Sunday, November 03, 2013

Allah allah when will it end!

Why get emotional, ‘Allah’ not exclusive to Muslims, says Oxford theologian

MM) - Only Muslims with an “inferiority complex” would monopolise the use of “Allah” when the Arabic word for God is not exclusive to Islam, celebrated Swiss-Muslim theologian Dr Tariq Ramadan has said.
The Oxford University professor of contemporary Islamic studies, who was hailed by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the top 100 global thinkers last year, took to Twitter yesterday to add his voice to a growing number of prominent Muslims outside Malaysia who have been critical of the government’s stand that “Allah” cannot be used by followers of other faiths as it will cause confusion to Muslims.

“Why do we get emotional when others use the word #Allah?” Ramadan asked on his Twitter account, @TariqRamadan handle.

“There is only one God. My God is your God. Allah is not just the God for Muslims,” he wrote.

He added: “It is because of an inferiority complex that the word #Allah is monopolized. How about monopolizing good deeds instead?”

Ramadan, who comes from an illustrious religious family—his father, Said Ramadan, was a prominent figure in Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood founded by his maternal grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, while his grand-uncle, Gamal al-Banna, is a famed liberal Muslim reformer—has been a vocal advocate of a progressive and moderate Islam.

In a separate Twitter entry today that seemed a continuation of his critical views on Islam and Malaysia, he remarked that non-Muslims here appear to be sharing the sentiments of Muslim minorities in the West who have been sidelined by the majority in a plural society.

He included the link to an article he had previously penned on religion here, under the hashtag Malaysia.

In the article titled “Malaysia: which challenges towards which modernity?”, Ramadan wrote that Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and atheist Malaysian citizens often feel that they are “captives in a debate that marginalises or exploits them”.

“Like the mirror image of many Muslim citizens in the West, they may be perfectly respectful of the constitution, of the laws and prerogatives of the civil state, but it is as if they are slightly excluded from the shared narrative upon which the Malaysia nation is founded,” said the scholar, who had studied at the Al-Azhar University in Egypt.

“It has proved difficult for them to achieve the fully equal status that would establish their sense of belonging to a pluralist society,” Ramadan added.

Ramadan’s remarks on the “Allah” controversy in Malaysia follows criticism by other international publications against the Court of Appeal ruling earlier this month that found that the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the use of the Arabic word in the Catholic Church’s weekly, the Herald, was justified.

The three-judge panel ruled that the use of the word “Allah” was not integral to the practice of the Christian faith, overturning a High Court decision that the ban was unconstitutional.

Prolific Turkish writer Harun Yahya had last week urged Putrajaya to reverse its ban on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims here, saying the decision was “based on illogical and theologically unacceptable reasoning”.

The writer—whose real name is Adnan Oktar and who had achieved cult status among Muslim here for his rejection of Darwinism—said such a ban would inevitably lead to an environment of severe oppression, despite Putrajaya’s repeated claim that it only applies to local Catholic newspaper The Herald.

“Such a decision cannot be accepted and defended even if it was directed at one newspaper or a single person,” Oktar wrote in an opinion piece carried by Indonesian daily The Jakarta Post on October 25.

He added: “This decision, which is completely against Islam, a religion of peace and brotherhood, must be reversed and there must be freedom of expression for everyone.”

Another Muslim religious scholar, Dr Reza Aslan, also said recently that the word “Allah” was merely an Arabic term for God.

“Allah is a construction of the word al-Ilah... Al-Ilah means ‘The God’. Allah is not the name of God,” Aslan told radio station BFM last month.

The American scholar, who has written two books on Islam and one on Christianity, said it was “almost a blasphemous thought to think that Allah has a name”.

Local Islamic scholar Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has similarly said that the Quran allows ― and even encourages ― non-Muslims to address God as “Allah”, as long as they are referring to “The Supreme Being”.

The former Perlis mufti said last month that banning non-Muslims from calling God “Allah” is tantamount to “syirik”, which refers to the sin of practising idolatry or polytheism and is an unforgivable crime in Islam.

Ramadan is scheduled to speak at a health conference in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on Wednesday.

Allah decision binding on all Malaysians, says retired AG Abu Talib

All Malaysians are bound by the Court of Appeal ruling on the Allah issue, says former attorney general Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman (pic), who is puzzled that Putrajaya believes the controversial judgment does not affect Christians in Sabah and Sarawak.
The appellate court agreed that the Home Minister could ban the word Allah in the Catholic weekly Herald, but two Cabinet ministers had insisted the decision did not include the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia bible widely used in Sabah and Sarawak, and other Christian publications in East Malaysia.
"It has the effect of a binding precedent and all have to respect that decision, whether you agree or disagree," he told The Malaysian Insider, adding it was binding until set aside by the country's highest court, the Federal Court.

