Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Muslims Have No Monopoly over 'Allah'

JANUARY 25, 2010, 8:24 P.M.

Muslims Have No Monopoly over 'Allah'
Malaysia finds itself on tenterhooks because minority issues have been handled poorly.


Malaysia has once again resurfaced in international headlines for the wrong reasons. Over the last two weeks, arsonists and vandals attacked 10 places of worship, including Christian churches and Sikh temples. Though there were no injuries and the material damage is reparable, the same cannot be said about the emotional and psychological scars left behind. After numerous conflicting statements from government officials, the underlying causes of the violence are still unaddressed. Malaysia's reputation as a nation at peace with its ethnic and religious diversity is at stake.

Malaysia's poor handling of religious and sectarian issues is not unique. The ill treatment of minority groups in Muslim countries is often worse than the actions Muslims decry in the West. I have called attention to the broader need in the Muslim world for leadership that demonstrates consistency and credibility in our call for justice, fairness and pluralism. These values are embedded in the Islamic tradition as the higher objectives of Shariah expounded by the 12th-century jurist al-Shatibi.

We have seen Muslims around the world protest against discriminatory laws passed in supposedly liberal and progressive countries in the West. Yet just as France and Germany have their issues with the burqa and Switzerland with its minarets, so too does Malaysia frequently fail to offer a safe and secure environment that accommodates its minority communities.

The recent arson attacks exemplify what's wrong with the way Malaysia regards its non-Muslim citizens. The attacks were provoked by a controversy over the use of the word "Allah" by Malaysia's Christian community, which numbers over two million, or about 10% of the population. In late 2007, the Home Ministry banned the use of the word by the Herald, a Catholic newspaper, and later confiscated 15,000 copies of Malay-language Bibles imported from Indonesia in which the word for God is translated as "Allah." A Dec. 31, 2009 ruling by the Kuala Lumpur High Court overruled the earlier ban, asserting constitutional guarantees regarding the freedom of religion in Malaysia. Since then, an already tense situation boiled over, largely due to incitement by a few reckless politicians, the mainstream media and a handful of nongovernmental organizations linked by membership and leadership to the United Malays National Organization, the ruling party.

For example, Utusan Malaysia, the nation's largest Malay-language daily—which is also owned by UMNO—has inflamed Muslim religious sentiments by accusing non-Muslims of desecrating the name of the "Muslim" God and alleging a Christian conspiracy to overrun this predominantly Muslim nation through conversion. I have seen these incendiary propaganda techniques used before, when politicians and demagogues exploit public sentiment to garner support by fomenting fear. Such tactics are useful diversions from embarrassing scandals ranging from controversial court decisions, to allegations of exorbitant commissions extracted from military procurements, to the theft of two jet engines from the inventory of the Royal Malaysian Air Force. This behavior has been exacerbated since the ruling party lost its two-thirds majority in parliament last year. UMNO is now desperately struggling to regain public support.

Few Muslims around the world would endorse the claim that we have a monopoly on the word "Allah." It is accepted that the word was already in the lexicon of pre-Islamic Arabs. Arabic's sister Semitic languages also refer to God as "Allah": namely, "Elaha" in Aramaic, and "Elohim" in Hebrew. Historical manuscripts prove that Arabic-speaking Muslims, Christian and Jews have collectively prayed to God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, as "Allah" for over 1,400 years. The history of Islam in Southeast Asia is known for its pluralistic and inclusive traditions, and amicable relations between Muslims and non-Muslims have been the norm for generations.

Muslim scholars outside of Malaysia thus find our "Allah" issue absurd and cannot fathom why it has sparked protest and outrage. Minority Muslim populations living in the West, particularly in the aftermath of 9/11, have diligently tried to remind the public that Muslims, Christians and Jews share common Abrahamic roots and ultimately worship the same God.

Local sensitivities have been aroused over this issue. They should be handled through dialogue and engagement. Instead of permeating a sense of insecurity or a siege mentality, Muslims must be encouraged to engage and present their concerns to the Christians in a constructive manner. The example of Muslim Spain is a moment in our history to which Malaysian Muslims should aspire. But efforts toward fostering a convivencia are not only found in the past. The ongoing "Common Word" initiative, a global effort launched in 2007 that captured the support of over 130 of the world's most prominent Muslim scholars, has made historic progress towards building goodwill among Muslims and Christians to find ways to live in sincere peace and harmony. It is ironic that noble efforts such as these are being undone by the actions of Muslims themselves.

