Saturday, October 19, 2013

After the Pakistanis, now it is the turn of the Turks

Mustafa Akyol
Five days after the Court of Appeal ruled on the 'Allah' issue the controversial decision is still drawing ridicule from some Muslims worldwide as, among others, "bizarre" and "grossly wrong".

"Now, as a fellow Muslim, I will be honest to the Malaysians who have given this verdict or those who support it: This is one of the most illogical, insensible and childish decisions I have heard in my life. It is sheer nonsense," wrote a columnist for Turkish daily Hurriyet Daily News today.

Mustafa Akyol, who appears to write for several Turkish and international publications, called the verdict that The Herald cannot use the word 'Allah' as it leads to confusion amongst Muslims and brings the threat of propagation "grossly wrong", "un-Islamic" and "irrational".

"Why? Well, first of all, the word 'Allah' simply means 'the God' in Arabic, and it certainly is not exclusive to Islam," he wrote, mirroring the much repeated explanation that seems to fall on deaf ears amongst the local Muslims in authority.

He added in his commentary that Islam itself in fact encourages others of the Abrahamic religions to embrace the term.

"...If Malaysian Muslims should have done anything about the word 'Allah', it should have been to call on Christians to use the term freely," he argued quoting from Quranic verses.

Commenting on Muslim "confusion" over the Christians' use of 'Allah, Akyol said, "Well, nobody’s 'confusion', or lack of comprehension, can justify the destruction of other people’s freedom.

"Otherwise, should Christian countries ban the usage of terms such as 'Jesus' or 'Mary', which are prominent in the Quran, by their Muslim minorities?"

The columnist did not mince his words that those who advance such ideas of a "Muslim copyright for 'Allah'" does nothing but "reveal the burning lack of intellectual self-confidence among Muslims".

"Why, otherwise, does the slightest chance of 'the propagation of other religions' provoke so much fear - and so much compulsion?" he concluded.

Akyol writes regular columns for two Turkish dailies, Star and Hürriyet Daily News. He has criticized both Islamic extremism and Turkish secularism, which he likens to Jacobinism and fundamentalism. His articles are often friendly to the incumbent Justice and Development Party.

Over the years, he has given seminars in several universities or think-tanks in the U.S. and the U.K. on issues of Islam, politics, and Turkish affairs. He also spoke at TED, giving a lecture on Faith versus Tradition in Islam.

Mustafa Akyol's articles on Islamic issues, in which he mostly argues against Islamic extremism and terrorism from a Muslim point of view and defends the Islamic faith, have appeared in publications like Foreign Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Forward, First Things, Huffington Post, The Weekly Standard, The Washington Times, The American Enterprise, National Review, FrontPage Magazine,[8] Newsweek[9] and Islam Online.

Akyol is also author of the English-language book Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case For Liberty (W.W. Norton). This, according to the publisher, is "a desperately needed intellectual basis for the reconcilability of Islam and religious, political, economic, and social freedoms."

Unbelievable! After attacking the Christians here, now Ibrahim Ali trains his barrel at the Arabs and Indonesians.

Datuk Ibrahim Ali has slammed Arab scholars who criticised the Court of Appeal’s ban on Christian usage of “Allah” as ignorant, saying that not everyone in the Middle East, Islam’s birthplace, understood the religion well.

The Perkasa chief also blasted Western critics as having vested interests, while accusing detractors from Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, as worse than the Arabs, pointing out that some Muslims in the neighbouring country even consume pork.

“Why should we be bothered if there are Arab countries or Indonesia criticise the Malaysian courts on the Allah issue. Don’t think that every Arab knows or understand Islam. That there is no one ignorant there.

“Those (from the Arab world) that support the US are socialists and Christians. So when we say Arab we must consider who is talking, in the media that belongs to who and which Arab? Don’t be easily swayed by what they said,” Ibrahim told The Malay Mail Online yesterday.

On Indonesia, Ibrahim said: “The same can be said about is far worse. Those who don the ‘songkok’ are not necessarily a Muslim...there are those who consume pork. It’s all possible in Indonesia”.

He further pointed out that even though Indonesia has a large Muslim population, it has so far produced very few respected Islamic scholars.

“So why should we follow what others say?” he said.

Perkasa is one of the most vocal groups calling for the Arabic word to be barred to non-Muslims here.