Abu Talib, who was the chief legal adviser to the government for 13 years from 1980, said there could be no two sets of law when "we have one nation and one supreme constitution".
"So, there cannot be exemptions given to Sabah and Sarawak on this religious issue based on region or state," he said.
Abu Talib said this in response to Cabinet ministers Tan Sri Joseph Kurup and Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili who had taken the position that Christians in the Borneo states were not affected by the appellate court ruling on Monday and could use the word in their religious practices.
The Muslim Lawyers' Association of Malaysia had also weighed in on the issue, saying the ban only applied to the Bahasa Malaysia section of the Herald.
Abu Talib said the central issue decided was whether people and institutions other than Muslims could use the word.
"The Court of Appeal has made a finding that the name Allah is not an integral part of the faith and practice of Christianity and, by that extension, the word is exclusive to Islam and Muslims," he said.
Abu Talib, who was Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) chair after retiring as AG, said in view of sensitivity of the issue, the Chief Justice of the Federal Court, Tun Arifin Zakaria, must give priority to this case which is of public interest.
"If not properly handled, this hot issue will give rise to further controversies as we live in multi-racial and multi-religious society," he said.
He said the matter must be brought to a finality and once the issue had been decided, "all must move forward".
"The position of Islam as the religion of the Federation and freedom of other religions could come under scrutiny if the merit of the appeal was heard in the apex court.
"It boils down to freedom of non-Muslims to practice their faith and any decision under the Federal Constitution binds all, irrespective of state and region," he said.
Abu Talib said there were irresponsible comments and responses following the Court of Appeal ruling with some bordering on contempt of court.
"You can criticise the judgment but there is limit to it. At the end of the day, the independence and integrity of the judiciary must be maintained and observed," he added. – October 19, 2013.

‘Allah’: Bukan hak esklusif untuk Muslim sahaja

William Mangor | October 13, 2013
"Sebagai seorang Muslim, saya takda masalah agama lain guna kalimah Allah," ujar Datuk Seri Chazy Chaz
KUCHING: Keputusan penggunaan kalimah ‘Allah’ bakal menentukan sejauh mana kejayaan kerajaan dalam berhadapan isu yang melibatkan agama dan keberkesanan Perdana Menteri Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak dalam merealisasikan impian ’1Malaysia’.
Walaubagaimanpun, rakyat Sabah Sarawak tetap tenang berhadapan isu ini meskipun laporan FMT kelmarin memaklumkan Jakim melalui khutbah Jumaat menggesa umat Islam mempertahankan kalimah tersebut.
Pengguna Facebook terutama sekali penduduk Sabah Sarawak baik Kristian dan Islam mempunyai persefahaman mengenai isu ini.
“Sebagai seorang Muslim, saya takda masalah agama lain guna kalimah Allah,” ujar Datuk Seri Chazy Chaz
Pengguna Facebook yang lain pula, Abdul Halim berkata: “Sebenarnya, penggunaan kalimah “Allah” telah ada sebelum kerasulan Nabi Muhammad SAW.
“Digunakan meluas di jazirah Arab yang pada ketika itu berada dalam zaman jahiliyah lagi. Jika kita mengkaji dengan mendalam, nabi-nabi diturunkan lebih kerap ke kawasan Jazirah Arab yang banyak didedahkan dalam al-Quran.”
Sementara itu, Gillan Lee menambah: “Tetap akan gunakan kalimah Allah dalam upacara keagamaan terutamanya kerana saya di Sarawak.
“ Apa pun keputusannya, saya berhak mengunakan kalimah suci bersama dgn jutaan umat Kristian lain. Dan paling penting sekali Muslim di Sarawak tidak mudah ‘terkeliru’ seperti di Semenanjung maka tiada masalah remeh.”
Pendirian gereja?
Dalam masa yang berasingan, Pengerusi Persektuan Gereja-gereja di Sabah dan Sarawak  Bolly Lapok (Sarawak) dan Thomas Tsen menegaskan bahawa larangan penggunaan kalimah ‘Allah’ oleh orang Kristian melanggar Perjanjian Malaysia 1963 dimana asas pembentukan negara ini.
“Ini adalah penghinaan, keseluruhannya tidak boleh diterima dan pengkhianatan terang-terangan ke atas Perjanjian Malaysia yang menjamin hak-hak orang bukan Islam di Sarawak dan Sabah untuk bebas beragama,” tegas Bolly Lapok dalam satu kenyataan
Sementara itu, Thomas Tsen berkata: “Dengan menghormati kepada pihak berkuasa pentadbiran, sama ada perundangan, badan eksekutif atau kehakiman kerajaan, kami meminta ketaksuban agama, perkauman dan ekstremisme tidak harus diteruskan dan dibenarkan membarah dan racun negara Malaysia.”
Keputusan bakal diketahui pada Isnin ini. Kes sudah tertangguh sebanyak beberapa kali setelah difailkan sejak 2009.
Bukan Islam pertahankan kalimah
Penduduk Sabah dan Sarawak berpendapat, penggunaan tersebut sebenarnya bukan satu isu yang besar melainkan isu ini dipolitikkan oleh pihak tertentu.
“…mempolitikkan walau apa sekali pun agama mereka boleh menjuruskan seseorang itu mencium bau neraka,” tegas Cornellius Maso
Sementara itu Chris Ap, berkata: “Sabah Sarawak dan penganut bukan Islam.. menggunakan Allah sebagai simbol ketuhanan…bukan kita bikin main-main… rasanya orang Malaya sendiri menggunakan Allah dengan cara yang tidak betul.. sebagai contoh dalam perubatan tradisional atau pun produk kesihatan untuk kepentingan sendiri…”


