Selasa, 5 Januari 2010

Allah: What in God's name have the Courts done?


The High Court of Malaysia’s decision in the Catholic Herald’s fight to use the word Allah is quite clearly provocative, contentious, inflammatory and suspect.

DOES THIS DECISION MEAN THE JUDICIARY IN MALAYSIA IS NO LONGER CORRUPT?

I wonder if Malaysia’s legal fraternity, who together with the Catholic Church in Malaysia once so willing to condemn the judiciary, will now be consistent in their opinions of the judiciary and condemn this decision as being the work of that same incompetent and corrupt institution.

Or does incompetence and corruption have a different interpretation when they are the beneficiaries of decisions by the same ‘corrupt and incompetent’ judges?

WHATS AT ISSUE HERE

At the core of this argument is the controversial and provocative use of a word Muslims have for centuries in countries like Malaysia adopted as their unique and inalienable right to reference to God. Christians including the Catholics used Deo or God equally for centuries in places like Malaysia to refer to the almighty.

Interestingly Catholics eschewed even the English language for centuries till Vatican 2. In its place on prescription was Latin. A language alien to many of its faithful who never quite understood a word of it at all.

The use of Latin as prescribed by the Vatican for centuries had been the subject of debate and irritation, let alone ridicule when seeing masses of illiterate Indian and Chinese peasants bowing before an alter, whilst Latin chants and hymns played out in centuries old rituals originating from their own cultures now distorted in a European Mid Eastern form imposed on them as worship.

WHY USE ALLAH AT ALL

At a time of much uncertainty and political upheaval, the Church an arm of the sovereign state of the Vatican has seen it fit to enter into the divisive domain of multi racial and religious politics.

One might legitimately argue that the church does have a role to play in defence of its faithful. But it would be hypocritical and unnecessary when one considers the position of the Catholic church, an undemocratic and unresponsive theocratic state, interfering in such matters that concern the internal affairs of another sovereign state, Malaysia.

The Church for centuries had a prohibition on the use of any other language than Latin. It eschewed anything remotely relevant to its many diverse adherents in an elitist totalitarian domination of the world in what is often described as an extension of the Holy Roman Empire.

Their argument in this case is that the word Allah had been used for decades in many places including Malaysia and that therefore gives them a constitutional right to continue to use it regardless of the ilogical circumstances and context to which it is applied.

Why does the Church seek to only use the word Allah which is both sinister and deceptive when applied particularly to Muslims from rural areas who could very easily be fooled into believing there is a nexus to Islam within the Church through its use of the word Allah? Why not the entire liturgy in Arabic from where the word Allah originates? Or perhaps the language of Malaysians Bahasa Malaysia?

WHY IS MALAY AND ARABIC SO IMPORTANT NOW TO CATHOLICISM- OR IS IT?
For centuries under European domination of the peninsula, Malay was treated as a lower and therefore copntemptuous and unworthy language limited in its use to a token in its broken form when addressing the original inhabitants of the peninsula the Malays. It was relegated to a level of insignificance at missionary schools and never was given any prominence for the same reasons the Church now seeks to capitalise on the use of the word Allah.

The church equated and associated the use of the Malay language in its proper form as a bridge to Islam and therefore actively discouraged its use till now.

The Pontiff, in the form of Nazi Ratzinger, not long ago called Islam evil and joined in an unholy chorus of anti Arabic (inspite of it having a relatively large constituency amongst Arabs) anti Islamic sentiment. Why now the backing for selective use of the dispised evil Arabic Allah? What is his real motive?

The Pope’s anti Islamic rhetoric was driven by the Vatican’s unquestioning support of American foreign policy however flawed and its other sychophant its new convert, Britain’s Tony Blair. Sadly that campaign now associated with the Catholic CHurch as well turned out to be a campaign of mass murder with no justifiable cause. It turned to be something reminsent of a modern day Spanish inquisition another unjustified bloody campaign by the Catholic church.

Ratzinger and his ambassadors cannot simply wash their hands of so much blood with a simple publicity campaign of “Reaching out to Islam”. They must act with deeds. When will the Church’s politics and interference in the affairs of other states stop? When will Catholics become an example for others to emulate?

A PYRRICH VICTORY A SINISTER PLOT

There is a political battle being fought out there for control of the hearts and minds of a large population of Sabahans and Sarawkians being engineered by both the Catholic church and their rivals for souls the American style evangelical Christians.

They will apply every Amway style of multi level marketing, sinister political and economic tools and bait to rope in as many disgruntled Malays and Muslims and galvanise them into a vote bank for the next general elections.

This practice is not much different to what they did to Indians in the rubber plantations and poorer Chinese offering them the incentives of a good Catholic school education of they did convert. The practice endures to this day in India where it is meeting stiff and violent resistance and quite rightly so.

Catholics frown and campaign against Malay Muslims proselytizing. At the same time suprisinglythey appear terribly oblivious, insensitive and ignorant to the pain this same phenomenon and “virtue” they inflict on Muslims, so offensive to Malay Muslims.

