By Wilfred Madius Tangau
All parties in Borneo should press Putrajaya to drop appeal on Allah
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KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia--I strongly call upon all parties in Borneo, whether local-based or state chapters of national parties, to unite and urge the Ismail Sabri government to withdraw the Muhyiddin Yassin Government’s appeal against the High Court’s ruling on 10 March 2021 that declared the Allah ban since 1986 is unconstitutional.
Voters in Sarawak should make this happen by making clear to all candidates that they want a closure.
Malay-Muslims in Malaya feel threatened by Christians praying to Allah is a cultural shock simply because they have not lived in Sabah, Sarawak, Indonesia and the Arab countries to get used to it.
Muslims and Christians praying to Allah in mosques and churches will not cause apostasy of Muslims. The best evidence - Muslims constitute near or more than 90 percent of the population in the Arab countries and Indonesia, despite that Muslims and Christians have shared “Allah” and other religious terms for respectively 1,442 years and 476 years.
Instead of addressing the cultural shock with interfaith education and reason, the Federal Cabinet under Dr Mahathir Mohamad issued a ban and snatched away the Christian Borneans and other non-Muslims right to pray to Allah, to succumb to the ignorance and arrogance of some Malayans.
These imperialist-minded Malayans believed that they should decide how Sabahans and Sarawakians, both at home and in the Peninsula, could live their life because they refused to accept that Malaysia is an equal partnership of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.
Thirty-five years on, the High Court delivered in March a ruling which will make Malaysia stronger by enabling Sabahan, Sarawakian and Orang Asli Christians to pray freely as their Dayak brothers and sisters across the border in Kalimantan do.
It was a victory for not only Malaysia, but also Bahasa Malaysia as national language and all its speakers, and a respect for Bahasa Iban and Bahasa Bidayuh, two languages of heritage in the land of Borneo.
Sadly, the bigots in the Muhyiddin Government insisted to prolong the pain felt by Borneo Christians and shared by their non-Christian families and friends including the Muslims.
I call upon Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri to walk the talk on his Keluarga Malaysia. Show your commitment to MA63 by ordering the Attorney-General’s Chambers to withdraw its appeal on the Allah issue.
If Prime Minister needs to summon moral courage to stand up some Malayan bigots in his cabinet, I am happy to accompany him to visit Batu Bersumpah Peringatan Mengikut Perlembagaan (Memorial Oath Stone in accordance to the Constitution) established since 31 August 1964 in Keningau.
In simple language, it outlines a social contract of religious freedom and allegiance to Malaysia of four items:
1. Freedom of religion in Sabah
2. The Government of Sabah holding authority over lands in Sabah
3. Government respecting and preserving native customs in Sabah
4. In return, the oath of loyalty to the Government of Malaysia by the People of Sabah’s Interior.
The spirit of simple social contract applies to the whole Sabah including Labuan, Sarawak and even Malaya.
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri has now had the golden opportunity to right the wrong left uncorrected for 35 years by four Prime Ministers, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (twice), Tun Abdullah Badawi, Datuk Seri Najib and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
By withdrawing the appeal, he can make Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) standing proud in the upcoming state election, and as his government needs Sarawak and Sabah, he can persuade Malayan hardliners to find civil and reasonable ways to address the Malayan Malay-Muslims’ cultural shock.
On 16 March, 57 Parliamentarians, Senators and State Assemblypersons from Sabah and Sarawak came together to make this call.
They came from PBB, PRS, PDP, SUPP and Bersatu from the Government’s side and also from UPKO, PKR, DAP, Warisan and PSB on the Opposition’s side. As the initiator of the cross-party joint statement, I would like to reiterate some of the key points.
First, Christians who use “Allah” and other common religious words shared with Muslims are predominantly Borneans and Orang Asli, who speak Bahasa Malaysia as their second or first language, just like Christian Bataks, Dayaks, Ambonese, Timorese in Indonesia who speak Bahasa Indonesia as their second or first language. In Sarawak, Bahasa Iban uses “Allah Taala” while Bahasa Bidayuh uses “Tuhan Alla” for God.
Second, In Sabah and Sarawak, the popularity of Bahasa Malaysia amongst Christians is the outcome of the National Language Act 1967, the National Language Policy and the National Education Policy which reversed the decline of Bahasa Melayu during the colonial years.
Third, Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak are supportive of and never feel threatened by their Christian siblings, cousins, and friends praying to Allah, the one God in all Abrahamic faiths.
Borneans genuinely believe that humans are made differently to know and love each other, not to disparage and discriminate against each other, and that presence of diverse religious communities is Allah’s will for He who is almighty could have made all humans in one faith.
I plead to all the faithful in Malaysia to pray for wisdom, compassion and courage in Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri and all his ministers to summon their inner strength to withdraw the AGC’s appeal on the Allah issue.
Let’s stop the Bornean Christians’ emotional bleeding and heal Malaysia’s wounds.
Insha Allah, may all be legally free to pray to Allah on 18 December 2021 if not before.
'*Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau is President of United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (UPKO)*