Friday, January 08, 2010

Let Allah be a uniting not dividing factor

Dialogue not courts to solve Inter-faith disputes

The High Court decision allowing the Herald to use the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia edition was received with mixed reactions. The Christians hailed the judgment as a victory for justice and freedom of religious worship. On the other hand the reactions from Muslims seem to be divided. Some acted with anger as they see it as an infringement of their rights and the status of Islam as the official religion. There others, including prominent Muslim scholars and notably Islamic party PAS, did not see the judgment going against the principles of Islam.

Despite strong pressures, PAS and many Muslim leaders from the opposition and some from the ruling party and many learned Muslim scholars have not wavered from their bold and uncompromising stand to uphold truth and justice. All peace loving Malaysians salute them for their high level of tolerance, wisdom and maturity.

However the episode as usual was quickly capitalized by politicians for their advantage so much so it was blown out of proportion to becomes an emotionally sensitive issue. The positive thing that came out was that it opened up a public debate on an issue that was not imaginable before. Thanks to the internet technology and the maturity of the people of all races. Unfortunately the minority extremists on both sides in the dispute are turning a simple issue into a major religious conflict. The moderate and peace loving majority should stand firm not to be influenced to react irrationally by emotions.

Muslims or Christians, we are all Malaysians and must display great maturity and wisdom not do allow anything that may disrupt the peace and harmony in the country. This is our solemn duty to our nation which we must all uphold at all times, at all costs and under all circumstances.

In the first place this dispute on the right to use “Allah” should not gone to the courts as such sensitive religious issues can never be solved by them. It can only be solved by dialogue in the spirit of brotherhood and goodwill as expounded by both Islam and Christianity.

The Home Minister should have invited the editor of Herald for a cordial discussion on the use of ‘Allah’ in its publication instead of arrogantly banning its use altogether with a stroke of the pen. It would have been an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the virtue of love for fellow men which are the basic principles of both great religions. Unfortunately this was not done and we have the undesirable situation we are in now.

Now that the court has decided it is only proper for all parties to accept the verdict in good faith. The party that is not happy should go through the proper legal channels to redress the issue not resort to street protests and threats to obtain their wish. This will be unconstitutional and an act of disrespect to the court.

The vast majority of Malaysians of all races are busy struggling to making ends meet at a time of great economic difficulties and they have no time for politicking or riots. They want a peaceful and harmonious environment to live and carry on their daily routine. It is very sad and deeply disturbing and disappointing to see opportunistic politicians going all out to capitalize on the Allah issue to the maximum. They resort to all sorts of racist tactics to gain support least bothered on the consequences that their actions might have on the security of the nation.

This is not the time to blame one another for the ‘Allah controversy’ and tense situation that it is leading to. It has to be stopped immediately by the fair and firm actions of the police and the government to prevent it from escalating further by the exploitation by irresponsible and extremist elements on both sides.

It is time for a lasting and amicable solution to this dispute and all inter-faith disputes once and all. This can only be achieved by engagement consultation in the form of inter-faith dialogue and not the courts which can only grant temporary solution to such disputes.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has called on all parties to be calm and he promised to settle the problem amicably in a peaceful manner. This is an opportunity for him to demonstrate that he can do that impartially in keeping with his 1Malaysia policy.

Inter-faith dialogues especially between Muslims and Christians are being emphasized at international levels since the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Malaysia being a multiracial and multi-religious country should take the lead in such inter-faith dialogue in our own country. It is an opportunity to show the world how we can promote peace and harmony among the various races and religions by getting rid of our suspicion and hatred for one another by engagement and dialogue.

Let us show the world that we can live together peacefully as children of the one true God, whatever name we choose to call Him. Let Him be the uniting not dividing factor.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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