Beware the Christians of S’wak and Sabah

By Sim Kwang Yang

The Home Ministry is appealing the Kuala Lumpur High Court judgment, allowing the Catholic Church to use the word “Allah” as a Bahasa Malaysia translation for the Christian “God”.

The decision is hardly surprising.

In such a sensational case, the Home Ministry simply cannot be seen to be losing. Besides, upon the final outcome of the court process, rides the prestige and edifice of Umno as ‘Protector of the Malay Race and Religion’. They have mounted the fierce tiger, and there is no way to get down.

The church will not back down either.

From the early days when the Roman Empire used to deed them to the lions in the amphitheatre for the sake of entertainment, right through the two turbulent millennia of their long history, the church has always persevered or even thrived through thick and thin.

Eventually, the hysteria surrounding this debate is more political than theological, and the court may not be the best venue to settle this dispute. Unfortunately, Barisan Nasional has taken such an ill-conceived move to ban the use of ‘Allah’ in the Christian Bible, and the church has no other recourse except to go to court.

Then, when the Malay/Muslim judges begin to hear this case, how will they pass judgment, without being seen as traitors to their own faith by their more zealous fellow Muslims? The already tattered reputation of our country’s judiciary will come under the microscope again. It is a mess, I tell you. At the end, probably nobody wins!

The argument is almost surreal. Your God is not like my God, and so he cannot be called by the same name as mine. This is the scenario that will tickle philosophers of linguistics to no end.

Can we not use one word to mean two different entities, and not get confused? We are told the native Christians in Sabah and Sarawak had done so for over 100 years, long before Malaysia came into being, and long before Bahasa Malaysia became her national language.