Iranian-American religious scholar Dr Reza Aslan said recently that the Court of Appeal’s ruling barring non-Muslims from referring to God as “Allah” showed Malaysia’s folly.

The ruling was also censured in several international publications, such as Indonesian daily Jakarta Post, which wrote an editorial yesterday that “those who claim exclusivity to God undermine their own faith, and inadvertently or not, preach polytheism”.

International current affairs magazine The Economist pointed out that Christians in the Middle East commonly refer to God as “Allah”, and called the court verdict an “unhelpful contribution” to religious discourse between Muslims and Christians.

Nesrine Malik, a commentator with UK newspaper The Guardian, wrote last Wednesday that the appellate court ruling was as “ridiculous as the UK passing a law saying that ‘God’ was a Christian designation, and therefore other religions had to find their own words for their own deities”.

She also said that the Muslims’ claim of a monopoly on “Allah” was paradoxical as it creates separate gods for separate religions, thus directly contradicting Prophet Muhammad’s message.

But Ibrahim argued that Malaysian Muslims should not heed the criticism.

“We have our own laws, rules and culture. That is why we don’t need to entertain and care about what those on the outside say, what else if coming from Arab countries which are in chaos themselves,” he said in what appeared to be a reference to the turmoil in Syria and Egypt.
“Malaysia is great, my beloved country,” Ibrahim added, ending his text message to The Malay Mail Online.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal ruled against a 2009 High Court decision allowing the Catholic Church to refer to the Christian god with the Arabic word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of its weekly paper, the Herald.

The court adjudged the usage of the word “Allah” as not integral to the Christian faith and said that allowing such an application would cause confusion in the Muslim community.

The Catholic Church has said that it will make an appeal to the Federal Court, the country’s highest court.

[Source: Yahoo]

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Pakistanis add to the voices of discord

A newspaper in Muslim-majority Pakistan has joined in the chorus of criticism against Putrajaya over  the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims.

The English-language Daily Times, in its editorial piece in conjunction with the Eid-al-Adha celebrations, was critical of the controversial ruling by the Court of Appeal which reversed a previous High Court ruling, allowing Catholic weekly Herald to use Allah in its Bahasa Malaysia section.

 It lamented that the problem with Muslims is that they looked at their religion like it was an "insecure entity" that needed to be protected with special care and attention lest it gets smeared and nullified.
"The recent example of this attitude is displayed in Malaysia where the government has gone so far as proscribing Christians from using Allah as their God’s name."

"Who has given Muslims the liberty to copyright the name of Allah? It is His name, and He is the God of the universe, as He has said in the scriptures," the editorial stressed.

On Monday, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, in its judgment, ruled that "the word was not an integral part of the Christian faith and practice and that such usage if allowed, will inevitably cause confusion within the community".

The editorial questioned why Malaysia would deny people of other faiths to "own God in all His attributes", pointing out that every religion believed in the existence of God.

"Is this how piety in Islam is preserved or managed? In fact, being Muslim is no guarantee that we have reached that threshold.

"Is this what the glory of Islam had been all about, something that we want to revert to and long for?" it questioned.

The spirit of tolerance, sacrifice, patience, devotion and simplicity, Daily Times noted, was where Islam's glory lay, adding that these were the attributes that the prophets of the Quran had left for the Muslims to "cherish and follow".

"With retrogressive steps such as prohibiting Christians from using the name of Allah or destroying churches and killing Shias or Ahmedis, we cannot attain that goal," it said.

On Monday, The National - a United Arab Emirates daily - called the Malaysian court ruling "wrong", pointing out that the word Allah was never exclusive to Islam but both Christians and Jews used the word to refer to God even before the coming of Islam.

"The Malaysian decision overlooks not merely the theology, but also the etymology of the word. The word 'Allah' is derived from the Arabic 'al-ilah', the God. It has found its way across the world and entered Malay from Arabic," the editorial added.

Voices of Discord from near and far

The 'Allah' hearing by the Court of Appeal is over.  Judgment has been delivered and instead of life returning to normal, wave after wave of criticisms on the verdict continue unabated in the court of public opinion both local as well as international.  The heat must have so great that BN leaders like Nancy Shukri and Joseph Kurup have to go into damage control mode saying that the court's decision is only confined to The Herald and not a blanket application affecting the Christian community as a whole.  Many people think otherwise.  Now the latest to join in the damage control with the same reasoning, the Malaysian Muslim Lawyers Association.

