Wednesday, 20 January 2010

We must never allow the mob to rule

Brave New World (The Star)
January 21, 2010

"People calling for a ban on the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims must find their justification in the Quran or in legal enactments."


A COUPLE of churches were burnt by people who believe that non-Muslims should not use the name Allah when describing God. A very strange motivation indeed when we look at the scripture.
In Surah 22 Verse 40 of the Quran, it is said: “Had not Allah checked one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure.”
Looks pretty clear to me. There is no scriptural justification to stop non-Muslims from using Allah to describe God. In fact the opposite is true, the name Allah is praised in “monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mos-ques”.
This is not my assertion, this is a quote from the Holy Quran, and there are more in the same vein.
Right, so all these people calling for the ban surely must find their justification elsewhere. There is the law, it is said. In particular, state enactments banning the use of Allah by non-Muslims. We must obey the law they assert.
All right, let’s look at the state laws then. Space prevents me from going through each enactment, so let’s just look at the Selangor enactment of 1988.
In the preamble it says: “[This is] An enactment to control and restrict the propagation of non-Islamic religious doctrines and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam.
“Whereas Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution provides that State law may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion, and whereas it is now desired to make a law to control and restrict the propagation of non-Islamic religious doctrine and beliefs among persons professing the religion of Islam, therefore pursuant to Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution it is hereby enacted by the Legislature of the State of Selangor.”
And if we look into the Enactment, we do see a section which lists down words that can’t be used by non-Muslims (it includes Allah). However, the explanatory note to this section states that to do so is “an offence of distributing in a public place publications concerning non-Islamic religions to Mus-lims”.
Again, this looks very clear, the law was designed to prevent proselytising to Muslims. And the ban on the use of the name Allah by the state law is in the context of proselytising.
If used within the context of their own worship and their own religious community, this law does not apply.
And if we look at Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, the only specific limitation on the freedom of religion is that the proselytising to Muslims (even Muslim to Muslim proselytising) can be controlled.
Other than that everyone is free to practice his or her religion in peace. It is unconstitutional to stop anyone from using the word Allah in their worship if they so choose.
So, the Quran says there’s no problem with peoples of other faiths using “Allah”, the state enactments are limited in their scope, and the Constitution says that everyone can practice their religion peacefully. What other justification can be used to try to ban this word?
There are two more; firstly it is culturally unacceptable among the Malays in peninsular Malaysia to hear the name Allah on non-Muslim lips. Oh yes, this is a great argument.
It reminds me of similar arguments used in the past. For example, “it is culturally unacceptable to allow negro children to go to the same schools as white children”. Look, just because some people are bigoted does not mean we have to pander to them.
Secondly, there is also the argument that if Muslims see Allah being used by non-Muslims they will get awfully confused and in their simple-mindedness, they will become Christians. People who make this argument can’t have very high regard for Malay intelligence. Rather insulting, I think.
At the end of the day there is no scriptural or legal reason to ban the use of Allah by non-Muslims, and if the powers that be have an iota of principle in their collective bones, they would stand on principle and not cater to the small minded and ignorant.
Instead they try to be pragmatic, leading to ludicrous statements like “it’s all right to use Allah in Sabah and Sarawak but not in the peninsula”.
The Muslim community, particularly the leadership, must ask itself: Is the way Islam is taught in this country so weak that Muslims can get easily confused by just one word?
I do not believe there is any evidence of large scale conversions by Muslims to Christianity. It is illegal for Christians to try to convert Muslims anyway.
However, if this sort of unintelligent and vicious behaviour goes on, I can’t imagine a greater disservice to Islam.
The Catholic church must not back down on this matter. It is in the right and if it gives in now, it will set the precedence that a bunch of thugs with firebombs can dictate the type of country we live in.
For the good of the country as a whole, not just any specific religious or ethnic group, we must never allow the mob to rule.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ear biting is fighting dirty

Brave New World (The Star)
January 7, 2010

"There are ways and means to deal with the alleged leak of evidence yet to be tendered to the Teoh Beng Hock inquest. The most obvious and fair procedure would be to make a complaint with the inquiry itself."


YOU know someone is in trouble when he starts to play dirty. Take for example the fight between boxing heavyweights Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield in 1997.
I have always thought of Holyfield as a great fighter ever since I saw him fight George Foreman in 1991.
Those were the days before satellite TV and you could get live heavyweight championship fights for free on normal telly.
Holyfield had just beaten Buster Douglas, who put up a weak and spiritless defence of the title he had won from Tyson in Japan.
It was clearly a win, but could Holyfield stand up to a real opponent? Someone who comes to fight and not just to pick up a pay cheque?
Enter Foreman, 42 years old and only recently re-entering the fight scene he had quit in 1977.
He was tubby, he was old and he was laughed at. He joked his training diet was cheeseburgers, and looking at his belly you would have thought it was true.
But after 24 fights – all of which he won, 23 by KO – people stopped laughing. He wasn’t just beating journeymen but guys who were genuine contenders.
Somewhere beneath that genial, bald, preacher facade the monster who destroyed Joe Frazier with tremendous hitting power was lurking there.
Holyfield won on points. He couldn’t knock out Foreman, but more importantly, despite many clubbing blows by a man larger and stronger than him, Holyfield himself was not beaten.
He had a chin of stone and a heart to go with it. It was then I thought that he was a true champ.
When Tyson faced Holyfield in 1997, he was facing a man who would not be intimidated, who was not going to crumble under his usual barrage and who was hurting him in return.
Tyson knew he was in trouble. So what did he do? He bit Holyfield’s ear. He played dirty.
Which brings me to the MACC and its police report against Thai pathologist Dr Pornthip Rojanasunan for supposedly making a sub judice statement to the press.
I have not read the actual press report in question so I would not want to comment whether such a claim has any merit.
My point here is that there are ways and means to deal with a complaint of this sort. The most obvious and fair procedure would be to make a complaint with the inquiry itself. In other words to allow the inquiry process to sort out any problems “in house”.
By making a police report, what the MACC has done in effect is to bring a third party into the mix.
A chief witness now has to not only deal with justifying her findings to the inquiry but also with her possible arrest and interrogation by the police.
Instead of playing fair, the MACC has taken a route which could at the very worst intimidate a witness or at the very least irritate her to the point where she won’t come to the country to take part in the inquiry.
And even if she did come back to the country to face down her accusers, just how swift would the police be in handling the problems of their fellow government servants?
In other words, the MACC, by making the police report instead of simply lodging a complaint to the inquiry, has put a spanner in the works.
I wonder why? Is it not interested in finding out the truth about Teoh Beng Hock’s death? If it were concerned with justice, then surely it would want the inquiry to continue smoothly and honestly.
Unless of course, it does not view this as an inquiry but some sort of scrap that it has to win at all costs, where it has to ensure that what really happened in Plaza Masalam remains uncovered.
Why it would want this is beyond me, but what is clear is that if it views this inquest as a fight, it is obviously in trouble because it is playing dirty.