Saturday, January 16, 2010

The day I spoke at the Hall of The Holy Spirit

While UMNO is busy trying to put out the fire they started, PAS in its own quiet way have been visiting Catholic churches, saying "hello" to the parishioners, and to show them that they are not alone in the current debate over the use of the word, "Allah". This is what The Malaysian Insider has to say, a first hand report by Mujahid Yusof Rawa, MP for Parit Buntar and PAS National Unity Committee Chairman.
Since the controversial High Court ruling on Dec 31 allowing the Catholic newspaper Herald to use “Allah” in the Christian context, Malaysia has turned into a land wrecked with religious conflict and tension. After the ruling, years of living together in relative religious harmony has gone down the drain. Ten churches have been attacked — one of them burned, although one surau was also the target of contempt.

There were also protests by Muslim groups and now a little over a week later, the issue has not died down but on the contrary seems to be gathering momentum through statements made by politicians and comments online and elsewhere.

So what is the real problem here? Is it even an issue in the first place? How about holding a dialogue in a civilised manner? These are questions I have tried to answer and wish to share with the readers. This is also about the day I spoke at the Hall of the Holy Spirit in Penang.

When the “Allah” issue began to spread like wildfire, my party (PAS) took a different approach. Instead of playing the race and religion card, my party went with what has guided it all along — Islamic principles.

When I spoke on Jan 13 at the Catholic Church in Island Glades, Penang, I had no difficulty talking about the issue because my understanding of the teaching of Islam provided me with the eloquence and wisdom I needed.

I started off with the simple "Peace Be Upon my Brothers and Sisters of the Christian Faith". I did not feel there was anything wrong greeting them with peace since I came here for peace. I then started to praise the Almighty, Lord of The Universe (Alhamdulillah Rabbil Alamin) and told my Christian friends that the word “Allah” is made for us to recognise His Greatness and Superiority, not to hate one another for using it.

I also wanted the audience to understand that I did not come for purely political reasons although I represented an Islamic political party. I wanted them to know that there are greater reasons why I came that day. So I had to use the words of Allah to express myself.

I quoted the Chapter of Al Hujurat: “O mankind, we have created you from men and women, tribes and people of different kind so that you get acquainted with one another and the best among you in eyes of Allah is the most pious.” I explained that the verses taught me not to judge others but to rely on the judgment of Allah.

If we look at others through ethno- or faith-centric eyes, we are sure to be biased. This will create an artificial relationship and deep down the hatred will remain although it is concealed.

The best way is to surrender judgment to Allah’s interpretation and standard. He said clearly that the best among you are the most pious! What a splendid exit from an ethno- and faith-centric relationship.

I extended further my contention that there is a need for a more sincere relationship by quoting yet another chapter of the Quran from Al Isra when He said: “I have honored Sons of Adam and made them conquered the sea and land, I have endowed upon them wealth of the universe and have favored them more than my other creations.”

I had to make people of other faiths understand this so we can avoid disrespect and hatred. If a faith relationship is based purely on faith then there would never be the notion of Humanity, there would be no notion of Respect and you can forget about engaging in Dialogue and Talk.

What this gathering is all about is our commonality, Christians or Muslims are all Allah’s creation. I also told them about the time the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) stood up in respect as a Jewish funeral passed by. His companions asked why one should respect a non-believer? The Prophet said clearly: “Is he not HUMAN?”

Kicking off the talk this way gave me the strength I needed to defuse the tension. I moved in into the issue and provided them first of all PAS’s stand on the ruling. I began to clarify that with a verse from the chapter of Zukhruf.

The very basis of this verse shows that the issue of using the word “Allah” has come up before, and the Quran has said clearly that if non-believers accept that it is Allah, not other deities, that created them, the Prophet shall not worry about why they are using the word Allah but should engage in peace and explain to them so ultimately it is hoped that they know who the real Allah is!

I cannot ban what has been permitted because I would be dishonest about the knowledge of God although the blanket approval does not mean one can use it for bad intentions or create confusion. I do not understand the fuss about non-Muslims using the word “Allah” as long as the condition is they do not use it with any bad intentions!

I had to conclude that this is simply not an issue, then why all the rage? I told them unfortunately it was the politicians who had highly politicised everything including the word Allah.

Being a politician myself I felt bad as the issue has threatened the very fabric of our society. I told the audience to beware of the Munafiqin (The Pretenders), they are everywhere looking for victims and prey.

I said: “Our society is going through changes and on the course of that, perceptions are challenged, old ways of doing things are been questioned, it is hoped that whatever process of change we are doing, there is always a future for all Malaysians to live in peace and harmony.”

And that was when the rather sombre and serious atmosphere in the hall changed. There were smiling faces all over, this aura of hope gave both Muslims and Christians yet another new chapter in our society. A chapter called Dialogue in a Civilised Manner, a chapter called Humanity and a new dawn for Malaysia will surely come... that was the day when I spoke at the Hall of Holy Spirit.

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