Resolving the ‘Allah controversy’: Will liberalism cure malaise-ism?

Azly Rahman

Azly Rahman

What we are seeing in Malaysia these days is a path towards destruction unfolding as a red carpet of a Hollywood show of a movie called ‘Wolves of Putrajaya’. We are seeing hell freezing over – of our own American polar vortex of the failure of our educational, cultural, and political system to mediate dangerous contradictions which may bring us down, tsunamied by the acts of those paid to search and destroy this imagined community of peace-loving Malaysians.

Borrowing a Socrates maxim, at the core of the issue is ignorance and the will to be stubborn to remain ignorant.

We need a multi-culturalist, multi-vocalic, multi-accepting, and multi-diverse brand of liberal democracy to save us. We need the entire nation to embrace what many are fearful of: liberalism. Liberalism will remove the glass coconut shell that has become a comfort zone, especially for the Malays and particularly of the Malay Muslims.

Liberalism might be the long-awaited cure for this neo-feudalistic malady called ‘malaise-ness’ that hath plagued the Malays since they were enslaved first as ‘hamba sahaya’, by their own rulers of ancient times.

In speaking of seeking knowledge and in trumpeting Islam as a religion of high learning, progressiveness, and democracy that upholds the principles of human rights, Muslims in Malaysia too often quote the words of the first revelation, ‘Iqra’, ‘Read’, or “read in the name of Thy Lord who created thee… who created thee from a clot” as a signature of religious advocacy par excellence.

*Notice that the word ‘Rabb’ or ‘Creator’ or ‘the Lord’ is used in the translation and not the world ‘Allah’ in the first revelation ‘Iqra’. Maybe the concept of ‘Allah’ is a later formulation borne out of a philosophical quest to construct the meaning of god in Islam. Perhaps the idea of ‘Allah’ was already there in the texts of the Jews, Christians, and the Sabeans and the later Muslims had to invent a philosophically distinct one.*

Not to be off-tangent on the topic of ‘reading’ nor to go into the scriptural-historical debate whether the Quran (The Readings/Book of Recitation) is revealed or actually a set of narratives inspired by the stories heard by Muhammad from the Jews, Christians, and Sabeans in his soul-seeking and knowledge constructing days; verses heard and committed to memory and then compiled later by his companions – that is not the matter of discussion here.

A time of utter ridiculousness

The question is on ‘reading’ or the ‘Iqra-ness’ of the cognition of especially the Malay-Muslims at a time that tries one’s soul these days and certainly a time of ‘malaise-ness’ and utter ridiculousness when one is threatened to be prosecuted and imprisoned without trial for uttering the world ‘Allah’ – or ‘the God’, or ‘the Rabb’, or ‘Thy Lord’ in one’s sermon conducted in a different geographical of gerry-mandered region.

As if god, supposedly the limitless and the boundless and bound by nothingness, now suddenly has boundaries drawn by human beings whose idiocy know no limits.

And now there is a war not only on the word ‘Allah’, but on ‘liberalism’ without understanding what “being a liberal”, “humanism”, “freedom to think”, “expanded consciousness” and other forms of denotations and connotations of “reading and thinking and speaking and contemplating freely” mean.

Largely, besides the money spent on manufacturing chaos and consent and confusion in order to produce and propagate Malaysia’s penultimate idiocy in the case of the ‘Allah’ controversy at a time of massive corruption and national piracy, plutocracy, and economic plunder-acy under the shibboleth of the much-trumpeted niceties of constitutional monarchy…

Besides this crisis of legitimacy, we have a problem of a populace not reading enough to understand even the idea of a cure for ‘malaise-ness’ such as ‘liberalism’ as a potentially good legal hashish for the hard-headed and articulately arrogant addicts of political money.

Let us illustrate how a liberal mind would approach the linguistic problematique of the use of the word ‘Allah’.