BN-style resolution to “Allah” issue

WORD is, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is mightily concerned about the “Allah” issue and wants the matter resolved.

By Jacqueline Ann Surin (The Nut Graph)

Forgive me, but it’s hard to believe this, based on the public statements the government has been making. Honestly, how can we believe that the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) government under Najib’s leadership is sincere about resolving the issue of who can use “Allah”?

Indeed, apart from Najib, at least three other cabinet members have publicly displayed a lack of respect, knowledge, or even intelligence about the issues at stake.

Dialogue BN-style

First off is Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom, who calls for interfaith dialogue but in the same breath tells church leaders to drop their claim to use “Allah” to refer to God.

To substantiate his argument, reported on 11 Jan 2010, Jamil Khir declared that “church leaders must have deep understanding of the situation and history” about the use of “Allah” in Malaysia.

The following day, Jamil Khir was quoted again as calling for dialogue, and highlighting the initiatives by agencies such as the Institute of Islamic Understanding. But the minister’s call was made together with his call for the different states’ religious authorities to challenge the High Court decision that allowed non-Muslims the right to use the word. Jamil Khir also lauded the Selangor sultan‘s statement about the state’s prohibition against the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims.

At the very least, Jamil Khir is clueless about what a dialogue is and how it works. Dialogue, as experts in conflict resolution will share, can be a powerful tool, but only if it embodies a deep and respectful listening of what is important to the different stakeholders. Meaningful dialogue only happens when all parties are treated as equals. It does not happen when one party is more powerful than the others and has already dictated what results are expected of the dialogue.

Hence, Jamil Khir’s proposal for an interfaith dialogue is either a half-baked public relations exercise to demonstrate that the Malaysian government is fair to all, or, Allah help us all, the minister doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Worse still, it’s both.

No matter — when a minister repeatedly declares that the government is right in stripping away the rights of minority groups, one has to pause to wonder just how sincere the BN government is.

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