In the meantime, WHERE IS THE PRIME MINISTER?  His elegant silence is undoubtedly deafening.  What is even more amazing is that there is not even a squeak from any of the Christian BN leaders.  Have they been told to toe the line?

However, my posting today is to highlight the people who believe that our judges have erred and the decisions made were flawed.

Syahredzan Johan, a lawyer, "Stop being judges if you can't uphold the constitution. Judges need only to apply the law, but in Malaysia they have other extraneous duties to the people (and) to the politicians "  Read full news article here.

Zaid Ibrahim, ""Now we have Muslim judges who are experts in Christian religion and theology. They must have spent sometime in the Vatican".

The National [Emirati editorial], UAE, "Allah is not exclusive to Islam."

The BBC, "Christians not surprised at Allah ban, it was UMNO trying to gain favour." Read full  news article here.

Dr Abdul Aziz Bari, constitutional lawyer, "Wan Junaidi ignorant of law of Allah decision."  Read full news article here.

Dr Faizal Hazis, UNIMAS, "The decision was unIslamic and portrayed Malaysia as stupid." Read full news article here.

Iranian-American religious scholar Dr Reza Aslan also weighed in on the controversial court verdict, pointing out the folly that it attaches to Malaysia in the eyes of the world. “How stupid has Malaysia just become? This stupid: Malaysian court bans use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims,” Reza tweeted early this morning, referencing an Al-Jazeera news report on the court case. “In honor of Malaysia banning the word Allah by non-Muslims I suggest US ban the word ‘twerking’ by anyone over age of 17. Your suggestions?” mocked the religious scholar and author of two books on Islam and one on Christianity. Aslan, has a PhD in the sociology of religions.

Dr Reza Aslan, is  an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, a Research Associate at the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy, and a contributing editor for The Daily Beast. His books include the international bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into 13 languages, and Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which offers an interpretation of the life and mission of the historical Jesus.

Mohamad Hanipa Maidin, PAS MP for Sepang, "Is Allah issue interpreting the Constitution or a will?"  Read full news article here.

Nesrine Malik, a Sudanese-born writer based in London, "Allah ban is about subordination, not theology."  Read full news article here.

Endy M Bayuni, Editor of The Jakarta Post, "Those who claim exclusivity to God undermine their own faith, and inadvertently or not, preach polytheism."  Read full news article here.

Dr Asri Zainul Abidin, former Mufti of Perlis, "What about Christian Arabs who come to Malaysia? Will they be forced to stop themselves from saying ‘masya Allah’ (God has willed it) and instead, replace it with ‘masya God’?” Read full news article here.

The list is not exhaustive, but this is just a sample of the voices of discord, loud and clear, made by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike to express their anger, frustrations and disbelief at the way our leaders behave in the handling religious matters.

"If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?" [Romans 8:31]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

All not so quiet on the eastern front

In reacting angrily to the Court of Appeal ruling against the use of 'Allah', Sarawakians have crossed political and spiritual lines to display rare unity in the defence of religious freedom.
Hundreds of comments have appeared in newspapers, news portals and blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter .

Some expressed regret that Sarawak had been betrayed into joining Malaya, Sabah and Singapore into forming the Federation of Malaysia, while others called for a ban on leaders of Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia, Perkasa other religious fanatics from entering the state.

Yet others told Christian Dayaks and Malaysian Chinese to quit the BN as a mark of protest. Christians account for more than 70 percent of the population of 2.6 million in the state.

Other comments include:

Jeffrey Kitingan, State Reform Party chairperson
It is not the Court of Appeal ruling but the non-action and continued policies of the Umno/BN ruling regime that will cause the ultimate demise and break-up of Malaysia unless (the prime minister) and Umno/BN show a genuine and sincere all-encompassing transformation of government and politics of inclusiveness and reconciliation.

The PM and his federal government need to be reminded that the issue started with the then home minister in banning the reference to 'Allah', arising from discretionary powers under the Printing

Presses and Publications Act 1984. It was an unequivocal act of the ruling (federal) government.
From there, the downward spiral of race relations quickened with Umno's political strategy to play the 'race and religion' card to regain its Malay heartlands. It shook the very foundation of the official 'Malaysia - Truly Asia' and the PM's own '1Malaysia' rhetoric and hollow slogans.

