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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The "Allah" Controversy - the political ramifications

The controversy surrounding the usage of "Allah" by non-Muslims, particularly the Christians, in Malaysia continues to rage even as at the time of writing this article. The Malaysian Insider just reported that a ninth church - this time in Kota Tinggi, Johore - had been vandalised.

The year 2009 was about to end when Yang Ariff Justice Lau Bee Lan held that the word "Allah" may be used by the Herald in its newspaper. That decision has almost redefined the phrase "ending the year with a bang."

Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, there were of course political opportunity loss on the part of the Barisan Nasional. In a land where everything from the slaughtering of cows for distribution to the poor and needy to the building of a free trade zone are perfect fodders for politics, the Allah issue was never far from being one as well.

In the last half of 2009, I actually thought that the Prime Minister was in the political driving seat. He was in control. His 1 Malaysia concept and sloganeering, although leaving much to be desired from the view point of the urbanites, was gaining support from the heartland. The Chinese and Indian supports were slowly coming back to him and his government despite the impotence and lameness of the two most important protagonists which were supposed to represent the two races within the government, namely the MCA and MIC respectively.

The public relation machinations of the government were working full steam and in overdrive. The Prime  Minister and his men were all over the place, winning nods of approvals from the people on the street.

In the meantime, power base in UMNO was being broaden. And his hard line approach towards the opposition was well received within the UMNO circle, especially at the grass root level. The Perak power grab, orchestrated and executed by him, although crude and almost unrefined, served to cement the belief among UMNO members that in Dato' Seri Najib Razak, UMNO has a powerful leader who is not afraid to use his power for the benefit of UMNO. Gone were the days of the lembik leadership that they had under the stewardship of Tun Abdullah.

And so, despite various issues ranging from Teoh Beng Hock's death at the MACC state head office to the PKFZ debacle, the Prime Minister was looking good.

On the corporate side, the Prime Minister, in not too long a time has also managed to straighten out the various important agencies and government linked companies to his liking. Top editors of major UMNO linked newspapers were replaced. The state mass media was in good hands in Minister Rais Yatim.

Khazanah Nasional was in control and ever willing to toe the line. The EPU was dismantled thereby getting rid of old and unwanted elements. Petronas was a bit more difficult to deal with as proven by the fact that the PM's favoured nominee for a board seat was rejected not once but twice. No matter what, the PM later managed to get what he wanted and Encik Omar now gets his board seat.

So, everything was going in accordance with plan.

In the meantime, the Pakatan Rakyat was in utter disarray. This was a party who perfected the art of shooting one's own foot, not once, not twice but continuously like they were using an Uzi instead of a revolver.

They had Hassan Ali and gang running riot against their own leadership. They also had Zul Noordin wanting to amend the Federal Constitution to make Islamic law the highest law of the land. Then they had Wee Choo Keong creating havoc. In the PKR front, Azmin Ali, Zaid Ibrahim, Jeffrey Kitingan and Anwar Ibrahim were locking horns. Then PAS lost a by-election in Negeri Sembilan. All hell broke loose.

The PR was losing ground. Everything was going haywire. In PAS, apart from the Hassan Ali and Nasa factor, there was also the Tuan Guru Nik Aziz controversy. That prompted a special muktamar to sort out various issues. Due to the shenanigans of Hassan Ali and cohorts, non-Muslims support for PAS was fast disappearing. It looked like it was  difficult for PAS to regain the trust of non-Muslims after the hard line approach displayed by Hassan Ali and gang.

Within all these controversies surrounding the PR, the Prime Minister could continue to concentrate at rebuilding the support base for UMNO. And he was relishing the prospect. Surveys by independent pollsters actually showed that supports for the Prime Minister and his 1 Malaysia concept were actually improving with time. Malaysia apparently was warming up to him.

However, he made a mistake. And a big one that turned out to be.

The Allah issue was brewing in the Court. And on the last day of 2009, the issue exploded.

In hindsight, the Allah issue could have been used by the Prime Minister to score even more points, especially among the non-Malays. Had the PM thrown his weight in support of the Christians while at the same time used the massive public relation machinations to explain the real issues to the Malays and to pacify them, then the PM would have killed two birds with just a single stone.

However, that was not to be. The PM and the Home Minister had chosen to appease the Malays by initially taking a loose stand against those who were planning to demonstrate in various mosques around KL after the Friday prayer. At the last minute, the Home Minister appeared to have changed his mind and came out with another indecision and almost lame position. He decided to leave it to the police to decide, when in fact, the police came under his Ministry!

The move backfired spectacularly when churches were torched. As of now, the political damage to both the PM and the Home Minister, as well as to the government, is almost irreversible.

By pandering to the hard line Malays, the PM, Home Minister and the government was not winning any new support. That is because the hard line Malays (or ultra Malays) have always supported UMNO anyway. So there was not going to be any change in the support of UMNO or the government by adopting the stand against the usage of Allah by the Christians.

In contrast, if the PM had taken an opposite stand on the issue, new support from the Christians would have been forthcoming, giving a new dimension to the concept of 1 Malaysia which the PM is selling with absolute vigour nowadays. Apart from the Christians, non-Malays of other faiths would also see the PM's action as a sign of accommodation for themselves. And this will give the PM a consequential support from this group as well.

At the same time, the hard line UMNO supporters would not withdraw their supports for the PM. Any splinter group from within UMNO who might be unhappy for the PM's decision in that event could be persuaded and coaxed through the massive state controlled mass media, which include Bernama TV, RTM, TV3, TV7, TV9, NST, MM, UM and the Star.

