Something has gone terribly wrong in this country. The trends are worrying especially to those of us who want Malaysia to remain a constitutionally secular country which respects all religious practices.
First, The Herald, the official newsletter of the Roman Catholic Church in Malaysia, has been embroiled in controversy over the use of the word "Allah", Arabic for "the God", in the Malay language section of the weekly newspaper. The issue is now being resolved in the civil court.
Now, on July 16, the home ministry issued a letter to the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, the Rev Murphy Pakiam, who as publisher of The Herald, must show cause for allegedly publishing material that:. did not follow the concept of focusing on its religion, as laid down in the guidelines of its publishing permit; and degraded the status of Islam in an article dated June 22, titled "America and Jihad - where do they stand?"
The controversy did not end here. It is interesting that the home minister Syed Hamid Albar had defined what the Herald should cover on religion. He said "If you are to write on religion, then you are supposed to touch on matters pertaining to questions on rituals, adherence to God, followers and anything related to your divine mission."
Syed Hamid's interference complicated the matter. Why should a politician dictates how the Christian community should engage their own members? Is Christianity only restricted to matters pertaining to rituals or adherence to God? Isn't the divine mission of all religions is fairness, compassion, equality and dignity for all? Christians reserved their rights to discuss global and societal issues which affect them as human beings and members of the world community. Religion is about humanity.
The action taken by the government against the Herald missed this very important point about the need to look at religion from the viewpoint of humanity.
Next, the PKR MP Zulkifli Noordin has accused the Bar Council of being 'anti-Islam'. This is a very dangerous accusation. It is important to note that throwing wild accusations at any organisations at this point in time will not help to make the situation better.
It is within the ambit of the council to discuss grey matters of the civil laws if there are ambiguities. Zulkifli's action has denied many apolitical Malaysians a chance to seek for their fair judicial rights in matters pertaining to inheritance, conversion, apostasy and others. These are rights enshrined in the universal human rights.
The Bar Council is the right body to discuss these ambiguities and grey areas of laws. It is a shame that these politicians, so-called religious activists and individuals have refused to acknowledge that there is space within any religion to discuss any ambiguities.
Zulkifli must retract his accusation immediately or he should withdraw from the Bar Council, which he claimed is 'anti-Islam'.
Islam is holier and flexible than what Zulkifli and the likes thought.
Lastly, I would like to congratulate PAS's leaders and Islamic scholars who came out openly to question Saiful Bukhari's action. Rightly pointed out, if Saiful has proof and evidence he should respect the court's decision in the upcoming trial. His so-called Islamic swearing was criticised as un-Islamic by PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz and Indonesia's Gus Dur.
I am disappointed that a number of top lawmakers have given their support for this show of defiance against the court. They are pressuring Anwar to do the same. What can they hope to get out of this if Anwar does the same?
Respect the rule of law!