Muslims can’t stop others from using the word Allah, says PAS president

October 12, 2013

PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang (pic) today weighed in on the controversial "Allah" row, saying there is nothing wrong with non-Muslims using the term in their faiths provided it is not misused or misinterpreted.
"There is no law that does not allow other people to use the word ‘Allah’, but if they interpret it wrongly to Muslims, they need to answer because Allah means He is the only God to be worshiped,” Hadi said after launching a seminar on Shariah at the Universiti Selangor in Shah Alam, today.
Hadi's statement comes as the Court of Appeal prepares to give its decision on the appeal by Catholic weekly newspaper Herald to be allowed to use the word.
The High Court in Kuala Lumpur had ruled on December 31, 2009 that the weekly newspaper could use the word.
Following Putrajaya’s appeal against that decision, a three-man bench led by Datuk Seri Mohamad Apandi Ali heard submissions on September 10 from lawyers representing Putrajaya, the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church and Islamic religious councils.
Hadi said it was not for Muslims to stop others from using the word “Allah”, pointing out that unlike the word "God", “Allah” is an Arabic word which cannot be translated into another language.
This, he added, makes the term sacred.
His comments contrast the recent call by the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) on Muslims to unite against any attempt to misuse the word "Allah".
The Council, in the prepared text of the Friday sermon, has questioned the use of the word "Allah" in the Bible, saying the action was contradictory to Christians' belief in the concept of Trinity.
But Jakim added that use of the term in Christian bibles could cause confusion among Muslims, saying they might be mistaken about the identity of "Allah" and ultimately destroy their faith.
Jakim's call prompted a defiant statement from church leaders in Sabah and Sarawak which said Christians would continue using “Allah” regardless of court outcome.
"The Bumiputera church will continue to use the Bahasa Malaysia Alkitab together with the word 'Allah' both of which are fundamental to all aspects of the profession and practice of the Christian faith," they said in a strongly-worded statement last night.
The Allah row erupted in early 2009 after the Home Ministry threatened to revoke Herald’s permit for using the word in place of God.
The church then took Putrajaya to court, accusing it of violating the constitutional rights of Christians.
The High Court allowed the church's judicial review application and lifted the minister's ban.
Judge Lau Bee Lan said that the church had a constitutional right to use the word Allah in its newspaper on the grounds that religions other than Islam can be practised in peace and harmony, as stated in the federal constitution. - October 12, 2013.

