Malaysia and its neighbours are quite well-known for disputes over claims and counter-claims of titles and belongings. We've been fighting for all sorts of things from title of food recipes, songs such as Rasa Sayang, traditional dances, even islands in our waters.
And so it shouldn't come as a surprise that we are now fighting for the right of using the word "Allah" for God between the Christians and the Muslims. Well, I am not a religious person, and have never really been a practising Roman Catholic. But for as long as I can remember since my school days about a hundred years ago, the Malay translation of the Catholic faith for God has always been "Allah". And of course that translation has never been challenged all these years. However, someone brought it up recently, and then suddenly the use of "Allah" to mean God in Christian publications became something that's "sensitive" to the Muslims in Malaysia.
The result is that we have had an interesting legal battle over the last several months to decide whether the Christians are allowed to use "Allah" to mean God in the Malay translations of their religious publications.
If anyone had asked me a few months ago to predict what the decision of the High Court would be about this matter, I would have told him confidently that the courts would certainly decide for the Christians for the use of "Allah" in their publications. I don't know what is so surprising about this decision which has since become such a big thing in Malaysia.
In the game of chess, we get to see more or less the same thing quite frequently. A player makes a move which seemingly puts his position in a disadvantage. Maybe he will even lose a major piece like his Queen or Rook. But at the end of the combination, there is that surprising entrance to mate the opponent's king. It makes the game so much more interesting to observe!
In Malaysia, we've seen such maneuvres in several recent major cases. We have seen, for example, how a BN's MP jumped to the Opposition camp, only to jump back to BN a few days later, tagging along several of the MPs from the Opposition camp. The result was devastating for the Opposition government in that State!
We have also seen how the courts have decided in favour of the Opposition's (former) Menteri Besar (MB) against the BN's MB, only to have such decision reversed later in a higher court, so that at the end of the day, the BN's MB was the winner.
There is a psychological significance to all this. In the case of the MP jumping from one camp to the other, it was necessary to show the people that the Opposition could accept an MP from the ruling government. So that the BN government should also be allowed to accept an MP from the Opposition side. In the case of the decision of the fight for the Perak MB, it was necessary to let the Opposition win in the lower court. Then after the Opposition had given all the praises to the Malaysian legal system, it would be very difficult to withdraw those praises when a higher court reverses that decision. And even if they did try to withdraw those praises, that will only make them look small.
Therefore, now that the high courts have decided in favour of the Christians to use "Allah" to mean God in their publications, I think the Muslims in Malaysia shouldn't be overly worried. My bet is that when the case goes to a higher court, which is now in progress, that decision will surely be reversed. And even if that decision is not reversed, it will continue to find its way to an even higher appeals authority to get it reversed. In the end it will be reversed somehow.
Of course I may be wrong in my analysis. After all, this is just my fancy idea, and obviously there is very little truth in it.
But yes, I would agree with the Prime Minister [The Star]—the people should stay calm about the recent high court decision. Don't worry, folks, that decision will not be for very long.