The Allah dilemma in Malaysia

The 31 December 2009 court ruling that allowed a Malaysian Catholic Weekly, The Herald, to use the word Allah has created a massive headache for Prime Minister Najib. Several fundamentalist Muslim NGOs backed by UMNO hardliners immediately protested the court ruling – and continue to do so. Najib’s indecision and tacit support by senior UMNO Ministers in government, including the Inspector General of Police (read here) gave the green light to these protestors to wreak havoc. As we now know, several Churches have been vandalised and burnt (read here and here).

Once again Najib has failed his own 1Malaysia policy as he battles hardliners in his party, represented best by his Deputy, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.  Muhyiddin was quoted as saying at a Conference on Islam at Oxford (where he gave the keynote address), “…that this would not have happened if Christians would just not use the word ‘Allah’”. (read here)

Najib’s situation is made even worse, as the Islamist party, PAS, and the opposition coalition of which it is a member of (Pakatan Rakyat), have come out in support of the Court ruling  (read here and here). Najib’s greatest problem now will definitely be impressing upon his hardline members the need for reforms and gaining back even more lost support from moderates especially in Sabah and Sarawak – who are mostly Bumiputera Christians and have been using the word Allah for more than 300 years (read here and here).

Meanwhile the Human Rights Party of Malaysia, which is lead by P.Uthayakumar – the main leader of the HINDRAF movement, is annoyed that the Government, the opposition and the media has gone to great lengths to placate the Christian Community but did not do anything when Hindu temples were demolished (read here).

A great start indeed for Malaysia in 2010.

About Greg Lopez

Greg Lopez is a research fellow at Murdoch University's School of Management and Governance, and New Mandala’s Malaysia and Singapore section editor.