This article was previously published on The Malaysian Insider on 16 October 2013.
Lord Bobo, what do you make of the Allah decision? (What’s In A Name, via email)
Ah, what’s in a name indeed. Well, plenty, going by the contentions, responses, reactions, debates, and all-round-kerfuffle that this issue has caused in Malaysia for years now. This week, the Court of Appeal (CoA) held that the phrase “Allah” is now in the exclusive domain of Muslims.
In reversing the High Court decision, the CoA found that history does not show Christians as having used “Allah” to refer to their God of the Trinity. This decision wasn’t easy, obviously, and was arrived at after hearing the considered and extensive evidence given by religious experts who were called to help the CoA in a matter rich with theological, cultural, and historical complexities. Or rather that’s what should have happened anyway. In the end they just decided to get stuff off the Internet.
As a result, “Allah” does not fall to be protected as part of the fundamental right to practise one’s religion under Article 11 of the Federal Constitution. Further, it was concluded that the use of “Allah” by Christians is dangerous because it could confuse Muslims and lead to public disorder. The Court held that the Minister was right to ban the use of the phrase in the interests of national security.
Absurd as it may seem to Lord Bobo, yes, the Malaysian government has banned a word. And we have had a court case, numerous rallies, and comments on this word. What makes the episode most disagreeable however is that the Court applied a purely subjective test (as opposed to an objective one) in accepting the public disorder contention.
Who even remembers when the phrase was first banned until the Minister decided to “attack” the Herald? On the facts, where is the evidence that Muslims will go crazy and riot when they are confused by a religious term? You Malaysians are anyway a confused lot, helped in no small way by an equally confused bunch of political leaders.
If one does not understand a religious phrase, one usually seeks guidance, not to riot and attack Christians. Even the right-wing hardliners will not deny that Muslims, upon being confused, do not usually turn into rabid beasts waiting to kill anyone in sight.
For the Court to have acted in affirming the decision of the Minister, it is essentially saying that for years Christians have been worshipping the wrong “God”. The silver lining here is that Christian groups and leaders have vowed to defy the ban. Continuing to use “Allah” in worship is the start of a rebel movement against the policing of religion. Non-violent direct action — we need more of this so the people can start reclaiming their power and show these politicians who fancy themselves as puppet masters of national sentiment who’s boss.
The majority has won on the basis of a fearfulness of a perceived fear created by it. In reality and at the end of the day, Malaysians as peoples of a nation seeking a united identity have lost.
The current judicial trend to dissect religions, first with Islam in the hijab cases and now Christianity is extremely disturbing. By having the arrogance to think that they can decide what is essential practice and what is not in a religion contravenes the absolute freedom to believe and practice one’s religion under Article 11. Unless there is clear evidence that a certain practice is going to pose a real and imminent threat to public disorder, the courts should not interfere in matters of faith. At the moment, a bigger threat to public disorder is the nonsense regularly spewed by Malaysia’s supposed national leaders.
The Minister should withdraw the ban and return it to status quo.
Dear Lord Bobo, let’s take our minds off the “Allah” decision. If you were the Malaysian government, what are 3 things which you think are worthy of being banned by the Courts? (Ridzwan, via email)
An interesting question. Obviously for a hyper-intelligent wonder-typewriting monkey like Lord Bobo, we could go on forever about things which should be banished from the face of the galaxy. But you are asking His Supreme Eminenceness to put ourselves in the position of the Malaysian government, so we won’t be too intelligent about it. Let’s narrow it down based on the criteria which seem to be most important in Malaysia — potential confusion, and national interest.
Push/Pull doors: Hardly anyone reads those “push” or “pull” signs. So having doors which ONLY work one way is surely evil personified. We can’t think of anything else which poses a more real danger to life, limb, and nose than this. Every single day, Malaysians have to go through these hazardous portals. It should be compulsory for all doors to be capable of being both pushed AND pulled open. And surely there is a long line of contractors who would be more than happy to undertake this project and charge a 700% premium. This satisfies both criteria of reducing confusion, and being in the national interest.
The RM1/50 and RM10/20 problem: There are so many colours available — why must these notes be in such similar shades? And let’s not even get into the silly sizing of the new coins. Whoever thought these up should be placed in a special building on a high-speed treadmill which goes through endless push/pull doors which may or may not work. The redesigning of the notes and coins surely qualify as intentionally causing confusion. As for national interest, well, the extra brain juice involved in handling this when paying for our morning breakfast alone surely reduces national productivity.
Names which sound like honorific titles: Raja. Tun. All these names are very confusing. How dare these Indian fellas claim royal lineage? Names like Rajasamy should be henceforth changed to just “Samy”. And if your name is just “Raja”, well too bloody bad – we will arrange for the Wise Judges to issue a judgment that all “Rajas” be changed to “Raju”. It’s also easy for those Chinese brothers with “Tun” in their name, because they have a ready-made replacement, “Tan”. You just need to change one letter. “Tun Wee”? I think you mean “Tan Wee”. See? Of course, we’re not racist. This is not a case of a majority beating down on a minority, no no no. Malays should also not be spared — children should be banned from calling their grandfathers “Datuk” in public too. This is a very important issue in Malaysia, and therefore easily satisfies both criteria of reducing confusion, and being in the national interest. We can’t have people running around with titles unless they have earned them. Or paid for them. Same same.
Although Lord Bobo already knows your question before you even knew you had a question, as a practical display of your true desire to have your query answered, His Supreme Eminenceness has graciously allowed you to communicate your questions by either emailing [email protected] or tweeting your question, mentioning @LoyarBurok and using the hashtag #AskLordBobo. Now, what the hell are you waiting for? Hear This and Tremblingly Obey (although trembling is optional if you are somewhere very warm)!