Conflict over Christian use of the word "Allah" in Malaysia has
escalated after unidentified men firebombed three churches.
The incident follows a court ruling saying that, contrary to a 2007
prohibition, Christians could use the word Allah to describe their god,
as they have been doing in Malay-language services and publications for
some time now. Online Malaysian voices are largely condemning the
attacks, with politicians and journalists alike offering their own
perspectives on the "Allah" controversy. The conflict taps into deep tensions in the country,
as American journalists are quick to point out.
- Ridiculous Muslim Position In The Malaysian Insider, Muslim columnist Sazlin Daud takes on some of her fellow Muslims' opposition to the ruling: "From what I've been hearing and reading," she writes, "most people who are against the use of the word 'Allah' by Christians have one main crux in their argument -- that it can or will confuse people. And that 'confusion' can or will lead to the weakening of our faith here ... The fragile little minds of Muslim children here might easily confuse the Muslim version of Allah and the Christian version of Allah." Wondering how, "after 11 years of learning Agama Islam as a subject in the national school system (not to mention the kind of bigoted tall tales we all hear from friends and family about other faiths)," anyone could be "moronic" enough to confuse the Christian and Muslim deities, Daud asks her "dear Muslim brothers and sisters" why they are "let[ting] other people openly insult our faith and intelligence." She also notes that the Christian use of "Allah" has been going on for a while, and that the two religions sprang from the same root, anyway.
- We Are Not Egypt: Time to De-Escalate Malaysian journalist Ahirudin Attan writes on his blog that "we know the people behind the attacks are taking advantage of the 'allah' controversy to split us up further," and asks readers to "remember: Malaysia is not Egypt. And this is not Switzerland. We don't want to be Nigeria, Kenya, or Iraq." MP and blogger Lim Kit Siang takes a similarly international view, writing that "Malaysia ... cannot afford further adverse international publicity." It "would only aggravate Malaysia's declining international competitiveness if there is escalation of deplorable incidents by irresponsible and extremist elements like the spate of church attacks."
- Not My Malaysia Member of parliament and youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin, in response to the attacks, tweets: "despicable & cowardly. This is not my Malaysia." Later, he adds "just visited Metro Tabernacle church in Melawati. Am lost for words."
- Not My Islam Others, such as Mohamed Rafick Khan bin Abdul Rahman in Malaysia Today add that "in the Quran there are plenty of verses that show that Islam respects the rights of the minority as well as the rights of the non Muslim. In fact in Islam we are suppose to protect the rights of the minority." He calls for Muslims to donate to one of the affected churches.
- Well, It Was a Stupid Ruling Zainul Arifin
offers a dissenting opinion in the New Straits Times. " In the
Malay-Muslim context of this
country, such a decision is not only seen to be thumbing its nose at
what they believe to be a truism -- Allah is God only to Muslims -- but
also blasphemous." He points out that "some Malay-Muslims ... see this
as an effort to test their resolve," and, while allowing that there may
have been "good reasons" for the ruling, thinks it may not have been
the "wisest" course of action. Time's Baradan Kuppusamy offers some context in her analysis:
Some 60% of Malaysia's 28 million people are Malay Muslim, while the rest are ethnic Chinese, Indians and indigenous tribes, practicing various faiths including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and animism. Among Christians, the majority Catholics number about 650,000, or 3% of the population. Despite Malaysia's diverse national complexion, political Islam is a growing force and the country operates under two sets of laws, one for Muslims, the other for everyone else. The authorities regard such compartmentalization as essential to maintaining social stability.
To many Malay Muslims, Judge Lau's ruling crosses that line. Prominent Muslim clerics, lawmakers and government ministers have questioned the soundness of the judgment.