Malaysian citizens should be greatly disturbed by recent events that give alarming evidence of the erosion of religious liberty in the country. Do these events reflect the implementation of a more fundamental Islamic policy? This public forum will provide an analysis of current trends in our nation and explore how Christians may firmly and constructively respond to these challenges that threaten religious liberty in general and the Christian faith in particular.
KAIROS PUBLIC FORUM
Religious Liberty Under Threat
Time/date: 8.30pm, Thu 31 January 2008
Venue: Heritage Centre, Petaling Jaya
Speakers: Dr Ng Kam Weng & Mr Lim Heng Seng
Malaysian citizens – Malaysian Christians in particular – should be greatly disturbed by recent events that give alarming evidence of the erosion of religious liberty in the country. These events include civil court judgments that advise non-Muslims to go the shariah courts to settle matters of divorce and child custody, body snatching from funeral parlors, the demolition of temples and churches, and the seizures of Sunday School materials and Christian story books for children from bookshops. Of great concern is the Cabinet announcement that non-Muslims may not use the word ‘Allah’. This prohibition would ban Holy Scriptures (Alkitab) and forbid Christians from using well established liturgy, hymns and prayers in their worship services.
Are these events merely ad-hoc actions by the authorities or do they reflect the implementation of a more fundamental Islamic policy that informs and guides the authorities in their treatment of peoples of other faiths? How should Christians view these developments? This public forum will provide an analysis of current trends in our nation and explore how Christians may firmly and constructively respond to these challenges that threaten religious liberty in general and the Christian faith in particular.
About the speakers
Dr Ng Kam Weng is Research Director of Kairos Research Centre.
Mr Lim Heng Seng, a former senior federal counsel and chairman of the industrial court, is currently a partner in a law firm in Kuala Lumpur.
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The government directive also emasculates Christian religious language and strips it of a sense of sacredness that helps to usher the worshipper into the presence of God and enables the worshipper to relate to God….It is prepared to invent/coin words just to deny Christians the right to identify and express what God has said/revealed to them: Wahyu should be substituted with ‘Revelasi’, ‘Nabi’ with ‘propet’ and ‘Al-Kitab’with ‘Baibel’ (note that these words are not even found in the Kamus Dewan)….n effect, the government is not respecting Christianity; and is asking Christians to commit sacrilege, that is, to dishonor their God.
Prohibition of ‘Allah’ and Other Words: Forcing Christians to Dishonor God
The Malaysian government’s recent decision to prohibit non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’ is not an ad-hoc decision made on the spur of the moment. It is only the tip of the ice-berg in a move to steadily enforce policies that restrict the freedom of Christians. This is evident if we look at the matter in a wider, historical perspective.
The beginning of the crisis occurred in the 1980s when Church leaders received a directive from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Bahagian Kawalan Penerbitan, Kementerian Dalam Negeri Malaysia) stating that the following words (listed in the first column) are not to be used in the Al Kitab (Bible). The authorities also suggested that the Church should use alternative words (second column) to replace the prohibited words. Continue reading “Prohibition of ‘Allah’ and Other Words: Forcing Christians to Dishonor God”
The lofty term ‘language planning’ degenerates to a form of interest-bound modern social-political planning. Williams (1981:221) points out that it is high time that we recognize that language planning is undertaken by those who are in a position of power to undertake such policies and is therefore designed to serve and protect their interests…The recent policy to prohibit non-Muslims from using certain terms on the ground that there are Islamic is in reality a projection of power for the purpose of controlling minority groups – euphemistically described as cultural and language planning for social harmony when in reality it is cultural and religious cleansing.
‘Allah’ and Linguistic Hegemony
Some readers may be forgiven for thinking that the recent controversy arising from the absurd decision of the Cabinet to ban non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ is nothing more than unnecessary quibbling over a trivial matter. Surely there are more important things to be concerned about than fighting over a word? If only such readers would tell that to the Cabinet and not merely offer well-meaning but misguided advice asking non-Muslims to submit to the Cabinet.
Indeed it is more than just a matter of semantics. Whoever has the sole power to define how I may use my primarily language defines my world and dominates it. The recent policy to prohibit non-Muslims from using certain terms on the ground that they are Islamic is in reality a projection of power for the purpose of controlling minority groups – euphemistically described as cultural and language planning for social harmony when in reality it is cultural and religious cleansing. Continue reading “‘Allah’ and Linguistic Hegemony”
The article written in Malay refutes the assumption that a few million Muslims in Peninsular Malaysia have the exclusive right and final authority to define how the Malay language may be used for religious purposes.
Sudah di masa pra-Islam, al-ilâh disambung menjadi Allâh. Dan dalam agama orang-orang Arab pra-Islam, kata ini digunakan untuk menunjuk pada dewa yang paling tinggi di antara dewa-dewa yang lain yang masing-masing mempunyai namanya sendiri. Namun kata Allâh itu sendiri bukan nama, seperti di atas diterangkan. Dengan demikian, kata Allâh sudah ada dalam bahasa Arab sebelum Islam dalam zaman jahiliyya atau zaman politeis. Kata itu bukan ciptaan orang Islam, ia juga tidak baru muncul dalam Al-qur’ân Al-karîm, melainkan, dari sudut bahasa, ia merupakan kata biasa dalam bahasa Arab lepas dari ikatan dengan salah satu agama tertentu.
To download PDF version of Article: Click on title “Mengenai Kata ALLAH”
Mengenai Kata ALLAH (Download PDF File)
‘Allah’ is for all Malay Speaking People in Nusantara (Malay Archipelago)
Recently, the Malay media has printed several articles that insist non-Muslims cannot use the word Allah to describe the supreme God they worship. One such article, written by the Director-General of IKIM (Institute of Islamic Understanding), appears in the following site: http://www.utusan.com.my/utusan/info.asp?y=2008&dt=0106&pub=Utusan_Malaysia&sec=Rencana&pg=re_03.htm
It is a pity that this article is printed only in the Malay press. Its assertion that only Muslims have exclusive authority to decide how Bahasa Malaysia may be used for religious purposes would certainly draw a vigorous response in the English media (though certainly not in the censored mainstream English newspapers). Perhaps the article is intended more to ‘educate’ Malay readers even though readers of the Malay press show little interest in the issue. Political scientists may also be interested to note that the Government issued a gag order to prevent further discussion of the topic only after Muslim scholars were first allowed to express their views in the press. Continue reading “‘Allah’ is for all Malay Speaking People in Nusantara”