Saturday, 23 January 2010

Bridging the Religious Divide: 200 Community Leaders to participate in an Inter-faith Goodwill Feast organized by the Kelantan State Government

KOTA BHARU, 23 Jan: Seramai 200 orang ketua-ketua kaum seluruh negara yang mewakili lima agama akan menghadiri majlis Jamuan Muhibbah Antara Agama anjuran Kerajaan Kelantan yang akan diadakan pada 28 Januari ini.

Majlis yang diadakan bertujuan untuk mengeratkan lagi hubungan antara masyarakat Islam dan pelbagai agama itu akan dihadiri oleh ulama Islam, ketua agama Hindu, Buddha, Kristian dan Sikh, 16 orang daripadanya paderi Kristian.

Menteri Besar Kelantan, Tuan Guru Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat berkata, majlis yang diadakan di sebuah hotel itu akan diadakan bermula pukul 10.45 pagi dan dijangka berakhir 12.00 tengah hari.

“Kita terpaksa menganjurkan program berkenaan agak awal bagi menghormati sebahagian penganut agama yang tidak boleh makan tengah hari melebihi pukul 12.00 tengah hari,” ujarnya.

Menurutnya, biarpun kerajaan negeri pernah meraikan golongan berkenaan beberapa tahun dahulu, namun majlis yang bakal berlangsung nanti lebih besar, apa lagi ianya melibatkan ketua agama di seluruh negara termasuk Sabah.

Jelas beliau lagi, kerajaan negeri meraikan golongan berkenaan bukan sahaja untuk mengeratkan hubungan yang telah sedia terjalin, bagaimanapun untuk mengekalkan suasana aman di negeri ini yang telah ditadbir oleh parti yang berlandaskan Islam.

Tambahnya, lagipun Islam menggalakkan umatnya berbuat baik kepada semua bangsa dan agama termasuk meraikan mereka dengan jamuan.

“Mudah-mudahan dengan cara ini masyarakat bukan Islam dapat menyaksikan sendiri bagaimana Islam mengajar penganutnya meraikan golongan bukan Islam,” ujarnya.

Source: HarakahDaily

The Malaysian Pastime: Malaysia's war of words over God

Spurious objections to Malaysian Christians' use of the word Allah must be countered by inclusivist Muslims

Thursday 21 January 2010 12.00 GMT
Article history


In countless tourism adverts, Malaysia asks the world to see it as "Truly Asia". In the past days and weeks, its government's bid to portray the nation as a harmonious multicultural society has gone up in flames.

Since its high court lifted a three-year embargo that prevents non-Muslims from using the Arabic word Allah in their prayers and literature on 31 December, detractors firebombed several churches and vandalised others across the nation. While there were no casualties, several churches have thus far been hit, with one so severely damaged that its members had to conduct their service elsewhere. Eight of the attackers have now been arrested.

Despite these attacks, Malaysia's Christians, who make up about nine percent of the 27 million-strong Southeast Asian nation, are insisting that the use of Allah is not exclusive to Muslims, who account for some 60% of the population.

Last February, Malaysia's Catholic archbishop, Murphy Pakiam, publisher of the Herald newspaper, filed for a judicial review against the ban that was first enforced in 2007 by the then home affairs minister, Syed Hamid Albar, against the Catholic weekly for using Allah to refer to God in its Malay language version.

The rationale behind the Catholic church's appeal was that Allah is a generic word for God that preceded the spread of Islam. After all, the word Allah, when translated from Arabic, comprises the definite article al, and the noun ilah which means God – connoting a singular deity, a belief common to adherents of the Abrahamic faiths.

Indeed, Biblical scholar Kenneth J Thomas outlined evidence in a 2001 research paper (pdf) suggesting that Jews, Christians and Muslims in the Arab world have used Allah when citing and translating the Bible since the first centuries of Islam.

In Malaysia, its use by Christians developed along similar lines. Since Christianity became widespread there in the 19th century, primarily through the missionary efforts of English colonisers, Allah has been used extensively by Malay-speaking Christian indigenous peoples of the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak.

When juxtaposed against the fact that Malay-speaking Christians in neighbouring Indonesia have long used Allah in their worship to no complaint, it is understandable that Malaysia's church attacks have been viewed with much chagrin.

Observers have rightly argued that the rumpus is tied to Malaysia's ethnic-based political landscape. To be more precise, it arises from the form of Islam nurtured by a segment of the nation's Malay political elites.

The country's constitution not only makes Islam the official state religion but also specifies that a "Malay" must be a "Muslim". With ethnicity tied so closely to religion, defending the purity of Islam against corruption by foreigners has become both a religious duty and a matter of national pride.

