The “Allah” protest: The 2Faces of 1Malaysia

The Prime Minister and Home Minister are taken to task for their blatant, shameless political opportunism in allowing Muslim groups to protest at the Kampung Baru mosque over the High Court’s ruling of the usage of the word ‘Allah’ without applying for a police permit.

If we looked up the definition of ‘hypocrisy’ in the ‘1Malaysia Dictionary’, one will undoubtedly find references to UMNO, in particular the statement by the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein over a public demonstration planned by Muslim groups on Friday, 8 January 2010 at the Kampung Baru mosque over the High Court’s ruling of the usage of the word ‘Allah’ by non-muslims (‘the High Court decision’).

According to Bernama and Malaysian Insider on 6 January 2010, the Home Minister announced that the Home Ministry will allow the said public demonstration to proceed. On 7 January 2010, the Home Minister backtracked and said it was up to police to handle the matter. This raises the question of whether this Minister knows what he is talking about, but let’s just pretend he does for the time being. We’re all doing it already anyway.

Then it was reported in Malaysiakini on 7 January 2010 that the Malaysians saviour a.k.a. the Prime Minister, Najib Abdul Razak said that the government cannot stop people from gathering at mosques on 8 January 2010 to protest against the High Court decision. The saviour then banked on hope, instead of his battalion of FRU trucks, police and special branch officers that used to regularly provoke, break up and brutally put down all those other non-BN gatherings, that there would be “minimal” protests tomorrow by the Islamist protesters so that tensions in the country do not escalate. The saviour has expressed a desire that the matter be ‘resolved’ through the courts, whatever that is supposed to mean.

‘Resolution’ by the saviour’s definition seems to mean an illusory win in the High Court (which will always be stayed by a Court; hence ‘illusory’) before its decision is ‘rectified’ by the Court of Appeal and then confirmed by the Federal Court. As someone who believes in human rights, freedom of assembly and free speech, I would ordinary agree with such a demonstration though I may disagree with their views. So long as the demonstration is peaceful and no animals are harmed in the process, it should be allowed to proceed even though there is no permit issued by the police for such a gathering pursuant to section 27(5) of the Police Act 1984.

However, what I find totally repulsive and unacceptable is the hypocrisy of the Prime Minister and Home Minister in giving preferential treatment to those who will be demonstrating on Friday. It is not a secret that in the past when other organizations or political parties were having peaceful demonstrations or rallies over issues which are not agreeable with the powers that be, swift and brutal action would be taken against them. Protesters would be dragged, beaten (or in some cases, ‘bitten’), kicked, humiliated and arrested in a abusive disrespectful manner before they were ‘persecuted’ in Court. In fact, often before the event the police would issue press statements that the organizers must apply for a permit failing which it would be an illegal assembly. That is why I find the hypocrisy so repulsive because the police have always stopped others from gathering; they have trucks, special branch, FRU, water cannons laced with chemicals, police officers, in short the entire machinery of state to prevent gatherings.

Let me to remind the government how they have treated Malaysians demonstrating over issues which the government found disagreeable. In 2007, we had the Bersih and Hindraf rallies. They were not given any preferential treatment. Instead, the government sent the Police Light Strike Force as the welcome party and FRU water cannons as their ‘door gift’. ‘Then, on 9 December 2007, the human rights day procession was disrupted by the usual battalion of police. Several participants (yours truly included) were arrested for merely participating in a peaceful procession to celebrate human rights and freedom of expression.

Those previous demonstrations and arrests received wide coverage. When the participants of these demonstrations were charged in Court, the ‘illustrious’ Attorney General’issimo’ a.k.a. Public ‘Persecutor’ of Malaysia himself appeared in court to proffer charges and oppose bail. We know he is a ‘small fry‘ who doesn’t have much to do but still! The whole idea was apparently to send a strong message to the public that the government of the day does not condone any form of peaceful demonstration.

Therefore, now that the Prime Minister and Home Minister now seem to give the impression that the protestors should be allowed to demonstrate, I am unable to accept the hypocrisy of the government. Just because the protest relates to Malay and/or Muslim issues, they are shameless taking advantage of this by allowing them to assemble illegally (going by the previous police reported statements) and to try and show that they identify with them on the issues. In short, blatant, shameless political opportunism.

Welcome everybody.

Welcome to 2Faced 1Malaysia.

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The writer was supposed to be a reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Hang Jebat, Bruce Lee and Nocurnto Beasto (a black metal dude from Bergen, Norway) rolled into one. Due to the highly complicated "1Reincarnation process" (which was impossible anyway in the "1st" place because of discriminatory scientific-politico policies) and Lord Bobo's intervention, he ended up as Amer Hamzah Arshad in the present life. And for the sins of others he has been condemned to practise law in Malaysia where nothing makes sense. Amer believes that Slayer's "Reign in Blood" is still one of the best metal albums ever made.

