Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Peninsular Malaysia Don’t tell us how to pray,’ Borneo states say

Tuesday, 12th January 2010

Is this the image that our Peninsular Malaysia Muslim try to potray? The feeling of hatret and intolerance?

The battle might be between the Roman Catholic Church and the government over the right to use “Allah” but the ones most affected are those in Sabah and Sarawak.
As Sabah leader Tan Sri Bernard Dompok pointed out, they worship in Bahasa Malaysia as its the national language and Bibles are in that language because it is not feasible to print or translate it to their various dialects.
More importantly, “Allah” is their word for God, the same as for the Malays, who borrowed it from the Arabs.
Semantics aside, the people in Borneo do not see the fuss or problem over the name of God.
The Muslims in Sarawak, Jack (who asked that only his first name be used) reasoned, were not just tolerant of other faiths. They have accepted non-Muslims as a daily fact of life the same way parents accept that their children have different personalities.
A government servant, he had earlier said he hoped the spate of attacks against churches in the peninsula would not spill over into Sarawak.
In 1981 I was sponsored  by Yayasan Sarawak to continue my study in one of the secondary School in Tapah Perak, peninsular Malaysia. During the religious class we, the non-muslim students were allowed to stay in the class. First time attending the Islamic Class , I was shocked and felt humiliated when the ustazah called us kafir. Being Sarawakian, such experienced was a shocked to me. If the government is serious about 1Malaysia slogan, first they must look at any matter that can distrup religious harmony such as matter like this, where the religion teacher calling the non-muslim students kafir. While in Sarawak at that time and until now,   I had never been called by my Malay/muslims kafir
Although he was upset over the broken windows of the Anglican Good Shepherd Church in Lutong, Miri, Jack’s faith in Sarawak’s Muslims has not been shaken.
“I hugely believe that this is an isolated case, and most Sarawakian Muslims and also Sarawakians are surprised that such an incident could happen at all in Sarawak,” said Jack. Many of the people interviewed for this article asked that their names be changed due to the volatility of the topic.
It is this renowned bond between the non-Muslims and Muslims of Sarawak and Sabah that has often been held up by peninsula politicians as the ultimate model of race-relations.
Yet while these politicians speak highly of East Malaysia’s ethnic unity, they seldom make any serious attempt to get peninsular Malaysians to emulate it.
Conversely, says Sabahans and Sarawakians interviewed by The Malaysian Insider, the insular race, religion and language politics of the peninsula have often been imported and forced upon East Malaysians for as long as the states have been part of the federation.
And this is what unsettles them when it comes to the turmoil about who gets to use “Allah”: that again, the peninsula-centric Federal government is telling them to change an elemental aspect of their lives that has never before been a problem.
In other words, says a Sabah Government officer, it was never a problem until the “Semenanjung” people made it a problem.


When his friends greet him with the salaam, Mujahid, 20, is never confused as to whether the person is a Muslim or not. Nor does it matter to him.
Neither does he or the Sarawakian Muslims he knows think to ask why Christians in the state use “Allah” in their prayers or sermons.
“It is very condescending to me when someone tells me that I will be confused when non-Muslims use ‘Allah’ because my faith (in Islam) is not weak … Me and my family are extremely disappointed by the uproar and all these attacks on churches,” says Mujahid, a university student.
Sarawakians and Sabahans are saddened by how an age-old community norm of theirs has suddenly turned into a fractious issue by those who do not understand the history of the practice.
Dayak community leader Dr John Brian Anthony explains how when Christianity was being propagated to the East Malaysian natives roughly 100 years ago, the texts that were used were imported from Indonesia.
These texts used the term Allah and were in Bahasa Indonesia, which was similar to the Melayu Kuno used by the natives.
“My elders and me use the same text till today because that is the language we know. If someone tells me that my language is wrong, then I say ‘Why?’ Is it about Aqidah (faith) or is it about form?”
The Home Ministry banned the use of Allah in The Herald’s Bahasa Malaysia section. Yet it is this version which is widely read by Catholics and other Christians in East Malaysia.
When the High Court overturned the ban in Dec 31 last year, it caused an uproar among peninsula-based Muslim groups.
However, Anthony says, East Malaysian Muslims have never opposed the use of “Allah” by Christians and other non-Muslims.
Political scientist Dr Faisal Syam Hazis of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) puts it another way: “The use of Allah by non-Muslims has already been embedded in East Malaysian society for more than 100 years. It has never been an issue. So why are these peninsular Muslims suddenly jumping up and down over it?”


For Dr Zaini Othman of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, the “confusion” that is being felt by the Muslims he meets in the state is why the issue is being raised now.
“Based on my daily experience with Sabahans, this is what they are asking. They feel that there is a hidden political agenda behind it.”
Though the Federal government has been at pains to stress that the issue is not about political mileage, Kuching-based blogger Norman Goh doubts that the violence it has spurred is being tackled seriously.
“First you allow the protests (by Muslim groups). Then when the attacks happen, you say [you] ‘might’ use the ISA (Internal Security Act). When Hindraf, Bersih and Bar Council rallies occurred, you did not hesitate to use the ISA,” says Goh, 23.
Faisal’s colleague, Dr Andrew Aeria, was unequivocal in his reading of the debacle.
“The view here is that Umno has fanned all of this. They seek to impose their racist imaginings on the rest of Malaysia without realising that Malaysia also contains Sarawak and Sabah.”
What Aeria is referring to is the fluid, non-communal approach to ethnic relations in East Malaysia, where groups do not seek to impose their norms or beliefs onto others.
It is helped by the fact that in the historical memory and the demographics of these two states, no group has been dominant.
The ethnic demarcations are also not enforced by politics, says Aeria, where political parties are not formed just to serve one group.
“Some parties have many members of one group but they are intrinsically multi-racial. This is where you see parties like SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party) that looks like a Chinese party but it fields Bumiputera candidates.”


