By allowing a planned public demonstration against the High Court ruling allowing Catholics to use the word “Allah”, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein has shown he is not interested in calming things down.
Amid the raging debate on the ruling, the last thing Malaysia needs now is an Umno minister more interested in boosting his credentials among the Malay ground than maintaining order.
Hishammuddin’s comments today is all the more ridiculous considering the the High Court’s decision to stay its own ruling, citing “national interest”.
The decision to stay the “Allah” ruling was made with the consent of both the government and the church, in what is certainly an effort to bring down the mercury.
But Hishammudin’s remarks this afternoon will only serve to fan the flames of the debate.
The Home Minister asserted that the core issue was the issue of safety of the country, and that the group had already been advised against the protest.
“Everyone’s been appealing to them. No one, from the government to the opposition, wants this whole thing to get out of hand.
“As long as it does not affect national security, we will not stop it yet. We plan to get closer to the would-be demonstrators and try to talk to them first.”
The hypocrisy of his remarks is certainly clear, because he had never demonstrated such gentleness in dealing with demonstrations that were not sanctioned by Umno.
By allowing the protest, Hishammuddin is perhaps demonstrating to the public that this is a measure of a ruling party which has lost the ability to play the role of an honest broker.
It was Hishammuddin’s predecessor Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar who created this fuss in the first place.
Christians and the Catholic Herald newspaper have been using the word “Allah” in Bahasa Malaysia publication and worship for decades.
But along came Syed Hamid. He needed last year to shore up his support in Umno and therefore handed down the prohibition to ban the Herald from using the word.
Now, Hishammuddin also has to prove his mettle to his constituents.
It should come as no surprise because this was the man who sympathised with the cow-head protestors last year.
But the response and reaction of all Christians and right-thinking Malaysians should be to remain calm.
The best place to answer Hishammuddin and his ilk in Umno will be at the ballot box.