Malaysia's international reputation has taken a beating since Prime Minister Najib Razak was sworn in last year. Despite his efforts to promote national unity, news about the caning of a young Muslim woman charged with drinking, the mutilation of a cow head in protest of the construction of a Hindu temple, ill treatment of Muslim converts who revert to their earlier faith and even the outlawing of the practice of yoga by Muslims have many at home and abroad wondering which direction Malaysia is headed under Mr. Najib's leadership. There are already misgivings about governance, human rights, the rule of law and rampant corruption; Malaysia dropped 10 spots on Transparency International's 2009 Corruption Perception Index, our worst showing in over 15 years. The vision of Malaysia as a peaceful and stable location for investment, tourism and migration is now in peril.

This matters most for Malaysians who have to contend with an increasingly polarized social and political landscape. Malaysia cannot afford to be held hostage by the vested interests of a few who manipulate faith and identity as a means to elicit fear for political and economic gain. This is old politics, and it has become clear that those who incite hatred are only doing so to prolong their monopoly on power. The majority of Malaysians reject this approach. They realize that overcoming the challenges we face—a stagnant economy, declining educational standards and rising crime—depends on our ability as a nation to internalize and make real the principles of fairness and justice to all.

Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister of Malaysia, is a member of parliament for the Justice Party and leader of the opposition.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010



I Have Not Resigned

Following a news write-up in the Malaysian Insider today (January 11), I have received a number of calls from the media and friends to confirm if it is true I have resigned as Deputy President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (KEADILAN).

I have no quarrel over the write-up but the speculative and rather sensational headline has led to different conclusions amongst various people.

I wish to affirm that I have not resigned nor sent any notice to resign.
It is indeed true that I have indicated that I wish to phase out slowly to make way for a younger person to take over. Leaders of the party are aware of this but they also know that I have not given any clear-cut time frame.

Apparently when my name was accepted to be Senator, and at the time I was in Mekah to perform the haj, there was an attempt to spin a story that the senatorship was the result of a deal struck so that I resign as Deputy President of KEADILAN to open the way for someone to succeed me. One or two newspapers reported this and even named that person.

I am now informed there is an element of libel in the report. Thus, I have asked my lawyers to look into the matter.

Deputy President
Parti Keadilan Rakyat
11 Jan 2010


Perletakan Jawatan Setiausaha Agung Parti Keadilan

Mesyuarat Majlis Pimpinan Pusat Parti Keadilan Rakyat telah diadakan semalam dan antara perkara lain isu perletakan jawatan Setiausaha Agung oleh Dato' Salehuddin Hashim telah dibincangkan. Dengan berat hati, kami menghormati keputusan beliau dan menerima perletakan jawatannya mulai 31 Januari 2010.

Bagi pihak Parti, saya mengucapkan ribuan terima kasih kepada Datuk Salehuddin atas perkhidmatan cemerlang beliau sebagai Setiausaha Agung sejak April 2008 dan juga sebagai Setiausaha Pengelola dari tahun 2004 hingga 2008.

Memandangkan masa peralihan yang pendek serta tugas-tugas penting yang perlu dijalankan segera, saya telah melantik Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, yang merupakan Ahli Parlimen Machang, sebagai Setiausaha Agung baru dan perlantikan beliau telah diterima Majlis Pimpinan Pusat semalam.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat
10 Jan 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Arab Jews And Arab Christians Call Their God 'Allah'

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim writes:

On Sunday January 10th I attended a gathering of Church leaders in Petaling Jaya to express our solidarity with the Christian community where I read the following statement:

We are outraged by the tragic attacks on our Christian brothers and sisters and reiterate our unequivocal condemnation of the bombing of churches in Malaysia. Today’s attack on the oldest standing church in Malaysia, the All Saints Church in Taiping, is an attack on our nation’s heritage.