Posted on 8 January 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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24 Responses to The “Allah” protest: The 2Faces of 1Malaysia

  1. I know what you're writing about. I'm dealing with the same thing currently… Thank you for sharing!

  2. Rakyat1M

    Dear Rakyat M,

    Are you going back to Indonesia?

  3. siew eng

    dear dean,

    nothing productive from demonstrations but the knowledge that for one moment in time, all of us, strangers from all walks of life, came together and marched as one to show a collective voice for the cause of the protest. a physical show of unity in one thought.

    the energy is incredible. the same energy can of course go haywire, which is why organisers of opposition protests always have ground rules that go with information about the protests. as an added safeguard, they have even have volunteer marshals to make sure the protests are peaceful.

    what's missing in our protests so far are music and rhythm. drums would be great. that, of course, would be yet another thing not tolerated by the authorities. if we can show that demos can be fun – more people might be tempted to go to the streets!

    a forum of course enhances understanding. which the media is not doing, btw.

    but a literal 'walk the talk' can be empowering. the memory and experience of it will galvanise more interest, more efforts to understanding and promoting the cause. it's all part of freedom of expression.

    as a friend once said, it's what anyone can do. no need access to any media. no need money. just walk out there and say your piece peacefully to be heard. a basic human right.

  4. the original ultraman

    Mr Armora,

    Rallies and demonstrations are often viewed as unproductive and it is understandably so. However, citizens mustn’t be prevented from venting their collective opinions in public. Siew Eng is correct. If there exists a mechanism to ensure safety than rallies may even be fun. It is just like the flower procession that we have. Isn’t that also a form of expression?

    We must also remember that at its inception, UMNO went to the street to drum up support for independence. The Berlin wall crumbled because of rallies. So was communism in Romania. And Marcos and Suharto in The Philippines and Indonesia respectively.

    Malaysians are by and large peaceful people. Look at the bersih and anti ISA ralliers. They were out to rally peacefully but the govt turned the rally ground into a war zone of sorts and then blamed “disturbances” and what nots on them.

    What Amer is lamenting is the clear and blatant two faced approach by the Home Minister and Prime Minister over the planned “Allah” rallies. I do not to repeat it here but I think the hypocrisy was as clear as daylight.

  5. Dean Armora

    Original Ultraman,

    Water under the bridge.

    As for the rights to assembly, I must say I am just not a fan of demonstration, peaceful or otherwise. I just don't think that anything productive can ever come out from it.

    That being said, I do think that since the right to assembly is there in the constitution, it should've been more justly distributed. But like I said, regardless of whoever is the "power that be", they won't like demos (or anything at all) which could loosen their grip on the people.

    Oh btw, the name is Dean Armora. So it's a Mr and not Ms.

    And to 'Rakyat M', though I agree with your sentiments, I think you should phrase your words a lil better. Bigotry never looks good on anyone.

  6. rakyat M

    ahhh kalau anwar yg korang sanjung tuh jadi PM sameeeeee je

    i say HIDUP NAJIB !!!!Hidup 1Malaysia!!!Hidup Malaysia

    down with Pakatan Rakyat!!!down with racism!!!down with ungrateful Malaysian!!!pi balik tempat asal lah kalau banyak komplen

  7. rakyat M

    i have questions:

    since when catholics believe in Allah???

    *dont they have that father, son and ghost so who is ALLAH in their believe. god translated is tuhan not Allah.

    next,why their Vatican POPE had never fought for the use of Allah??

    *bcoz this is a elaborated scam to sway the future generation.

    if you believe in JESUS stick to Jesus the dad n the ghost plz IF not convert and use Allah all you want

  8. the original ultrama

    Mr (Ms) Armora,

    Ok. It was a mistake then. My apology for jumping too soon. :)

    My know-it-all jerk statement was based on you supposedly making assumptions about me. Now that it was just a mistake, then that remark does not apply anymore.

    By the way, the hypocrisy in Love Malaysia's post is apparent from his/her posting. That is basically what Amer Hamzah is saying. Every demonstration of opinion in Malaysia will be banned and deemed an illegal assembly. Even wearing black would be deemed illegal as you would remember. But when bigots want to demonstrate their bigotry by carrying a severed cow head, then it is okay.

    I don't make assumption on this. It is clear for everyone to see.

    Have a nice weekend.

    Salam.

  9. LM Chong

    Walaueh, very scary leh…

    Knowing Malaysia under BN's culture and rules, when someone starts using "Love Malaysia" to reply, dont rebut.

    Coz all rebuttals amounts to "hate Malaysia"

    PS. Not to forget even lawyers trying to discharge their inherent duty and statutory right by providing legal services to detainees also arrested.

