It’s called posturing


So do what you want to do quietly and nothing will happen. But once you openly challenge me to a fight then I will have no choice but to accept your challenge or else I will lose face. And losing face is very un-Malaysian.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

With Selangor Umno set to protest outside churches in the state this Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said today the local chapter of the political party was acting in accordance with a royal decree banning the word “Allah” to non-Muslims.

Muhyiddin was asked if Umno Selangor should call off the protest at churches in the country’s most developed state, for the sake of preserving interfaith ties, after it threatened yesterday to do so unless a senior Catholic priest apologises over his remark insisting on Christians’ right to use the Arabic word in their religious practices.

“As the people of Selangor, they are upholding the decree of the Sultan,” Muhyiddin told reporters after a school visit for the start of the new school year here today.

“What they are doing is not in opposition, but is in line with the state. Religious affairs, even though there is the Federal Constitution, are under the purview of the Sultan,” added the Umno deputy president.


As many have said, the Malay-speaking Christians in Malaysia have been using Allah as the name for God in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible for years, long before many of you who are foaming at the mouth were even born.

“So what is the issue here?” many are asking.

The Muslims allege that the ‘evil intention’ of the Christians in wanting to use the Allah word is to confuse the Muslims and to try to convert them to Christianity. The Christians deny this, of course, and reply that if the Muslims can be so easily converted to Christianity just because of one word then their faith must be terribly weak to start off with.

Actually, the issue is not about the Muslims being so easily confused or the Christians wanting to convert Muslims to Christianity. No doubt this may happen but it will not be in a big way. It would be isolated cases at best and would happen with or without Christians using Allah in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible.

I mean you can’t avoid some ‘crossovers’ from time to time. It happens and it happens anywhere in the world. Muslims becoming Christians, Christians becoming Muslims, and whatnot, it happens. In fact, more Christians convert to Islam than Muslims converting to Christianity in countries, say, like the US, in particular in the US prisons where the Islamic dakwah is very strong.

To be honest, many Malays have actually ‘left’ Islam if you were to seriously analyse what makes a Muslim with a fine toothcomb. When I say ‘what makes a Muslim’ I am, of course, talking about akidah, which can be loosely translated as faith.

If you lack faith or your akidah is defective then you have technically ‘left’ Islam. The only thing is these Muslims do not realise that they are no longer Muslims, or they do realise but they keep silent about the matter and do not openly announce that they no longer have faith in Islam.

You know that leaving Islam is a crime, right? Hence not many would dare announce they have left Islam out of fear of being persecuted/prosecuted or to avoid being treated like a pariah because Muslim apostates would be considered the pariahs of the community. Families would disown them and they would not be buried in a Muslim cemetery when they die or there would be a tug-of-war over their body when they die.

It is a downright messy situation so if you are no longer a Muslim then you just keep quiet. And if you are no longer a Muslim because you have converted to Christianity even more so you should keep quiet or else you would get arrested and then will be sent for religious rehabilitation (like I was when they thought that I had insulted Islam although I did not).

So what, then, is the issue here?

The issue here is that Islam and Christianity have been competing for 1,400 years to see who can win the most number of converts. Both Muslims and Christians are proud of the fact that their religion is the largest religion and that they have the highest number of ‘believers’. And that is why both Muslims and Christians call each other non-believers or infidels (although the Christians do not do this as much as they used to many years ago).

In fact, the Christians at one time even used to call the Muslims devil-worshippers, which is worse than non-believers or infidels.

Anyway, what we are seeing here is a competition between the Muslims and the Christians that goes back more than 1,000 years. No doubt Malay-speaking Malaysian Christians have been using the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible for a long time now and the Allah word for an equally long time. But thus far it has been done silently.

Today, the Christians are openly challenging the government the right to use the Allah word in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Bible or in their Catholic newspaper, the Herald.

And herein lies the problem. When you openly challenge the government then the government has to rise to the challenge. This is merely a case of posturing. When you posture I, too, have to posture. I cannot be seen to be weak or be seen to be backing down. Like the Chinese say, I will lose face, and losing face is not something most Malaysians can accept.

I remember back in 1999 when PAS took over the state of Terengganu. A Malay friend of mine, who eventually became the Secretary-General of PKR (now retired), was running a holiday resort in Terengganu that catered mainly to westerners from Europe.

My friend, of course, had to sell wine, beer and liquor, a must for these Mat Sallehs. If not they would not come to your place and since your market is predominantly Mat Salleh that would mean in no time at all you will go bankrupt.

My friend approached the PAS state government to negotiate a liquor licence and he was told that would not be possible. What PAS can do, though, is to close their eyes and pretend that my friend is not selling wine, beer and liquor.

In other words, do not officially ask for permission to sell wine, beer and liquor because if you do then the PAS state government would have to say no. Just do it quietly and no one would disturb you. And if you challenge the PAS state government then the government would need to take you on and close you down for illegally selling wine, beer and liquor.

And this was PAS, mind you. So even PAS was prepared to close its eyes to your un-Islamic activities if you do not make a big deal out of it (and sell only to the Mat Salleh). However, once you start shouting, then the PAS state government would have to shout back and shout much louder than you.

I suppose I am the same. If you quietly post a comment in Malaysia Today then I will also quietly allow it even though your comment may be unwarranted, out of topic, stupid, and whatnot. But once you whack me then I will have to whack you back even harder.

So do what you want to do quietly and nothing will happen. But once you openly challenge me to a fight then I will have no choice but to accept your challenge or else I will lose face. And losing face is very un-Malaysian.