The “Allah” Controversy – the political ramifications

Art Harun

The controversy surrounding the usage of “Allah” by non-Muslims, particularly the Christians, in Malaysia continues to rage even as at the time of writing this article. The Malaysian Insider just reported that a ninth church – this time in Kota Tinggi, Johore – had been vandalised.

The year 2009 was about to end when Yang Ariff Justice Lau Bee Lan held that the word “Allah” may be used by the Herald in its newspaper. That decision has almost redefined the phrase “ending the year with a bang.”

Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, there were of course political opportunity loss on the part of the Barisan Nasional. In a land where everything from the slaughtering of cows for distribution to the poor and needy to the building of a free trade zone are perfect fodders for politics, the Allah issue was never far from being one as well.

In the last half of 2009, I actually thought that the Prime Minister was in the political driving seat. He was in control. His 1 Malaysia concept and sloganeering, although leaving much to be desired from the view point of the urbanites, was gaining support from the heartland. The Chinese and Indian supports were slowly coming back to him and his government despite the impotence and lameness of the two most important protagonists which were supposed to represent the two races within the government, namely the MCA and MIC respectively.

The public relation machinations of the government were working full steam and in overdrive. The Prime  Minister and his men were all over the place, winning nods of approvals from the people on the street.

In the meantime, power base in UMNO was being broaden. And his hard line approach towards the opposition was well received within the UMNO circle, especially at the grass root level. The Perak power grab, orchestrated and executed by him, although crude and almost unrefined, served to cement the belief among UMNO members that in Dato’ Seri Najib Razak, UMNO has a powerful leader who is not afraid to use his power for the benefit of UMNO. Gone were the days of the lembik leadership that they had under the stewardship of Tun Abdullah.

And so, despite various issues ranging from Teoh Beng Hock’s death at the MACC state head office to the PKFZ debacle, the Prime Minister was looking good.