Marina Mahathir: ‘Allah’ uproar just ‘knee-jerk reactions’
By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — In a response to the uproar over the “Allah” issue, Datuk Marina Mahathir said those protesting against the court ruling obviously did not know enough about Islam as a religion.
She felt that the recent outcry over matter was just “knee-jerk reactions,” and that these people had likely not taken the initiative to actually study the legal aspects of the case, as well as the court decision.
“Maybe it’s because they do not know enough. They say knowledge is power, and the lack of it is ignorance. Holding on to the word Allah is not going to ‘convert’ anybody from Islam into another faith,” said Marina.
Marina, who is the daughter of Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, posted an article “Confident people do not get confused” on her blog yesterday morning.
Among other things, she highlighted a historical treaty between Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Christians from a delegation of St. Catherine’s Monastery. The treaty showed clear evidence that the Prophet himself declared “Christians as allies and any ill-treatment of them to be in violation of God’s covenant.”
She wrote that Muslims should be “confident” in their faith, and that they should be unfazed by the issue of “Allah”, as the basis of the Islamic faith lay in the fiver pillars of Islam alone.
The article received many comments, some favourable but many were against the points raised by Marina. Some readers said they were “concerned” that the Catholics’ insistence on using the word “Allah” raised questions about their true motives.
One reader even went so far as to suggest that while “confident Muslims” such as Marina may be knowledgeable with regards to Islam, the poorer, uneducated sections of the Muslim population in Malaysia would be easily confused over the usage of “Allah” by non-Muslims, insinuating that churches have used this as an excuse to convert Muslims out of their faith.
“I think it is really insulting and patronising as some of these comments mention how churches have converted Muslims for ‘free lunches.’ Well, if all it takes is a free lunch to convert someone, I say we should do the same then.
“I think it is a self-fulfilling prophecy... if you keep saying that Muslims will get confused, then they will eventually get confused. No one is interested in clarity, in understanding,” said Marina in a phone interview yesterday.
Marina, who is known for being outspoken on issues pertaining to human rights and freedom of speech, asserted that if Muslims in the country were to always portray themselves as easily manipulated and weak, they would be doing nothing but to serve the stereotypical misconceptions of Islam being a religion of little faith.
“Why don’t we believe in the strength of our own faith? What these people are doing is giving power to the other side. By reacting like this, you are basically saying that your faith is weak. Why are you portraying Islam as a weak religion, when it is clearly not? It is a beautiful, peaceful and understanding religion,” she added.
She said this constant battle for ownership of God was in essence wrong as it is people who should be submitting to God, not the other way round.
“It is not about God belonging to you, rather YOU belong to God,” Marina said.
The government has said it will appeal against Justice Datuk Lau Bee Lan’s judgment that Catholic weekly “The Herald” had a constitutional right to use “Allah” to describe the Christian God in the national language.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his deputy Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin have themselves come out and made reassurances to the public, telling people not to make any comments which may further fuel tension between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in the country.
Their statements came as more than 40,000 people signed up in a Facebook page to pressure the government to reverse the Dec 31 court ruling.
The Facebook page titled “Menentang penggunaan nama Allah oleh orang bukan Islam (Against the use of ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims)” plans to get a million Muslims to sign a petition against the court ruling and, judging by the comments left on the page, they seem to feel that Muslims are under siege by the Christians.
When asked on what she thought of the online battle over the issue, Marina said that it was very easy to misuse social networking services to aggravate the situation.
“Someone should complain to the Facebook administration and mark the page as offensive... the comments posted by people who wrote on my blog are that of urban people, most likely the same type of people who dragged the cow’s head in Shah Alam,” she said, in reference to the now-infamous incident in Shah Alam where 70-odd protestors dragged a severed cow’s head to the State Secretariat in retaliation towards the Selangor government’s relocation of a Hindu temple to a predominantly Muslim-majority area.
As an afterthought, Marina said that she was dismayed to see how the new year has turned out as she lamented how some Muslims were not progressing and that their mentality still remained the same.
“It is now the 21st century. What is the 21st century Muslim like? Different, or same as how we were in the past?
“Sadly, the way we are looking at things right now, I’d say we are the same.”