This dogma has been fostered by the nation's ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), whose popularity is partly derived from its status as a defender of Malay rights.

This would explain Umno's ambivalent stance on the issue. Even as prime minister Najib Razak decried the church attacks as heinous, his Umno colleagues in government had filed an appeal against the high court decision to overturn the Allah ban. Home affairs minister Hishamuddin Hussein even went as far as to allow demonstrations against the Allah ruling in mosques across Malaysia after Friday prayers on 8 January.

Christians were not the only group targeted by adherents of exclusivist Islam following the fallout from the ruling. On 13 January, the country's Sikhs became the latest to suffer attacks when vandals threw stones at a temple in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. The Sikhs, who number approximately 120,000, also use Allah to refer to God in their worship.

Even the Hindus are not exempt from this kind of discrimination. Last September, a group of Muslim protestors stamped on a cow's severed head to protest at the building of a Hindu temple in a Muslim-majority neighbourhood.

Yet there is some encouragement to be had in the fact that not all Malays subscribe to this form of exclusivist Islam. Respected Muslim scholar Asri Zainul Abidin, a former state mufti, backs the use of Allah by non-Muslims. Surprisingly, this is the same stance taken by the opposition Islamic party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia, which had advocated the full-blown implementation of Sharia laws in past campaigns.

There are even voices of dissent coming from within Umno itself. Veteran politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who has always been something of a maverick, condemned his party's reactions following the ruling. For Malaysians to stop warring in God's name, this emerging inclusive Malay-Muslim voice must drown out the rallying cries of the divisive vandals. Insha'Allah.


Around Malaysian Campuses - Malaysia squeezing its way into the top ranked universities ...


KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23: Pakatan Rakyat leaders have slammed the police and the Umno-BN government for the arrests of nine university students, who were part of a group that was protesting against unfair and skewed campus election procedures.

“The situation was fine, everyone was calm. It was when the police came and created a scene with their loud hailers and started taking down banners and dragging some students away,” PKR supreme council member Badrul Hisham Shahrin, who is also known as Chegubard, told Harakahdaily.

“By taking this high-handed approach, the police have shown themselves to practice double standards. Why pick on the students today when several weeks ago at the Umno-spearheaded mass protests over the Allah issue, not a single arrest was made,” PAS Youth leader Abdullah Karim told Harakahdaily.

Intimidation and influencing voting pattern

More than 200 students from several public universities, due to hold their campus polls on Sunday, had congregated at Menara Tun Razak in Jalan Raja Laut, Kuala Lumpur before marching to the Sogo shopping complex about half a kilometre away.

They had wanted to distribute flyers to the public and some had carried banners. Most of them belonged student activist groups such as Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen (Kami), Gabungan Mahasiswa Islam Se-Malaysia (Gamis), Gabungan Mahasiswa Bantah E-Voting (Bantah) and Pro-Mahasiswa.

In Malaysia, campus politics are divided between the pro-establishment camp, which is said to have the backing of the campus authority, and the anti-establishment camp. Polls are intensely competitive and traditionally fraught with allegations of irregularities, harassment and intimidation.

“I think it clear that many of the students were from the anti-establishment camp but that is not an excuse for the police to act this way. Today’s march was peaceful and there was no threat to national security. The police would be well-reminded to stay non-partisan. People are getting fed up and are asking if the arrests were intentional, to intimidate and influence the voting pattern tomorrow,” said Abdullah.

What sort of democracy?

The police crackdown intensified after student leader Aizat Salleh gave a short speech once the group – chanting ‘Bangkit Mahasiswa’ or ‘Arise Students’ as they marched – reached Sogo complex.

"We have already submitted a memo to the Higher Education Ministry. We appeal for greater transparency in the election process at all public universities and we urged the authorities to return to us our campus democracy," Aizat told the crowd.

But before he could continue further, he was detained. The other eight arrested were Hilman Idham, Mohammad Za'im Mustapha, Ahmad Shukri Kamarudin, Ahmad Syukri Abdul Razak, Mohammad Idris Yusoff, Fikhri Harun, Syahriul Ismail and Ridhuan Jamil, all of whom belonged to student organisations from universities in the Klang Valley.

They were brought to Dang Wangi district police headquarters for questioning.

“The right to assemble peacefully is a basic democratic right, and especially necessary for university students,” said Chegubard.

“As the inheritors of our future, youths must be given greater room for freedom of expression, greater room to explore and develop their minds. In every country, in every part of the world, this is understood. But apparently not here in Malaysia, where we look like a democratic country. But we are not, we are only a regimented democracy.”

Harakah Daily

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