People should not be afraid of the government. Governments should be afraid of the people.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
An Open Letter to PAS on ‘Allah’
FMT LETTER:From Jason Seong , via e-mail
First of all, I would like to state that the Sultan of Selangor, a truly people-oriented ruler and a down-to-earth figure, has been terribly ill-advised on the issue of the kalimah Allah. As one who embodies the role of Guardian of Islam in the state, the Sultan must realise that no decree of an Islamic council can bind non-Muslims. We are not under the jurisdiction of Syariah law.
Secondly, non-Muslims are now wondering how is the slogan, “PAS for all” consistent or compatible with the decision by the Syura Council to “forbid” Christians (and by extension, Sikhs and adherents of other faiths) from translating the word, “Allah” in the Bible ( and by extension the Holy Scriptures of the other non-Muslim faiths).
It is illogical to suppose that one can use the word, “Allah” in oral form but not in written form. After all, the meaning underlying both type of linguistic forms would be the same. Furthermore, how is this different from Umno’s move to impose a ban? This being the case, why should Christians support PAS?
As it is, forbidding non-Muslims from using the word, “Allah” whether in speech or text absolutely violates Article of 11 of the Constitution which provides for the freedom of religion as expressed in both profession and practice. It is a question of non-Muslim’s fundamental right to freedom of religion.
“Profession” here would correspond to verbal & written declaration of one’s faith; “practice” relates to ritual habits of non-Muslims as expressed in the divine liturgy for many Christians which would not only contain Bible readings but also follow a pre-scripted text.
PAS needs to ask why is it that Christians in the Middle East do not face such a situation? In fact, there are quite a few questions which PAS must face. How is the prohibition compatible with Islam as an Abrahamic religion? How is it compatible with Christians as “People of the Book”?
After all, there has never ever been such a decree within Judaism prohibiting Christians from claiming the Old Testament as part of their Holy Scriptures. And not least, Muslims have never ever been prohibited by Christians in the West from claiming that the prophets in the Quran refer to the prophets in the Old Testament and the Gospels.
Has this to do with the growing Islamisation in Malaysia? Islamisation can only breed even more extreme forms of Islam. That is the trajectory. In the Palestinian Territories, Hamas must now contend with Salafis and both are at each other’s throats. Pakistan’s current problems with religious extremism can be traced to the Islamisation initiated by Zia ul-Haq.
In a sense, the country is a failed state. Many Iranians, especially the young, are disillusioned with the rule of ayatollahs. In Indonesia, religious intolerance is rising since the downfall of Suharto. And of course, terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiah (JI) consider themselves as “pure” Muslims. But I digress.
PAS must come to terms with the concrete reality of the situation. Non-Muslims respect Islam’s universally exclusive claims. But these claims however central cannot be imposed on non-Muslims. More over, the trend can become a dangerous precedent in the future.
The claim of the oneness of Allah as affirmed in the opening statement of the Syura Council’s “decree” that God is unbegotten and begets not presupposes and implies the Christian understanding of the Trinity. This is consistent with the Quran’s claim that it stands in the lineage of the Gospels albeit as the pure and uncorrupted form of divine revelation.
Is PAS going to next forbid Christians from referring to Jesus as the Son of God since He is Nabi Isa the son of Maryam in the Quran? After all, Jesus as the Son of God and Trinity goes together.
Or to put in another way, Jesus as the Son of Allah is also Allah the Son which of course is blasphemous and scandalous to Muslims. PAS has to realise that the concept of the oneness of God is not unique to Islam alone or even the Abrahamic religions.
It is also worth repeating here that Sikhism is monotheistic and Sikhs refer to their God as Allah. Even Hinduism in its original form is monotheistic. Just as Judaism and Islam understand monotheism in one way, so do Christians (and Sikihism and Hinduism understand monotheism in another way.
The Christian concept of the Trinity is not a concept. The oneness of God is not a mathematical one where you and I can count 1, 2,, 3 … and so on. It is beyond affirmation and negation. It is not a “thing,” and it is not also not-not a “thing.” In other words, it is beyond this world – intellectually and empirically.
That is to say, the oneness of God does not share the same logical status with human logic and experience so that oneness of God is opposed to the multiplicity of creation. But that God is both, simultaneously, one and three – “numbers” of which are absolutely unique and without parallel. God is both unity and multiplicity.
The unity of God is found in the Father the Almighty and the multiplicity of God is expressed in the eternal begottenness of the Son and the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit. God’s oneness, therefore, is “structured” around the divine Persons. God’s oneness is not a solitary oneness but a “social oneness” – a paradox to the human mind.
The closest analogy is the human family where propagation is physical and takes place in time and space takes place.
It is my sincere wish and hope that, especially for the sake of my East Malaysian, Orang Asli and Indonesian brothers and sisters in the faith, that good sense would prevail out of this controversy. Let us strive to respect, understand and accommodate one another in the spirit of national unity and Bangsa Malaysia.
I appeal to PAS not to infringe on the fundamental right of the Christians in Malaysia but rather work for solutions that would preserve both the parties’ concern and also of the non-Muslims who are anxious about the forthcoming general election.