Anwar shows the way with moderate stand on Allah, Bible-burning: MALAYSIA IS MULTIRACIAL!

Written by  Moaz Nair, Malaysia Chronicle

Muslim leaders must wise up to show the beauty of their religion to others. Since UMNO has failed, the onus now is on PAS to show the right path to the people. As long as PAS can show the middle path or moderateness of Islam – the actual prescription of Islam – to the masses the Pakatan Rakyat coalition will survive in Malaysian politics.
Malaysia is a multi-racial country with people who are multi-religious. If religion has to be part of politics then it has to serve the needs of all people – Muslims and non-Muslims, not only a few puritans who know ‘more’ of religion and less on the reality of politics.

Anwar Ibrahim made a very wise statement
The charismatic Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, made a very wise statement when asked on the latest controversy over the issue of the Arab lexicon Allah being used by non-Muslims in their holy books. Anwar Ibrahim, on February 23, reiterated that the Pakatan Pact will stick to the earlier collective decision they had made on the issue of ‘others’ using the term Allah which was explained to the Press by PAS president on December 18, last year.
On December 18, PAS president after a long collective deliberation over the Allah lexicon came to a conclusion that ‘non-Muslims are allowed to use the term Allah as long they do not misuse the word’. This is a very fair statement and it shows that they have opted for a middle path to the controversy over the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims.
For that matter, any religion that paves the middle path in their approach will win the hearts of the people.  It can be Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and so forth.
Unfortunately, history has shown that religious extremism and obsession have caused a lot of miseries to the people when puritans decide to interpret religion with mania obsession. People have died because of intra and extra religious issues. Countries have gone to wars killing innocent lives. People have fought and died all because of religious extremism and definitely this cannot be the solution to world peace in a ‘civilised’ world.
In the present phase of human evolution should be the stage where there exist a civil society and where humanity becomes the core value of all religions.

Extreme views
There are many ‘learned’ Muslims who have chosen the extreme path in Islam and this is one of the reasons why most Islamic countries are today in chaos. They refuse to compromise and logic and reasons do not seem to change their extreme views when it comes to religion.
Thus the world sees packs of terrorists besmirching the religion and Intra-  and extra- religious conflicts killing many innocent lives in many Muslim and non- Muslim countries. Places of worship have been desecrated just because they subscribe to different sects in Islam and until now they have not found an ultimate solution to overcome their self-made problems.
The Qur’an actually teaches balance in thought and action and not extremism. Even the puritans among Muslims have to learn to accept differences of opinion and show respect to followers of other religions.
Regrettably, some have extreme theological views just because they lack understanding of the purpose of having religion in one’s life.  It is also due to a deleterious complex found in many one-track-minded religious leaders who refuse to see the other side of the coin when it comes to faith and religion. They must say that they are always right even when they may be wrong.

Choose the middle path
PAS as a political party has no choice but to choose the middle path. Since Islam is the foundation of PAS, Islamic universal values can only be accepted by all if the followers of Islam and the party are willing to adopt the middle path.
In the Qur’an (2:143), it says
“And thus We have made you a middle nation to be witnesses over mankind, and (for) the Messenger to be a witness over you."
If the Qur’an is properly understood, the religion itself does not condone any form of extremism or fanaticism but the discordant followers have gone overboard out of zealousness, faulty indoctrination, lack of universal education and  of course for some socio-political reasons.
In fact, finding the middle path is an overall comportment in Islam.  The Qur’an contains specific guidelines coxswaining people away from extremes.  Islam promotes socio-political and socio-economic systems that epitomise a balanced middle ground.
As in many other religions, moderateness is also a key value in Islam. Islam shuns radicalism and immoderation.  Balance and moderation are fundamental in Islamic creed and acts of submission, interpersonal relations and in social ethics.  The Qur’an prompts mankind to be moderate and reasonable. Both these qualities represent the essence of Islam.  Hence God has eased the burden of the humankind and has chosen the middle path for all mankind to follow.
The Qur’an (2:185) says:
"God intends for you ease: He does not want to make things difficult for you."
Extreme mannerisms and behaviours cannot be part of God’s intent when He created mankind. Hence, living in a multi-cultural world, PAS, Islam and politics should stand on the middle ground.
The Qur’an (49:13) says,
O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
The Qur’an recognises both cultural differences and racial equality of mankind.  In fact, God presents our racial diversity as one of His signs.
The Qur’an (30:22) says:
“And of His signs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours.”  Lo! Herein are portents for men of understanding.”
The Qur’an rejects social in justice, racism, racial supremacies, arrogance and racial insubordination.  However, Islam acknowledges differences between cultural groups, without seeking to distemper humanity into a single culture.
The Qur’an (109:6) acknowledges and accepts religious differences between groups, saying,
“To you your religion and to me my religion.”
The Qur’an (5:48) acknowledges diversity and racial pluralism, saying
“For each We have appointed a law and a way. Had God willed He could have made you one community, but that He may try you in what He gave you (He hath not done so). So vie one with another in good works.  Unto God will you all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein you differ.”
Thus Islam was revealed to all mankind and does not deny people of their diverse cultural identities.