As a nation we struggle to uphold the spirit of unity that our founding fathers envisioned at independence. We must hold fast to Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion and the right of religious groups to manage their own affairs. In such times the spirit of engagement and dialogue must transcend those voices that would seek to sow discord and enmity across our land.

The people of Malaysia must unite against those who exploit race and religion to incite hatred for political gain. We must renew our commitment to religious understanding and religious freedom.

This is a time that tests the resolve of all religions for peace and mutual respect. We must remember that the God who we worship is in fact the same God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

With respect to the use of the word Allah, for example, it cannot be disputed that Arabic speaking Muslims, Christians and Jews have collectively prayed to God as Allah throughout the last fourteen centuries. While sensitivities over its usage have arisen in Malaysia, the way to resolve these conflicts is not by burning churches and staging incendiary protests but by reasoned engagement and interreligious dialogue.

Muslims must recall the memory of our own tradition’s remarkable commitment to understanding and coexistence with the People of the Book. Islam clearly grants respect to Christians and Jews. In the Quran’s second chapter, God says:

Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God (Aal-Imran, 3:64)

And in the 29th Chapter He says:

And dispute not with the People of the Book but say “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you…our God [Allah] and your God [Allah] is One, and it is to Him we bow (al-Ankabut, 29:46)

Jesus is himself revered as one of the greatest prophets whose noble example should be followed. The Caliph Umar, who visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 638 AD, was careful to ensure that the Muslims respect the sanctity of Christian places of worship. What then of our own Police’s hesitation to offer an assurance of safety and security for Malaysian churches?

Much of the blame for the recent attacks can be placed at the doorstep of the UMNO-led BN ruling party. Its incessant racist propaganda over the Allah issue and the inflammatory rhetoric issued by government controlled mainstream media especially, Utusan Malaysia, are reprehensible. Such wanton acts of provocation are indeed criminal and demonstrate the duplicity of the 1Malaysia campaign.

I am encouraged by the swift condemnation of the attacks issued by Muslim organizations and leaders. I likewise applaud our Christian leaders for their strong statements calling for calm and forgiveness and resisting revenge and retaliation.

The need for interfaith dialogue in Malaysia is an idea whose time is long overdue. We must now advance the spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood which is inherent in our religions and enshrined in our Constitution. Pakatan Rakyat will collectively take steps to ensure that the necessary dialogue and discussion take place throughout the country. Our fellow Christians must feel safe and secure in this country knowing that their freedom to worship is protected.

Opposition Leader
10 Jan 2010

Statement By YB Dominique Ng On Arsonist Attacks On Churches:

YB Dominique Ng, the ADUN for Padungan, has called on government to spare no effort in investigating the masterminds behind the arsonist attacks on 3 or 4 Christian churches in KL and Petaling Jaya today. “The perpetrators of violence must be quickly brought to justice to restore domestic and foreign confidence in Malaysia.”

“Peace, harmony and stability must be restored soonest by prompt Police CID actions.” Says Ng. “These terrorist acts must be nibbed in the bud; such behaviour has no place in any civilized society. The violence comes as a shock to me and peace-loving Malaysians. The sense of security of the communities is under threat.”

“Since the Home Ministry has appealed against the High Court ruling on the ALLAH matter, due process must be allowed to take its course as an integral part of the conflict resolution process.”

“Prime Minister Najib should condemn the attacks outright, and order his Cabinet not to make statements which may inflame sections the community and further and aggravate matters. The Home Minister should deny permit for any further demonstration connected with the High Court ruling on “ALLAH”; such would provoke more religious sensitivities.”

“ People expect the PM and Cabinet to show leadership and promote principles consistent with a tolerant multicultural Malaysia, and not pander to the extremist inclinations of a small group with vested political agenda. “

“ There must be tolerance and exercise of principles on all sides,” pleads Ng.

Ng thus joined with groups nationwide which have roundly condemned the spate of church attacks in the Klang Valley today. Some have described it as a low point in Malaysia’s history.

The leader of the Federal opposition, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim also condemned the attacks. He pointed out that such acts were condemned by the Quran.

Islam, he said, encouraged its believers to respect the houses of worship of other religions. “I urge all parties to remain calm and not descend into hatred. I am confident the people of Malaysia can resolve this issue without conflict.”
Datin Seri Wan Azizah Ismail urged Malaysians today to come together and resolve conflicts peacefully following the arson attacks on three churches today.