Q&A: What Court Decision on Use of ‘Allah’ Means for Malaysia

ByCeline Fernandez

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s appellate court is scheduled to rule on Monday on whether the Roman Catholic Church can use ‘Allah’ in its weekly publication to represent the Christian God.
Mujahid Yusof Rawa
Dr. Mujahid Yusof Rawa, a Member of Parliament from the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, says if a Malaysian court rules on Monday that the Roman Catholic Church cant use the word Allah to represent the Christian God, the theory that Christians proselytize Muslims will increase.
The battle in the court of appeal was the result of a lower court judgment in 2009 which ruled that the Catholic Church had the constitutional right to use the word Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia editions of the Herald, its newspaper. In early 2010 the same court ordered the Herald not to use the word while the government appealed the decision.
Last month, the Catholic Church argued before the appellate court that it should be allowed to use the word because it has been used for centuries by the Malay-speaking  Christian community.  The government, meanwhile, argued that the then-home minister didn’t act in bad faith when he restricted the use of the word because he had done so from the aspect of security and public order.  The government also argued that the word is specific to Muslims.
Monday’s ruling may be appealed to the next level, the highest court.
Muslims make up about 61% of Malaysia’s 28 million people.  The Christian Federation of Malaysia said that about 60% of the approximately 2.6 million Christians in the country use the word Allah to refer to God.
Observers, including Dr. Patricia Anne Martinez, a Malaysian scholar of Islam who is Catholic, think the decision will go against the Herald, partly because of the current political climate. She pointed out that the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant partner in the ruling coalition, has been using Islam for political expedience.
“There has been very negative and widespread publicity about the use of the word ‘Allah’ and the Herald case,” she said, noting that UMNO used the issue during the campaign before the 13th general elections in May to show it was “championing Islam.”
The closely watched verdict raises high-stake issues for Malaysia, particularly freedom of religion.
“We are not oppressing the non-Muslims,” said Azril Amin, one of the lawyers in the suit representing the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council, a body that looks after Islamic affairs.  “We are not stopping them from practicing their religion.”
Mr. Azril, who is also the vice-president of the Muslim Lawyers Association, said the government’s side is simply saying “the proper use of the word Allah” should be reserved for Muslims.
Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, says the long legal battle  has not worn him down.
“When justice is denied, you don’t consider the tiredness, but the commitment that you have for the good of the people,” he said. “We are just stating what is in Article 11 of the federal Constitution, which says we have the right to worship and to manage our religious affairs. So, therefore, we are basically fighting for religious freedom.”
Dr. Mujahid Yusof Rawa, a member of Parliament from the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, has visited close to 30 churches nationwide promoting interfaith dialogue.
“The court has to stick to the freedom of faith by taking Islam as the religion of the state into account,” said Mr. Majahid, who is Muslim.
Mr. Mujahid spoke with The Wall Street Journal’s Celine Fernandez about what’s ahead. Edited excerpts follow:
The Wall Street Journal: How do you think the court will rule and why?
Mr. Mujahid: The fact that the court has deferred the ruling, which was supposed to be in September, will signal to you the tension of the issue. The court has to stick to the freedom of faith by taking Islam as the religion of the state into account. The extreme right still represents the significant group of Malay Muslims who feel that the word “Allah” used by Christians will lead to religious unrest. The Malays may not agree on the extreme tone of the right. But their concern is that it will not be a good precedent as the Catholic Church will dare to intrude further in demanding their use of “Allah” in many other church symbols. The court also, in my opinion, has to look into these multi-racial dynamics. And of course the ruling party, UMNO, at some degree may influence the ruling.
What will the impact be on religion and culture in Malaysia?
The impact is that interfaith relations will be more tense as many people have an interest in this. Politicians will ride the issue between the extreme right and the liberals. An Islamic party like PAS will be tested in its call for freedom of faith. The liberals will find a good ground to exert with more radical approaches in its belief of freedom of faith. The Malays, who are majority Muslims, will be tested in their pursuit of defending Islam but complying with Article 11, where freedom of faith is protected in the federal constitution. The theory that Christians proselytize Muslims will increase. And the Catholics will be seen as the enemy of Islam among the general Muslim viewpoint. Whatever the outcome of the ruling, it definitely will have a great impact for Malaysia and the international community.
What will it say about freedom of the press?
That’s the whole issue. Catholics were banned from using the word “Allah” in their publication the Herald, but the high court found the ban as contradicting the notion of freedom, although the circulation must be limited to the Christians only. The government went to the court of appeal. The Catholics defended, and now it is time for the court of appeal to give its ruling. I think the issue was given such a highlight for the purpose of political gain rather than looking into a brighter future in faith relations.
Some observers say if the court rules in favor of the government, Malaysia will remain a nation divided, not just by race, but increasingly by religion. Your thoughts?
Race relations in Malaysia are intertwined with religious sentiment, and it has served the present ruling party well. The increase of citizens’ rights has contributed to the demand of greater freedom enshrined in the federal constitution.
Second, the Malay political parties, the UMNO and PAS, will be forced to play by the racial and religious tone for the purpose of wooing voters. It is at that point the two parties need to handle it more maturely because their moves will affect the path of the interfaith and racial fabric of Malaysia. Religious tension calls for trust between followers, dialogue and understanding of the federal constitution so that the issue is [presented] to the public in a civilized manner. Worst is, extremism will find its way into society. And violence in the name of religion will only depict a bad picture of religion. Myanmar, Somalia, etc., have had tragic incidents of violence using religion as a cover. Political will of all divides in Malaysia must condemn citizens who use faith to promote violence and hatred among fellow Malaysians. I believe in dialogue and good will to promote peace among different faiths in Malaysia.


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