This would have been a different argument if the Catholics were seeking to use Bahasa Malaya in the entire liturgy to make it relevant to “Malaysians”. A matter so unconvinclngly argued by non Malays as being so deeply revered to their “heritage and identity as Malaysians” when it suits them. But sadly that’s not the case here.

What Catholics appear to be seeking here is an extension to that form of racism that whatever non Malays and non Muslims wish to do in the name of religion has to be tolerated in the name of a half written constitution. Whilst at the same time arguing against everything that the Malays as a majority in a democracy do as wrong and racist.

TOLERANCE IS NOT STUPIDITY

Catholics must learn to reciprocate in kind to a people in whose country they have been treated with much reverence, dignity and respect over centuries. Malaysia although fundamentally a Muslim state has, advocated for and advanced Catholic (and other religious causes and purposes) without the let or hindrance of religious intolerance like that imposed on them by the Thais, Burmese, Philippines, Australians, Chinese and more recently the Swiss.

Much of the reason we are able to debate such issues and to read and write about it today it is often argued is the result of a good Catholic education. Wrong! It is equally the result of Malay Muslim generosity in allowing the propagation of the faith, its schools and other institutions to thrive and its tolerance of their values.

It is a pity that in return all that the Catholic church has to offer is an insult to the Malays and Malay Muslims in pursuing such a worthless policy of provocation.

CONSTITUTIONAL PERSPECTIVE

There is a flawed perception that the constitution gives blanket freedoms to religious practices which it clearly does not do. The state always has residual powers in preservation of its sovereignity to amend or ignore aspects of the constitution. It happens everywhere in the commonwealth and elsewhere in the inerests of self preservation.

In this case in particular we have a foreign state the Vatican, by its local operatives the Church seeking to undermine national policy (however objectionable it may appear to some) through the sinister use of the constitution of its host state.

The Catholic church unlike Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and others is unique in that its directives come from a foreign government, that of the Vatican. It therefore becomes state policy of the Vatican.

The Church cannot therefore be arguing that some constitutional religious freedoms, inconsistent with its behaviour over the centuries have been violated here. It may not argue that using the word Allah alone is therefore somehow a constitutional right or a religious practice because it is neither.

Its pursuit of the proposition is clearly a provocation, when it knows full well there is resistance from the majority, Malaysia’s 60% Malay Muslims. A valid counter argument to the church’s position is that this entire exercise is an unlawful interference in the affairs of a state by a foreign government, the Vatican. Additionally the Church in adopting its controversial posiiton on the use of the word Allah, may inadvertantly be acknowledging the truth of the Quran which, if it is consciously doing may not be such a bad thing after all.

The Catholic church itself is not paragon of virtue nor the best example of a protector of its many faithful when one considers it conduct in favour of the rich and powerful against the abused in South America for centuries.

Closer to home its backing of Lee Kuan Yews attacks against a former priest (Fr. D’Souza) who had the courage to stand up for the rights of the oppressed in Singapore a decade or two ago. It is but one of many examples of the politics of expediency the Catholic church practices at the expense of the teachings of Christ.

The constitution in such cases must be read down and not up as appears to have been the case with the Catholic Herald (for want of a better description of the case) insistence on the provocative use o the word Allah.

THE CALIBRE OF JUGES DECIDING THESE CASES

In all of this one cannot help but wonder if the justices who decided this matter were of the same calibre of one retired justice NH Chan. NH Chan’s history of judicial incompetence and the embarassment of his analysis demonstrated in the Perak Constitutional Crisis, his record of illogical and substandard judicial decisions are sadly hailed by many leading lawyers (in Malaysia) including the much celebrated Appeals court judge Sri Ram Gopal as being exemplary and creditable.

Chan remains an icon to the defiance of the laws of reasoning when one reads his decisions, his capacity for argument and his grasp of legal issues apart from his embarassing inability to articulate himself with any form of conviction.

The constitution of Malaysia does not give license under the pretext of guarantees of religious freedoms to mischief or covert undermining of the peace and stability of the state. It is neither implied nor is it expressed in any form within the constitution. Yet this is clearly what the decision in this case implies.

WHAT THE CHURCH CAN DO TO FOSTER BETTER INTER FAITH TIES

In a demonstration of its faith in its own credo of Good Christian Charity and goodwill, the Catholic Church ought to withdraw the ridiculous and provocative demand now legtimised by a flawed decision. It should demonstrate that it ought not to be allowed the sinister use of one Arabic word Allah which is clearly a thorn in the side of its Malay majority hosts.

The Church may do so without any embarrassment to itself. On the contrary with one fell act of goodness and respect it would build a bridge of understanding likely to last forever as a monument to its credo, rather than for the blemishes in its record of insults, abuse, its betrayal to the colonials and the undermining of the cultural and religious sensitivities and heritage of Malaysia’s majority.

If this matter were to be put up for reviewed independently or in the event the government chooses to exercises its rights as a sovereign state in the reserve powers of government through the appropriate minister, the Church will find itself with a pyrrhic victory designed for fools in a constitution designed by Christians.

Gopal Raj Kumar

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