  10. Dean Armora

    Mr Original Ultraman,

    After rereading the earlier comments, I realised that I have mistaken you for Mr Jungleboy instead. Thousand apologies. I understand how you may have been angered by it. However, I believe I was courteous enough to allow myself to be corrected. And yet you claim that I am a self righteous know-it-all jerk? The tone, kind sir, is not appreciated.

    p/s: Isn't accusing other people's opinion hypocritical borders on being self-righteous know-it-all as well?

  11. the original ultrama

    Dean Amora,

    What in my post gave you the idea that I am against a peaceful 1 Malaysia? And on what basis do you surmise that I am against this policy just bcoz the policy is started by a BN leader? Why do you say I am partisan? Which party do you think I belong to and why do you think so may I ask? And why do you say I am shallow minded? Can I simply say that you are a self righteous I-know-all jerk without reason?

    Fyi, I am all for a true 1 Malaysia. You don't know me and what I do and so quit making assumptions. You tire me with your baseless conclusion.

    As for your points an absolutism of freedom, nobody is saying that should be the case. I was just replying to the hypocritical stands of Love Malaysia. I like your take on dictatorial discretion whatever. That dictatorial discretion is not to be exercised in a dictatorial manner. If you have not known.

  12. Dean Armora

    First, let me address some of the previous comments.

    Parameswara and Original Ultraman, correct me if I'm wrong, but are you against the unity as envisioned by 1Malaysia? Or are you against the policy simply because it came from a BN Prime Minister? I admit there are many areas in the government and law that requires improvements (major overhaul in fact), but to reject a better Malaysia for seemingly partisan reasons, that's a bit shallow don't you think? Again, correct me if I'm wrong.

    Love Malaysia, you may have a point there. The rally done at Stadium Malawati back in 2008 wasn't stopped as well. But you believing that this particular rally wasn't stopped just because it was within a secure compound and if the police was to disperse the crowd, it'd look bad – is a fair argument. Naive, but fair.

    Latheefa, thank you for bringing back the discussion back into proper perspective. I believe this article isn't about the right to use "Allah" by Catholics, but about the right to assembly.

    Now for my own 2 cents worth.

    Yes the law grants the right to various freedoms (some might argue otherwise, but at least it's there in writing), but to claim them in totality is sheer absolutism. Nothing good comes from absolute freedom. The law makers granted limited freedom – why do you think is that? Personal gains? Perhaps. But then, even the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) propagates moderation.

    Assemblies should be moderated. Keyword, MODERATED and not stopped. By that I mean done in a secure and not disruptive to the public. If all you want is to be heard, to be noticed, doing it in a stadium for instance is just as good as going on to the streets. Hoisting up placards on busy streets while chanting (and at times screaming profanities) is simply uncouth and thuggish.

    As for the supposed hypocrisy of the Prime Minister and Home Minister, I do see Mr Amer Hamzah's perspective. The power that be is almost always dictatorial and selective in discharging its 'duties'. Having said that, as shown in March 2008, the power that be can always change. At least at state level for now. So let me repeat myself, the power that be is almost always dictatorial and selective in discharging its 'duties'.

    The countless demonstrations in 1970s America never stopped the Vietnam War. PETA and other animal rights rallies worldwide have so far failed in substantially stopping whaling and fur/leather industry. The list can go on and on.

    You can call me cowardly, passive or indifferent – but to me, I am a diplomatic pacifist. Violence and aggressive actions never solve anything. Some may argue that gatherings are hardly violent or aggressive, but my point is – if it can be done via round table discussion or instruments of law, do that. Otherwise, you're just making noise.

  13. Joanne

    Dear Love Malaysia,

    I am saddened of your lack of research before making such a comment. For a person who truly loves Malaysia, you should know that the Government of Malaysia DID make arrests while some people were demonstrating peacefully IN the compound of a mosque.

    On 8 June 2001, students from various public universities were demonstrating peacefully against the archaic ISA. Since it was against the Government, some were arrested, suspended from their respective universities and subsequently charged with illegal assembly under the Police Act for participating in an assembly without a police permit. As someone who truly believe in freedom of expression as guarantee in our Constitution, the author of this article a.k.a Mr Amer Hamzah represented some of them in Court.

    The students were protesting IN the compound of Masjid Negara but yet they were arrested and were charged in court. If the Government is said not to have double standards, why were these students who are Malay-Muslims were charged? Weren't they expressing their views just like the protesters who protested at the mosque over the 'Allah' issue? Just wandering…

    I think Mr Amer Hamzah wrote this article with alot of common sense…

  14. the original ultrama

    Love Malaysia,

    Simple. Next time the Bersih people or the anti ISA movements want to have a demo, they will organise it on a Friday after Friday prayers and within the compound of the mosque. What do you say? You think the police won't kacau them and the Home Minister (who should really be at home rather than the Parliament!) would allow them to do so?

    Wouldn't people like you come out and say the anti ISA people or Bersih people are misusing the mosque then?