Unimas’ Aeria and Faisal also dispute the views of a Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) race-relations expert who contended that for Sarawak Muslims, religion was not as important as tribal identity.
In a previous The Malaysian Insider article, Prof Dr Mansor Mohd Noor of UKM Inter-ethnic Studies Institute gave an opinion that peninsular Muslims were less tolerant when it came to questions on Islam than their Sarawak and Sabah brethren.
“For Muslims in East Malaysia, the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims is not a problem because their identity is tied to a tribe rather than to a religion,” Mansor has said in the article titled “Allah unites some and divides others”.
“Saying that is almost like saying we Sarawak Muslims are less Islamic than the ones in the peninsula just because we can tolerate Christians using ‘Allah’,” says Faisal.
East Malaysians of all creeds are passionate about their faith and identity but they were more accepting of each other, says Aeria.
“If you are saying that peninsular Muslims cannot be as tolerant as the ones in East Malaysia, are you saying that peninsular Muslims want to remain racist? What is wrong with emulating East Malaysian tolerance?”
Conversely, since the debate over whether to allow non-Muslims to use “Allah” is currently being determined in the peninsula, it seems that West Malaysians have no problems imposing their beliefs on East Malaysians.
And that, says those interviewed, would be very unfortunate for Sarawak and Sabah.

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Christians Reject Muslim Minister Proposal To Drop Word Allah

Monday, 11th January 2010

Mind your own religion. How could you as a government servant  advised us to make decision not in our favour! General sir..SHUT-UP you and all your UMNO bigots!

Church representatives here today rejected a minister’s call to drop the claim to use the word “Allah” in the Christian sense.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom earlier today urged church leaders to adopt the same approach as a lay Sabah leader who reportedly said the word “Allah” should be reserved for Muslim use in Malaysia because they have been using it longest.
“Will we or the church, if we don’t use the word Allah, suddenly lose or increase followers in the Christian faith 10-fold?” Utusan Malaysia reported Datuk Clarence Bongkos Malakun, president of the Sabah Justice of the Peace Council, saying in a statement from Kota Kinabalu last night.
“It is time for us, the Christian community, particularly the Catholic make an evaluation based on the present situation for security and public peace and drop the word Allah to calm our Muslim brothers.
“Rather than insisting on the right to use the word Allah it is better if Catholics only use the word ‘Tuhan’ or ‘Tuhan Yang Maha Kuasa’,” said Bongkos Malukun.
Unlike the muslim where non-religious scholar can make decision on religious matter, in Christianity, religious matter only can be decided by the religious scholar. Who is Datuk Clarence Bongkos Malakun that proposed catholic to drop the word Allah? His comment was political mooted and made in dilusion. If we have to do so, means we have to rewritten the Iban's bible!...Bukittunggal.
He added that Christians in Malaysia should stick to the Federal Constitution and not follow those in Indonesia on the use of “Allah”.
Pastor Danil Raut, the president of the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church in the peninsula, was highly critical of Bongkos Malukun’s statement and claimed it was not representative of the Christian community.
“He’s got the right to say his opinion but I definitely cannot agree with him,” Raut told The Malaysian Insider.
“So many people have been using the word before Merdeka. In the language of our people, the Lunbawang and Lundayeh, ‘Allah’ means God,” he added.
“This is stated in the Lundayeh Bible, not the Malay Bible,” he stressed.

Pastor Richard Samporoh agreed.

“I think his statement is very political,” Samporoh said. He noted that Bongkos Malukun used to be a state assemblyman and is a Christian but not a church minister and does not have the authority to speak for all Christians.
“Many people, including the politicians, have misunderstood the whole issue,” said Samporoh, who heads the SIB church in Shah Alam.
“We’re not demanding to use the word. We have been using it for almost 300 years. The case was only filed because of the ban from the Home Ministry,” he added.
Samporoh said he has been a pastor for over 30 years and the controversy only erupted recently, after the federal government banned the Catholic church from publishing the word “Allah” to refer to the Christian God in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its weekly paper.
Samporoh further claimed that there was an agreement between the federal government and the church in the 1980s that Christians be allowed to use the word in their worship.
“We can use the word ‘Allah’ in our Bible, but it cannot be sold in public bookstores,” he told The Malaysian Insider.
“I’m not very sure if there was a written agreement but it was during Musa Hitam’s time,” Samporoh replied when asked.
The Sabah-born pastor is also the adviser to the SIB church in the peninsula and strongly supports inter-faith dialogues.
“Understanding each other is the best way to resolve problems. I don’t think the Muslims understand what is going on,” he said.
Father Lawrence Andrew who edits the Catholic paper, Herald, was reluctant to comment on the issue.
“My official position is this: the case is in the courts. Let the court decide. I cannot comment on it,” he reponded when contacted.
But The Malaysian Insider understands that in the Roman Catholic church, only officials holding the rank of the bishop onwards have the authority to make decisions.
The Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Reverend Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, who is the publisher of Herald, could not be reached for comment.
He is currently away in Johor for meeting of bishops with the Vatican’s representative who is based in Singapore.
Pakiam is also the president of the Malaysian Bishops Conference

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