Saturday, January 9, 2010

Are we in for another May 13?

I was furious and alarmed by the news that 3 churches were being fire-bombed over the Allah issue. I was not angry at the Muslims. No – I don’t believe that Muslims are behind the bombing.

There were a lot of hot air, a lot of rousing speeches surrounding the Allah banning issue – as if the whole Muslim world were mightily offended and up in arms against the recent court ruling that non-Muslim can use the word Allah. There were even threats of a massive demonstration, which the Prime Minister and the Home Minister deemed justifiable (see Malaysiakini).

But whatever happened to the demonstration? As reported in Malaysiakini - only a few dozen here and there participated in the demonstration. It was really pitifully small compared to a ceramah by Dato Sri Anwar Ibrahim. So where were the angry Muslims?

From the onset – the Allah issue was artificially drummed up. The Christian Church had used Allah for over 50 years in Malaysia. Has anybody heard of a single incident of a Muslim gotten confused, doped, cheated, confounded, mislead over its use? Were there any cases of police reports regarding this BEFORE the Home Ministry brought up the issue?

Apart from a handful of UMNO politicians and pro-Barisan Nasional NGO’s blowing a lot of hot air, PAS president Nik Aziz as well as many learned and revered Muslim authorities have already expressed their views that Allah should not be ban for non-Muslims.

It was completely obvious to me that right from the beginning there was never a religious or racial issue. I had thought that with PAS and Pakatan Rakyat standing firm on the side of reason nothing much would come of it.

The arson attacks on 3 Churches came as a complete surprise to me. I was terribly angry – not with the Muslims. I never believe that religious motives were behind this whole saga. My anger was towards Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the many politicians from Barisan Nasional for irresponsibly stirring up racial sentiments out of a non-issue.

The arson attacks are so out of proportion that one could not help but suspect some sinister agendas behind the scene. I don’t want to make any conjecture least I got hauled up with sedation charges. Is this going to lead to another May 13 or land Malaysia into military rule? I don’t’ believe so, although I don’t rule out that some really sick and really powerful people may be plotting something of such nature.

Put it this way. Malaysia is in deep problem right now. Our social, political, economic and judiciary systems have been in rapid decline. We simply could not afford a major disruption of such nature. I believe that the Christians and other non-Muslims have enough good sense that they will not react with violence. I believe that the Pakatan Rakyat state government and many good people in the police force are doing what they can to maintain peace. I believe there are enough good people with good judgments working hard to prevent more violence from happening.

This is a shameful day for Malaysia indeed. This incident is going to put Malaysia in the spotlight of the world media for the wrong reason. It makes a complete mockery of Najib’s 1Malaysia initiatives. It deals another blow to Najib, who is already suffering from major credibility problems.

Every cloud has a silver lining. Despite the constant drumming of politically motivate racial rhetoric; we have seen many voices of moderation at work as well. One lesson we can learn from this saga is that we don’t have racial problems as such. All racial tensions are stirred up intentionally to serve the interest of a few people in power.

This is a time of reflection and reconciliation. It is touching to see PAS and a few Muslim groups kick into action right away to raise fund to rebuild the churches that suffered damage from the attack. This is the most significant inter-faith cooperation that I witnessed in Malaysia. This is the type of spirit that we need to rebuild our beloved country from the ashes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Million Dollar Question Regarding the Allah Saga

I have been keenly watching the unfolding saga regarding the Home Ministry of Malaysia banning the Christian for using the word Allah to refer to God in its publications in the Malay language. I believe that many Malaysian are stirred up one way or another by this saga. But my interest is more on the sheer amount irrationality and idiocy displayed by the many parties directly or indirectly involved in this issue. Please, before you curse me to hell, allow me to qualify what I mean by this statement.

Firstly, I don’t intend to start a theological debate. I am simply not qualified for it, and furthermore many highly qualified people have already expressed their highly informative views.

Now let's begin from the very beginning. Why did the Home Ministry raised this issue in the first place? Culturally and historically Allah has been used by Christian in Malaysia as the Malay translation for God for decades. It is also the case in Indonesia, the country with the highest Muslim population.

The Home Ministry’s reason for doing so was that the use of Allah by the Christians would ‘confuse’ the Muslim. But was there any actual complains, any police report, that anybody actually got confused, mislead, tricked, duped or deceived by this particular translation of God? Was there any evidence of Muslim got converted to Christian because of it?

Should we investigate the validity of the claims by the Home Ministry before we start throwing daggers and shooting machine guns at each other? I have been patiently monitoring the development of this saga, and as far as I can tell, there is no evidence whatsoever of this claim. Despite the highly emotional and explosive rhetoric by various ‘authorities’, I have not seen anybody producing a single piece of evidence to substantiate this particular claim by the Home Ministry.