    Please lah…go and sell your hypocrite pills somewhere else. You are making me nauseous with you r posturing.

  15. Benjamin Sathyananda

    To Love Malaysia :-

    Where in Amer's article did he say that he is against the protest? I believe he said this :-

    "So long as the demonstration is peaceful and no animals are harmed in the process, it should be allowed to proceed even though there is no permit issued by the police for such a gathering pursuant to section 27(5) of the Police Act 1984"

    I hope that you would use some common sense as well when replying to an article.

  16. Love Malaysia

    Article by Ameer Hamzah accusing the Prime Minister and Home Minister using double-standards in handling the 'Allah' controversy has truly indicated the writer's ill-intention and bias towards the issue. In the past when the police used water cannons to disperse political or religious demonstrations without permits, all those demonstrations / protest-rallies (held without permits) were held on the busy streets of Kuala Lumpur, like at Jln Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jln Ampang, in front Masjid Negara etc. causing all kinds of disruptions and problems to the public and business activities. But today's protests by Muslims against the use of the name 'Allah' by the Christian's Herald in their Bahasa Malaysia Edition were held inside the mosque-compounds within the mosque area by Muslims after finishing their Friday Prayers. These are totally different situations and venues – in the case of BERSIH and HINDRAF their veneus were busy streets of Kuala Lumpur, but today's protests was within the compound of the mosques (e.g. at Kg. Bharu mosque.) Although they were held without permits, it was within the mosque compounds.

    Please use some common sense because what would happen if the Police entered the mosque compounds and started arresting the people – a much bigger issue will have to be explained and handled by the Police / Home Ministry. The Police would obviously not try to go into the mosque compounds to take actions neither can the government stop muslims from gathering for Friday prayers. Imagine what would happen and what it may lead to if the Police entered the mosque compounds and started to arrest those who just finished their Friday Prayers. It may lead to riots and some bigger issues and more problems to the country and the people. So, please try to be realistic and do not just look at the issue from a narrow political angle… Love this country and appreciate what the PM is trying to do for the country.

  17. Latheefa

    sorry correction.

    While we know that its double standard, yes, no surprise, that should NOT be a reason to stop the protest.

  18. Latheefa

    I still think we should not be distracted. One must affirm the right to freedom of assembly, and freedom of expression even if its ku klux klan who wants to protest. While we know that its double standard, yes, no surprise, that should be a reason to stop the protest. The call should have focused on freedom of assembly to all – to save whale, legalise marijuana or to stop noisy black metal music!!

  19. BEING BRIGHTENED AND ENLIGHTENED

    We thank God for more people becoming enlightened

    When they can see through the clouds that darken

    Till they reach the truth that clearly brightens

    The path that shows basic freedom can't be tightened

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 080110
    http://MotivationInMotion.blogspot.com
    Fri. 8th Jan. 2010

  20. the original ultrama

    1 Malaysia

    Many People and Races

    Many Gods

    2 Laws

  21. Selective Prosecution/Persecution is like the snake in Sherlock Holmes' Adventure of the Speckled Band. One day, the snake will turn against its master.

  22. LM Chong

    A lawyer cant walk for Justice;

    A detainee's wife cant light up a candle for her husband's liberty;

    A good citizen cant wear yellow for a cleaner election;

    But please do whatever you want, if the power that be is with you

  23. jungleboy

    Who is najib trying to fool of his 1malaysia? The cows and goats in the shed, the pigs in the sty, the chickens in the farm, the animals in the wild?

  24. Parameswara

    I am looking at two situations:

    a. Selangor state anthem, which reads:

    Duli Yang Maha Mulia

    Selamat di atas takhta

    Allah lanjutkan usia Tuanku

    Rakyat mohon restu bawah Duli Tuanku

    Bahagia selama-lamanya

    Aman dan sentosa

    Duli Yang Maha Mulia

    b. Baca doa in public events and in Sekolah Kebangsaan.

    In both instances above, the non-Muslims have accepted the fact that Allah is used and in the case of 1 above, non-Muslims also sing the state anthem. I remember doing that in primary school in K.L when the city was still under Selangor.

    The scenario now seems to be:

    a. Whatever UMNO introduces, non-Muslims must accept without questioning, including mentioning of the word 'Allah'. There should be no cause for alarm among the non-Muslims and they should not raise any concerns.

    b. But when the Catholics in Malaysia want to use the word in Bahasa Malaysia communication specifically for its Church goers only, UMNO wants to deter such action.

    Since when did UMNO take on the role of interfering in the activities of a Church?

    Does this not point out to just one fact – UMNO never tolerates any action by those in Malaysia, when it does not match UMNO's crude agenda.

    If this is not the snobbish and arrogant 'ketuanan' that is being forced down the throat of non-Muslims, what else can we call this?

    PARAMESWARA