There is no other possibility, other than a most probable break-up of Malaysia if the race and religion division is allowed to continue.

The federal government has forgotten that it is the government for all Malaysians and not only the Malays or only in the peninsula.

It has forgotten that it is not the Federation of Malaya that they are ruling but the Federation of Malaysia where the founding fathers of Sabah and Sarawak were promised religious freedom.

Religious freedom is so important that the natives in the interiors of Sabah erected a Stone Monument, known today as the Batu Sumpah, in Keningau, to etch into perpetuity such freedom.
If not for these promises, there is no Malaysia today.

The use of 'Allah' in the Borneo states, or even in neighbouring countries, pre-date the formation of the Federation of Malaya and the Federation of Malaysia. There has been no turmoil or any threat of racial disruption.

On the contrary, in Sabah and Sarawak, there has been tranquillity of racial and religious harmony without the rhetoric of '1Malaysia'.

There is no need for a Muslim-Malay NGO to declare that 'Christians are our brothers and sisters' because in true life in Sabah and Sarawak, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives are Christians and Muslims and of other religions ...

... Lest it be forgotten, no Christian Malaysian is questioning or challenging that Islam is the official religion of the federation. It is the treatment of the minority faiths and the actions and policies of the ruling government that is the root cause of marginalisation and disenfranchisement.

If the PM accepts the reasoning of the Muslim NGO, it is time to start disengagement talks and allow Sabah and Sarawak to depart Malaysia and the peninsula can revert back to Persekutuan Tanah Melayu by itself.

There is no point in retaining Sabah and Sarawak within the federation when the ultra-Malays in Malaya keep trying to break it up and without any appropriate response or with the silent acquiescence from the federal government.

James Masing, Parti Rakyat Sarawak president
The judges of the Court of Appeal have made two faulty judgments based on ignorance of Sarawak and Sabah socio-religious conditions - the Bisi Jinggot native customary rights land case and the ban on the use of 'Allah' in the space of two months.

We cannot afford to have members of the judiciary, the interpreters of our legal system, to be ignorant of aspects of the case in which they are tasked to make judgments. Political masters must take this matter seriously.

John Brian Anthony, DAP central committee member
There is no more religious freedom in Malaysia and our forefathers' concerns over religious freedom during the formation of Malaysia 50 years ago have now come true.

Ultra Muslims think this land is entirely theirs, and as such they do not respect the rights of Christians to practise their religion.

All Dayak political leaders who are Christians should resign from the BN in order to send a clear message that to the ultra Muslims that this country does not only belong to them.

It is sad day for Malaysia when the prime minister is so weak that he cannot hold Malaysia together after this.

Daron Tan, Sarawak Ministers' Fellowship chairperson
The court decision was erroneous and in breach of the constitutional guarantee of freedom to bumiputera Christians to practise, preach and propagate faith in accordance with the biblical mandate.
They will be deemed to be law breakers, and the offence they would be committing by merely addressing God in their own language, a practice they had have adhered to for hundreds of years.

Rev Eu Hong Seng, Christian Federation of Malaysia
This is yet another erosion and infringement of the constitutional protection to the freedom of religious communities to profess and practise their faith and to manage their own affairs.
The decision might encourage and fuel further misunderstanding and mistrust between the Muslim and Christian communities which will further undermine the unity of Malaysians.

Assistant Bishop Aeries Sumping Jingan, Kuching Anglican diocese
Our Muslim brothers here have no problem at all with using the word 'Allah' in our worship and prayers. (We have been doing so) freely for the last 165 years and suddenly we are told that we can't use it in case we might confuse our Muslim friends.

If this is not an infringement of the constitutional rights of the Christians, I don't know what is.

Archbishop Bolly Lapok, Association of Churches Sarawak chairperson
For an outsider to say that the use of 'Allah' is not integral to the Christian faith is excessive, utterly irresponsible and grossly demeaning, to say the least.

The Church does not need an apologist from outside to decree what is integral or not regarding Her faith.

