Wednesday, 16 October 2013


 Photo: Malaysia needs more of the likes of them if we are to be amongst the more enlightened nations of the world.


The Court of Appeal was WRONG in its decision BANNING Christian weekly Herald from using the word ‘Allah' to refer to God in Bahasa Malaysia, said a constitutional law expert, Dr Abdul Aziz Bari.

Dr Aziz Bari also described the judges' statement that fundamental liberties provision must be read along with Article 3 of the Federal Constitution as "startling".

Dr. Aziz Bari said,

"By linking religious rights under the chapter on fundamental liberties with Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution which effectively makes Islam the benchmark for everybody.

This runs counter to the general meaning of Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution itself.

"The plain meaning of Article 3(1) is simply this: that despite the fact that Islam has been made official religion, NON-Muslims may go on practising their religions freely WITHOUT RESTRICTION.

" The implication of the decision is that it might make non-Muslims feel "unsafe" and this is contrary to the essence of the Article 3 in the constitution. The court decision yesterday sounds like a 'POLICY DECISION' - A DECISION THAT IS NOT STRICTLY BASED ON LAW.

"Like in most countries, the judges - in critical cases - do not feel they have the strength to depart from the line taken by the executive. Not too different from what we have seen in cases involving preventive detention, election petition and Altantuya (Shaariibuu)'s murder.

"Like many, many other decisions which the minister claimed 'security and public order', the judges just went along with them. In short, the judges were not willing to be proactive here.

"They obviously still live under the wartime decisions where the government has the absolute power to decide anything under the guise of security and public order.

"With the court decision, the government has interfered with the way Christians practice their religion when there is no evidence that using the world ‘Allah' can jeopardise national security and public order.

"I do NOT believe the use of ‘Allah' among Christians would create problems for the Muslims. For one thing, the Christians have their own doctrine and they are not out to tell the Muslims about it.

"As for the Muslims, they have their own doctrine that has been developed by their ulama for ages. This is the guarantee that the use of ‘Allah' by Herald - which is not circulated among Muslims anyway - will not affect Muslims.

"The only provisions that is allowed by the Constitution to override provisions for fundamental liberties - or human rights - are Article 149 on power to deal with SUBVERSION and Article 150 which deals with EMERGENCY..

"The fundamental principle is that the court is there to protect and enhance the provisions for fundamental liberties, not to narrow them down. It is wrong for the Court of Appeal to do that."

" The judges' linking between Article 3(1), which declares Islam as "the religion of the federation", and Article 11(4), which allows the legislatures to protect Muslims from being proselytised (converted) is DISTURBING.

"The most one could say about Article 3(1) is that the provision declares the federation's character and perhaps, ideology.

"But Article 3(1) is NOT ONE to be used to judge or becoming benchmark for the NON-Muslims. I think this is the reason why the phrase "OTHER RELIGIONS may be practiced in peace and harmony' is being added towards the end of the provision.

"I find it strange as to why the Court of Appeal did not concentrate on the right to religious freedom and instead chose to highlight the link between Article 3(1) and Article 11(4), which has less relevant here.

"In fact, Article 11(4) could stand on its own WITHOUT the support from Article 3(1)."

Word ‘Allah’ is NOT exclusive to Islam



14 OCTOBER 2013


 Like the history of most religions, the history of Islam is complex and much debated. 

But there are a few elements that are not in dispute, chief among them that the God of the Quran is the same as the God of the Bible and of the Torah before it. 

The mission of Islam, as expressed in the Quran, is not to bring a new faith, but to update the messages of the monotheistic faiths before it.

 It is therefore surprising to see, as The National reports today, that a Malaysian court has ruled that a Christian newspaper may not use the word “Allah” to refer to God. The court overturned a previous decision by a lower court, ruling that “Allah” as a term is not exclusive to Islam. This causes a problem for the country’s substantial Christian minority, who have used the word “Allah” to refer to God for decades.

In a fellow Muslim country with substantial Christian and Hindu populations, this feels like the wrong decision.

The UAE is rightly proud of its society that allows people from all over the world to practise their faiths openly and without discrimination. Indeed, that inclusiveness is inherent in Islam. One of the reasons Islam was able to spread so far, so rapidly, was the inclusive nature of the faith: for at least two centuries after the coming of Islam, the Arabs ruled vast regions where the majority were not Muslims. The word “Allah” is never exclusive to Islam – indeed, both Christians and Jews used the word “Allah” to refer to God even before the coming of Islam.

That remains the case today. When Christians across the Middle East pray to God, they use the term “Allah”. Walk into a church in Cairo, Baghdad or Beirut this coming Sunday and you will hear the name of “Allah” invoked. That also applies to the Jews of the Arab world, who for centuries have prayed to “Allah”.

The Quran itself is explicit on this subject, declaring, in Surah Al Ankabut, that Muslims should tell People of the Book (Christians and Jews) that “our God and your God is one”.

The Malaysian decision overlooks not merely the theology, but also the etymology of the word. The word “Allah” is derived from the Arabic “al-ilah”, the god. It’s found its way across the world and entered Malay from Arabic.

Arabic as a language is a vehicle for faith, be that Christianity, Judaism or Islam. The God of the three monotheistic religions is the same god. It is unsurprising, therefore, that all three faiths in the Arabic-speaking world (and beyond) refer to God as “Allah”.

And if they have the same God, they should have the right to call their deity by the same name.