The role of PAS in multi-racial Malaysia
PAS should evolve more into a party that has chosen the middle path in politics without sacrificing its universal religious principles. To the non-Muslims in general they would want to see that Islam is truly a middle path in all aspects of its tenets, philosophies, and behavioural guidelines.
At various times and in some places in the world, widespread ignorance of the religion of Islam has set the stage for extremism to flourish.  And this should not be the trademark of PAS, or UMNO for that matter.
Unfortunately, some puritans can always go extreme out of zealousness. Their poor sculpting of Islamic practices will reflect badly on moderate Muslims and on Islam.  The fact is that, the religion itself does not cause or support extremist views and therefore those puritans require correction and education in their religious understanding.

Semantics of the word Allah
And coming to the Allah lexicon, the puritans must bear in mind that this term derives from the Arabic language and can be traced to the days when the Arabs were still in the realms of pagans. Besides Arabic, cognates of the name Allah exist in other Semitic languages, including Hebrew and Aramaic. It’s not a new word minted only when Islam came to exist. It has existed long before Islam and is used in other religious Scriptures.
In the histo-linguistic perspective, the term ‘allah’ is derived from the Arabic definite article ‘al’ (the) and ʾilah’ (deity [pagan] or god) to al-lah (the deity [pagan] or god).
Biblical Hebrew mostly uses the plural form Elohim. The Aramaic form is Elaha in Biblical Aramaic and Alaha in Syriac as used by the Assyrian Church.  By their surface structure they all simply mean ‘God’.
Besides, Allah and its cognates are used mainly by Muslims, Arab Christians, Bahais, Sikhs, Arabic-speakers, Indonesian, Malaysian and Maltese Christians, and Mizrahi Jews. The fact that the word appears many times in the Qur’an cannot justify the fact that it exclusively belongs to Islam or the Qur’an.
The semantics of Allah in the Qur’an has its own deeper meaning that is The God (Allah) has no associates or companions. It is not an idol. This sets apart Islam from Christianity and Hinduism, for example.
There are many Arabic words found in the Qur’an – a corpus of which is also found in the Holy Books of other religions. This is a contagious linguistic phenomenon that transcends religions. In fact, people of other religions have used the word Allah plus many other Arabic words found in the Qur’an very much earlier than Islam. And they have the right to use them as a linguistic or religious entity.
Typologically lexis of the same could vary from culture to culture. This is the beauty of language. The word Allah (The God) or Lah (God) or its cognates, for instance, is used in many religions and practices as a linguistic surface structure (or meaning) though the deeper meaning and perception of God may vary from culture to culture. And this leads to this unique phenomenon that there is more than a single form of faith when it comes to religion.
Be that as it may, it’s the deeper structure (or meaning) of the lexis Allah that matters when it comes to one’s faith in God.
God can be named God, Allah, Lah, ilah, Lord, the Creator, the Al-Mighty etc. It’s the deeper structure of the lexis that defines one’s faith and not the surface structure. Hope the puritans are aware of this linguistic and typological phenomenon.

Puritans can be too idealistic
Since God is an entity that most people believe in and an entity that is hard to be configured scientifically using the limited human senses, there is bound to be many interpretations to its name. It is this uniqueness that makes the ‘belief system’ a variety found in all human cultures.
So let’s not be too possessed when it comes to the usage of the word Allah in many other religions. Its usage cannot be a select entity only for a single religion in this world. If Muslims have strong faith in their religion they should not fear that when others use the term Allah to refer to God this will undermine their faith. If it does then this is tantamount to admitting that they do have a strong faith in their religion.
In a way, it’s the failure of the education system in most Muslims countries, including Malaysia that has made some Muslims having a closed mindset when it comes to Islam. This, regrettably, has led to their intemperance in thoughts and actions.  Religion taught through mere indoctrination leads to fanaticism and insularity. Religion taught through logic, reasons and thinking will lead the way to wisdom and virtue and ultimately the middle path in one’s actions and behaviours.
After more than 55 years in politics PAS – whereby Islam has been an integral part of it – should now be able to discern between extremism and the middle path that the Qur’an promulgates. Puritans among them can be too idealistic and sometimes they have no place in politics. Their role should be more confined to the academia – the world of theories and seminars.
PAS must be aware that an Islamic nation is not exclusively a spiritual nation that ignores the material world, and it's not a material nation that ignores the spiritual life.
It’s always the middle path that helps build a nation and draws people to accept Islam as a way of life. This is the reality of politics in a multi-racial and multi-religious Malaysia.

Malaysia Chronicle


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