The KeAdilan president is quoted as saying that her party was appalled and saddened by the attacks, and condemned the acts of violence which she said could cause irreparable harm to religious and racial ties in the country.

YB Dominique Ng
ADUN for Padungan and PKR Sarawak Advisor
9 January 2010

Monday, January 04, 2010

PKR Batu Kawa New Year Eve Dinner & Countdown 2010

Contributed by Dr Francis Ngu


YB Dominique Ng, the ADUN for Padungan has described the Countdown for 2010 as the beginning of the countdown for the ouster of an ‘Expired Date' Barisan National from the Government in Sarawak. The Old must make way for the New as desired by the people, to usher in a era of political reform and renewal in Sarawak. The people of Sarawak has Hope for a new government, a New Dawn !

This he declared at a new year eve Countdown Dinner organized by PKR Batu Kawa Branch on the night of December 31st 2009. Those present at the function included several party leaders in Sarawak, including Deputy Chairman Hj. Wan Zainal Abidin, Vice-Chairmen Jimmy Donald and Granda Aing, Treasurer Wong Huan Yu, Youth Chief Nazib Johari, Assistant Secretary Piee Ling, Dr. Francis Ngu and Lina Soo, Batu Kawa branch leader.

YB Ng said there is an even chance that the Dewan Undangan Negeri may be dissolved in 2010 to pave the way for snap general elections.

“Party KeAdilan Rakyat with Pakatan Rakyat, will confront BN throughout Sarawak. The Pakatan national policy framework is now ready; it addresses major issues of deep concern to Sarawak people.

BN may scoff at my contention of imminent regime change, but who would have thought of the 520 and 308 election outcomes. BN was swept away in Kuching in 2006, followed by an even more impressive rout in Federal Territory in 2008.

Why would it not be possible for Pakatan Rakyat which has gained control of the Sarawak State Capital to go on and gain the mandate to form the state government ? Would not Pakatan Rakyat which now firmly controls Federal Territory, gain the mandate from across the nation to march on to PutraJaya?

Sarawak and Malaysia are at a critical juncture; change we shall ! Power to the People !

Happy New Year!”

YB Dominque Ng, ADUN for Padungan, PKR Sarawak Advisor


The Vice-Chairman of Party KeAdilan Rakyat in Sarawak, Jimmy Donald, also addressed the new year eve Countdown Dinner organized by the Batu Kawa Ranting (Branch) of the Party on the night of December 31st 2009.

He called on those present at the function to bring the message of Change throughout Sarawak. The message will spread fast by a multiplier effect. Change is the hallmark of 2010; Change will be in the heart and mind of the people; Change must and shall take place to bring about a just government in Sarawak.

The continuation of the Barisan National Government in Sarawak is now definitely not in the interest of the people.

As a secondary school principal in earlier years he said he was witness to the inequality and injustice when opportunities for higher education were denied many students, with excellent examination results, especially from the Chinese community. Many too were denied jobs in government department by virtue of race.

When he raised these injustices suffered by Sarawak students and school leavers in Parliament when he was elected wakil rakyat, the matter was not given due attention by the Barisan National Government.

He alluded to the increasing trend of migration among various communities to foreign countries, as people have lost hope in the nation which does not practice social equality and justice. The Barisan National Government values racial belonging much more than brains and talent.

He commended those present at the function as the brave ones who have come to make a stand and to be heard, in spite of coercion and threats.

They have begun to realize that Party KeAdilan Rakyat is their future, a party which will bring Change and a better future for all regardless of race. This is the party of the people which will seek and treasure brains and talents among the young, and not marginalize them by race of origin.

This is the party which will not only reverse the outward migration of bright young people, but will even attract talent back to our homeland. This is crucial for state and national progress, and for pulling us out of backwardness and poverty in a world increasingly competitive.

Thus everyone has a sacred duty to spread the message of Change throughout Sarawak. Change we must in the New Year 2010, so that this will again be a Land Fair and Just.

Yang Berbahagia Jimmy Donald, Vice-Chairman, PKR Sarawak

31st December 2009.