[Source: Mkini]

Unbelievable but it is true. MCMC cannot act against those behind the Hate Christian FB page

A Facebook page insulting Christians has provoked netizens into complaining that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) was quick to clamp down on content that insulted Islam, but appeared reluctant to act when such offensive content involved other religions.

The page titled "Harimau Malaya Anti Kristian Sabah Sarawak" was created on September 23. It was taken down on Monday but not before garnering 185 "likes" and drawing criticism from users who found it offensive and lodged complaints with the administrator.

MCMC strategic communications director Sheikh Raffie Abdul Rahman had reportedly told Yahoo! Malaysia that the page had only 185 likes and that it was not an issue.

He advised Malaysians not to get “emotional” over such content.

Sheikh Raffie had also said it would take time for MCMC to nail the culprits as they did not know the owner of the page, and investigations could take years.

Instead, he said that it was up to Facebook to remove the page, and suggested that complaints be channelled directly to the social network administrator.

"You can't get rid of all of this. We will investigate and catch them, yes. We take this very, very seriously, but we have to find the culprits," he said, adding that MCMC would usually send out warnings directly to the owner of the page.

Sheikh Raffie said in the case of the infamous "bak kut teh" post by sex bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee, action could be taken because the personalities were known, Yahoo! Malaysia reported.
"Here, we don't know the owner of the page. Investigations can sometimes take years," he said.

The sex blogger couple found themselves in hot water after they posted a Ramadan greeting on Facebook showing them eating bak kut teh (herbal pork soup) with a halal logo beside it.

This posting caused an uproar among Muslims, and eventually led to the couple being charged in July for offences under the Sedition Act, Film Censorship Act and Penal Code.

Even Tan's mother was summoned by MCMC as they wanted to take a statement from her, it was reported.

The "Harimau Malaya Anti Kristian Sabah Sarawak" Facebook page had carried an image of the face of popular Tv character Mr Bean superimposed on the image of Jesus, as well as another image of two dogs mating with the face of Jesus superimposed on one of them.

There was also an image of a priest and two scantily clad women in their nun headgear, who were smoking, gambling and stripping.

It was reported that those who complained to Facebook that they found the page offensive received replies that the page did not violate its "community standards".

This is not the first case of Christian-bashing on the internet in Malaysia.

On August 7, a Facebook page allegedly containing comments insulting Sabahans and Sarawakians as well as Christians in the country led to a police report lodged against the creator of the "Semenanjung Malaysia Anti Sabah and Sarawak" page.

The report was lodged by Tuaran Upko Youth members who urged that action be taken against administrators of the social webpage.

[Source: MSN]

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Humour


General Motors, feeling it was time for a shake-up, hired a new CEO. The new boss was determined to rid the company of all slackers.

On a tour of the facilities, the CEO noticed a guy leaning on a wall. The room was full of workers and he wanted to let them know that he meant business.

He walked up to the guy leaning against the wall and asked, "How much money do you make a week?"

A little surprised, the young man looked at him and replied, "I make $400 a week. Why?"

boss shoutingThe CEO then hands the guy $1,600 in cash and screams, "Here's four weeks' pay, now GET OUT and don't come back!"

Feeling pretty good about himself, the CEO looked around the room and asked, "Does anyone want to tell me what that bloody slacker did here?"

From across the room came a voice: "That was the pizza delivery guy from Domino's."
The train was quite crowded and, a U.S. Marine walked the entire length looking for a seat, but the only seat left was taken by a well-dressed, middle-aged, French woman's poodle.
The war-weary Marine asked, 'Ma'am, may I have that seat?'
The French woman just sniffed and said to no one in particular. 'Americans are so rude. My little Fifi is using that seat.'
The Marine walked the entire train again, but the only seat left was under that dog.

'Please Ma'am.  May I sit down?  I'm very tired.'
 She snorted, 'Not only are you Americans rude, you are also arrogant!'
This time the Marine didn't say a word; he just picked up the little dog, tossed it out the train window, and sat down.
The woman shrieked, 'Someone must defend my honour!  This American should be put in his place!'
An English gentleman sitting nearby spoke up, 'Sir, you Americans seem to have a penchant for doing the wrong thing.  You hold the fork in the wrong hand.  You drive your cars on the wrong side of the road.  And now, Sir, you seem to have thrown the wrong bitch out of the window'.