‘Allah’ conundrum: Solution requires spirit of generosity

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Umno’s identity politics has blurred reason and put the nation in a regressive trap and the solution requires a innovative shift in perspective, says Ronald Benjamin.

The Herald has been barred from using the term Allah - Photograph: Wikipedia
The Herald has been barred from using the term Allah – Photograph: Wikipedia

The Allah conundrum after the Court of Appeal decision has put the fabric of Malaysian society into severe strain and confusion.

It seems that the first High Court judgment has confused the identity-obsessed right wing-oriented Malays, while the Court of Appeal judgment has confused the government and the nation.

The reason is quite obvious – because of the simplistic judgment of the honourable judges. In short, they put forth the judgment that minorities should conform to the aspirations of the majority for the sake of stability and Allah is not integral to Christianity. Such a judgment nullified the complex aspirations and expressions of a multi-ethnic and religious society that is reflected in natural human law and constitutional principles.

Is this not the reason that we find conflicting statements among Barisan National leaders in the aftermath of the Court of Appeal’s decision? Is it not true that the very purpose of the constitution is to ensure that the moral principle of justice is not clouded by the dictatorship of the majority? The Malaysian constitution is a document that takes the middle part – where truth is found in complexity rather than extreme views that the minority should conform to the wishes of the majority.

The founding fathers of this nation built a viable foundation of power sharing and consensus, but what was not anticipated is the political framework – ingrained in ethnic aspirations coming together as an entity called Barisan National – would become ethno-politicised the moment it felt threatened.

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This is the dilemma of Umno’s identity politics, which has blurred reason and put the nation in a regressive trap and a dangerous crossroads. If this is not tackled with wisdom by so-called leaders, Malaysia would become another Pakistan or Nigeria in future. In such a scenario, minorities could be oppressed or persecuted just because the majority feel insecure or trapped in ideological religious zeal that will not tolerate views that are contrary.

The Prime Minister’s reasoning that the Court of Appeal’s judgment is to maintain stability does not hold water because it is not a based on factual reasoning and truth – and this a bad news for minority rights in this country.

The solution to the Allah issue lies not in the current ethno-centric political discourse based on an adversarial approach or in the grudging 10-Point Agreement, which was created out of political expediency.

Instead, the answer lies in a well intentioned innovative moral paradigm built on the principles of generosity and the common good. This perspective would not limit God to an identity-based coalition of Umno, Perkasa and Jakim but rather consider an all-powerful inclusive God that embraces the whole of humanity.

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