. There is no indication of any step being taken to interfere with daily speech or sermons. There was no stoppage of the right to worship or any other such restriction. Yet the entire Christian movement reacted as if their entire faith was under siege or that their very freedom to worship rested upon their ability to pray in the name of Allah. Thus what came to be, was not just the Court case. It had gained momentum through all the steps that were being taken outside Court, at conferences and in the Blogs which turned this into a battle that was greater than the mere regulation of printed publications.

I personally could not help but feel that that this case had became a vengence for those who were disgruntled over the losses in Lina Joy and other such cases.

Therefore one extreme reaction has regrettably provoked another. The counter reaction allegedly by angry Muslims is likewise not rooted in any logical threat that they face towards their faith or proportion thereto. But rather a sense of siege or a feeling that one's faith is about to be diluted by what could now be a liberal and undignified use of the name "Allah".

It is important to bring this issue back into its original focus and that is to say - what is the prejudice that the Catholic Church will suffer from the substitution of this one word? Will it truly offend their freedom to practice their faith? How honest is that contention when the term "Allah" has never been used by any of the Princes of St Peter to describe their Lord?

A measure of honesty is necessary in order to come to terms with this. Today we suddenly see the liberal pockets of the non-Malay community and Malay community defending what they regard as the innocent translation of God to "Allah". We are told that the logic of its liberal use lies in the use of the phrase "Allah Lanjutkan Usia Tuanku" on arches and advertisements. We are told that the term has been in use even before. Could that be the answer? How honest is it? Let us test it. Would Christians accept the demolition of their places of worship on the premise that those committing those acts were acting in consonance with the one of the 10 Commandments which decries the making of "graven images". These are some of the complexities one may encounter when one tries to take unilateral steps in apparent reconciliation with some isolated aspects of another's faith.

With all the water that has passed under the bridge let us search our souls and our conscience. If not for this issue, had the use of the term "Allah" originated elsewhere, for example - had school textbooks used the term "Allah" instead of God on the same pretext as what is being urged by the Church in this case, would the response have been as accommodating as what we now encounter ? Would this not have led to a national outcry of alleged insensitivity and such like.

There is blame to be shared all around in this incident. The Government should perhaps have acted in a more consultative manner. Well, it is better late than never. Nazri has proposed a solution which preserves the status quo. It permits Church Publications in East Malaysia to use the term ”Allah” as they have previously but for those in Peninsular Malaysia to observe the status quo where Allah will remaining the exclusive domain of the Muslim community. Yet we are told by a Malaysiakini reporter Joe Fernandez that – Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak appear to be generally shell-shocked by the federal government conceding last Thursday on the use of the term Allah for God by Christians in Malay print but only in the two states.

“Those who have ventured forth with their responses in the other Malaysia generally appear upset with the "half solution" put forward on the Allah row now in court.”

Has Joe been to east Malaysia. What kind of survey would he have conducted barely two days after Nazri’s announcement ?

His comments confirm that the East Malaysian states have been used as no more than Trojan Horses in the real and ulterior quest to liberalize the use of Allah’s name for reasons that are unrelated to past practice, language accuracy and much less – translation. It is evident that the fight is not really over the right of East Malaysians to worship their Lord in the name he has been called for the past 300 years. It is a different fight the reasons for which are best left to imagination.

What is clear is that the issue is being used in order to discredit the Government and to drive fear into the hearts of Malaysians, that somehow their very right to practice their faith is now under threat. Such a threat does not exist and hence the valiant efforts by every other member of the Opposition to stroke fear and insecurity into the minds of people. 

It is a matter of regret that few have stood up to the defence of UMNO and Utusan for that matter, in the face of how they have been blamed for this incident without evidence, proof or conviction. Should they not be allowed the decency of the presumption of innocence? Or is this a signal that PKR is sending to the world, that in their government, people may be held guilty and convicted based on populist sentiment. Had the situation been in the reserve, if the Government had placed similar blame on the opposition, the Bar or Raja Petra- would there not be faced with an out cry?

It is interesting to see that there are today suddenly quarters of the population who now cry for respect to be given to the judgment of the Court until the hearing of the appeal. But where was that respect before? Did the opposition respect the rulings of the Court when they did not favor Anwar, Nizar etc. Did they not take matters into their own hands through protests, head bands, suspension of assemblymen etc? Of course they would say that these were spontaneous and unrelated acts which they knew nothing about. After all Nizar claims not to know anything about the cross over of Assemblymen or the loss of his majority when he sought the audience of the Sultan. Did not the most dignified members of society, the Bar etc stand silent or lend their support to this. Have not the blogs continued to cheer pro-opposition High Court decisions and to denounce the Court of Appeal even before the appeals therefrom were heard? 

Therefore while the episode indicates to me that all sides need to have more faith in their faith, the honesty with which much of this debate is being peddled must be examined.

Where do we go from here? Firm leadership is required. The Government must make its position clear and it must reconcile that position with the fact that it does not in any way affect one’s right of free worship. A time frame must be set for reconciliation and if quarters continue to stroke the flames of hatred, then it becomes the role of this Government to exercise the powers available to it to restore peace and stability. I appreciate that the solution to issues such as this may not be readily apparent to those in the Prime Minister’s inner circle who are mostly Merchant Bankers and others from the professional elite. But it must be clear to all that if an issue of a racial or religious nature is stroked beyond a permissible boundary – the law will take its course. 

Ceylonese Lawyer

This article is the personal opinion of the writer. RAPERA does not endorse the view unless specified.


Khalid said...

Pity that he/she chose a pseudonym rather than tell his/her full name. This is one of the most balanced write ups of the whole fiasco. The biased bloggers on both sides should emulate this person ( not even sure if it's a he or a she) and be more balanced in their posts.

PRAY,IT WORKS. joe's blog said...

This Ceylonese Lawyer please read this piece here... ...Copy and paste the url

Anonymous said...

I read the article on Joe's blog. It is now confirmed that the Catholic church is not sincere. Nazri's concession has addressed all those issues. So it is clear to me that east malaysia is being used as an excuse for a bigger agenda. I would not be surprised if this is part of a joint exercise with the opposition to make in roads into the east malaysian states.

I agree with the Ceylonese lawyer's insight. Maybe the government needs a new legal team!

Anonymous said...

So many think tanks and again it takes the Ceylonese Lawyer to put across this point. I wonder if he can give us an insight of the reasons for the High Court decision ?