It's Christmas tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don't feel very “Christmasy”.
Malaysia used to celebrate all religious festivals with zest. We were proud of the fact that we are indeed a multi-racial and multi-religious society both tolerant and respectful of each other.
Of late, you'll only hear such rhetoric in mainstream newspaper headlines as well as tourism promotion advertisements, which now not only rings hollow, it is hypocrisy at its worst.
You may have read the news in Malaysiakini a few days ago, as well as in The Sun today, “The Herald” which is an in-house Catholic newsletter application for the annual renewal of its printing and publications license has been unreasonably witheld.
And the basis provided by the Ministry of Internal Security for witholding its permit? Simply that the newsletter must stop publishing the The Herald in the national language. For those who are unaware, The Herald has 4 language sections within its paper, English, Chinese, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia.
The pretext provided by the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Johari Baharom was that the word “Allah” can only be used by Muslims! How absolutely arrogant and preposterous!
For those who are not familiar, the word “Allah” originates from the Arabic word “al-Lah” and it was used even in pre-Islamic times in the Middle East. Even Arab Christians today (yes, they do exist) use the term “Allah” om their Arabic bible (and yes, unlike the Bahasa Malaysia bible which has been banned, there is no ban in the Middle East on bibles in Arabic language).
Even the Sikhs use the term “Allah” since the founding of their faith and the world is repeatedly used in their Holy Book. So will the Government ban the Sikh holy book next?
Of course, the fact that many Christian bumiputeras (Ibans, Kadazans etc.) in East Malaysia is educated only in Bahasa Malaysia due to the national language policy is irrelevant to the Government.
By taking the Ministry's logic in its argument further, soon other religions will not be able to make reference to the Supreme being or an omnipotent God because, the only one which exists is expounded in the Quran. Hence any reference elsewhere will not be respectful of the faith of the Muslim majority in this country.
Who, may I ask, is the Minister for this preposterous Ministry? Oh, it can't be! It is the wise and genial Prime Minister himself, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who preaches the virtues of a multi-racial, muti-cultural and multi-religious society – which I'm certain will be the headlines of all mainstream newspapers tomorrow.
We'd like to call upon the Prime Minister, who is also the Internal Security Minister to practise what he preaches and grant the Christian community a simple Christmas present, that is to approve immediately the renewal of the printing and publication license for “The Herald”.
A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!