Of course now that I have raised the question, the 'authorities' can always fabricate all sorts of 'evidences' to substantiate this particular claim by the Home Ministry.

In other words, this is a completely non-issue. But yet certain parties are already threatening to detonate nuclear bombs on each other. Do you see how absurd this situation is? I have patiently waited until the point of views of the various parties has more or less completely surfaced before writing this article, so that the reader can see how ridiculous this whole saga is.

Ok, the nuclear bomb is only a figure a speech. We are not really about to spill blood over this non-issue. I don’t think Malaysians are so crazy yet. But look at how the politicians, almost exclusively from Barisan Nasional, and state owned media is playing up the public emotion over this.

What is the true motive of the Barisan Nasional government in stirring up public emotions over a non-issue? This is the million dollar question.

Now I got your attention. Don’t you feel ridiculous that Malaysian are spending so much time and energy over a non-issue while the whole country is plaque with political/economic instabilities and engulfed in scandals of epic proportions?

Do I need to remind you the twelve billion ringgit PKFZ fiasco, the missing Jet Engines and whatnots from Royal Air Force of Malaysia, the special task force and body guard of the (then) Defense Minister implicated in murder with military C4 explosives, Sodomy II, constitution crisis in Perak,…

How about the GST, the declining economy, declining competitiveness, depleting oil reserve, depleting natural resources, raising prices of sugar, flour, petrol, …
Have you wondered how we are going to pull through all these? Have you wondered whether the Barisan Nasional government is able to lead us out of this quicksand? Why did the Home Ministry stirred up such explosive racial tensions over a non-issue while ignoring the real issues under its jurisdiction like police corruption, police brutality and sky rocketed crime rate?

You see, if you ask the right question the answer stares right at you face. I don’t want to elaborate further here least I got haul up with sedation charges. But I trust that you know what I mean.

Cool it, my Muslim and Christian brothers and sisters. Please ignore the unscrupulous bigots and politicians and recognize that this is a non-issue. Malaysia is in real crisis. Let's not fool ourselves. Our quality of life has degraded tremendously over the recent years. We will continue in this free fall unless we learn to cooperate and work together regardless of race and religion.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Imam and the Pastor

From vengeance and killing to healing and forgiveness…
a moving story of grass-roots peace building that gives hope to humanity

This 39-minute documentary film brings to life the astonishing reconciliation between Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye, and their peace-making initiatives which have ensued. They were leaders of militant groups involved in conflict between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna, northern Nigeria. Pastor Wuye lost a hand while Imam Ashafa's mentor and two close relatives were killed in the fighting. Now they are taking bold initiatives to promote co-operation and resolve conflicts. The film, narrated by Rageh Omaar, shows that it is possible for the perpetrators of inter-religious violence to become instigators of peace. It is a story of forgiveness and a case study of grass-roots initiatives to rebuild communities torn apart by conflict. Imam Ashafa and Pastor Wuye are the joint founders and directors of the Inter-Faith Mediation Centre in Kaduna.

This is one of the most touching documentaries that I have watched in recent years. I am grateful to Nur Damai efforts for presenting this film at the forum organized by SABM.

Many of you may not have heard of SABM (Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia), and most of you would definitely have not heard of Nur Damai. You may ask - what is the relevance of two almost unheard of organization in the current world situation?

Lets not fool ourselves. The current world situation is in chaos and rapid decline. Many people are moved to do unexpected and unusual things. Two years ago I would not have guessed that I would one day be involved in political rallies and candle light vigils, not to mention blogging.

The effort of an individual person - or any isolated group of persons will not be able to achieve much. But recently there have been an explosive growth in civil consciousness, fueled by the explosive growth of the Internet. Millions of civil societies sprung into existence all over the world in recent years; and they represents the voices of the common people yearning for a change in the current corrupted and corrupting mode of existence.

This is the People Power movement at the global scale. What is required now is for a core group morally enlightened and fearless leaders to step forward to take charge and lead the change. It will happen as a matter of necessity for our collective existence.

Reconciliation and cooperation, as exemplified by this touching documentary, is my new year wish for the coming decade.

Nur Damai means Light of Peace. It is about Multifaith Peacebuilding - the essence of which is inter-communal reconciliation and healing of memory among Malaysians.

Next Showing of the "Imam and the Pastor"

SABM has graceful agreed to host another showing of The Imam and the Pastor on Saturday, 9th January 2010 at 7.30 pm at Rumah Anak Bangsa Malaysia.

Please contact faridajivamala at for more information.