The PM and the government would be swimming in this great tidal of supports. Alas, things were not to be. Instead now, we have a situation where supports from the hard line Malays remain unchanged. And the PM can forget about supports from the Christians and the non-Malays of other faiths. The Malay urbanites on the other hand would continue to be critical of the PM and the government.

The Allah issue is really and opportunity loss for the Prime Minister, UMNO, BN and the government.

On the other side of the fence, the Pakatan Rakyat, and that includes PAS, is coming out smelling like roses on a hot spring day. There is not much guessing to know why.

The BN is back to square one.

19 comments:

sang kancil said...

Art,

On the nail. What more can I say.

Anonymous said...

A church in Inodnesia with the word "Allah" :-

http://i883.photobucket.com/albums/ac35/mikelkopio/allah.jpg

Anonymous said...

True but the you seem to have over exaggerated Najib's new found support from the masses.
I don't think it was a massive switch from Opposition to BN. Perhaps from a small percentage of Malays and Indians. Chinese, I doubt.

Anonymous said...

Read somewhere that the government (or is it BN or Umno) has a foreign public relations company to help spruce up its PR strategy. Just hope all these restlessness in Malaysia are not the result of such PR strategy.

Planet of the Monyets said...

Najib has indeed missed out on a golden oppotunity. Like you said, most of the goodwill gained over the past year has been lost.

Anonymous said...

Art,

What does the situation tell us?

The PM, DPM, Home Minister and IGP are mentally-challenged. How are they going to elevate Malaysia to the status of a developed nation?

They do not have the calibre to do so.

They do not speak with one voice. They do not gain the citizens' respect. Period.

Siebel

Adirya Kiratas said...

A very astute analysis of the situation. You should work for the NYT, or maybe as special advisor to the PM's Dept. Maybe then he won't step on dog poo so often.

But I'm surprised he doesn't have sharper people who could have done a similar analysis for him. Unless they're all treating him like the Emperor without clothes, or the Sultan without a sarong, rather.

PM said...

It has alienated the total christain pop for sure. Most of them I have spoken to have anger and hatred for najib and the home minister. No matter how much funding thrown to appease them, the harm has been done.

Good reading..thanks art

Anonymous said...

Najib miscalculated this big time. He anticipated PAS would come out in full support of the Allah issue and this would have split PR further and put their CPF into disarray. Little did they expect PAS to do the reverse. The whole episode was to destabilise PR and to prevent them from regrouping. It was not meant to target Malays in general. It was a double wham now that the East Malaysians are more pissed off.

Anonymous said...

Art, brilliant analysis! loved it to the hilt!

We have an inept and indecisive pair of cousins with TUNNEL VISION helming the country. I shudder at the thought of such mediocre and lack luster leadership.

Our leaders waste much time squabbling, pacifying extremists and denying this and that and dodging scandals etc INSTEAD OF FOCUSING ON MANAGING THE COUNTRY AND UPLIFTING THE ECONOMY AND LIVING STANDARDS OF THE RAKYAT!

Sir, what you said is true beyond believe. Personally, I feel Najib is insincere: "people first." Which people (race)? I feel betrayed AND disappointed! Our PM is NOT COLOUR BLIND!!

LAT said...

UMNO- Islam strenous defence of Allah for their sole enjoyment is in vain for Allah is obviously not with UMNO.

Harry said...

A very of Events Good synopsis, very true and the writer should be employed by BN/UMNO but the Stupid megalomaniacs think they are very smart and screwed it up for good. I always used to support the BN Govt. we are normal people, my grandfather, my father me and and all my children are born in this Tanah Melayu and and goin to Die here too ... this my country too ask the UMNOputra how many have taken avow to die for this beloved Contry of Ours ...? I HAVE and I will die for my Malaysia. We should get all the corrupt people into Jails.... But the last 10 years I & all my family have lost faith and we are going to make the changes come GE 13. with the Almighty Grace.

PRAY,IT WORKS. joe's blog said...

No one was trying to convert any muslims. The bn govt. saw the allah issue as a good opportunity to once again divide and rule to continue enjoying the fruits of corruption. This has to stop for the sake of the suffering poor in rural malaysia especially malays, in these days of rising prices

Anonymous said...

This is all the fault of that idiotic bald-head Shit Timid Apa who tried to impress Umno members and fanatical Muslims by banning the word.

Frank said...

Art

This messy controversy on "Allah" with the Christians would not have happened if Najib and his cousin had bothered to read THIS ayat in the Quran and explain to concerned Muslims as far back as in 2008.

Instead Syed Hamid,the then Home Minister sent an official letter disallowing the Catholics to use the word Allah in their internal publication. It was high handedness by any account by this UMNO-led Govt.

The problem was aggravated by Najib's cousin who took over as Home Minister which blew into the face of UMNO when our home-grown TERRORISTS started fire bombing the churches in the name of Islam, taking the cue from those Pro-UMNO supporters (which include the President and members of KIMMA, the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress) protesting at the mosque after the Friday prayers.

To make matters worse,Najib and his cousin,Hishamuddin and other UMNO goons encouraged people like Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to call in the Sufi blogger Mahaguru58 to round up Muslim bloggers into a Muslim Bloggers Alliance to haunt and demonise the Christians for wanting to use the word Allah

UMNO leaders could have gone back to the AlQuran and see what the Book says, then explain to the concerned section of the Muslim community through the Muslim NGOs such as ABIM on what the Quran says and then have closed door discussions with the Catholic leadership on how they should use the word Allah sensitively and with utmost care so as not to be perceived by Muslims as attempting to proselyte or trying to convert Muslims insidiously to become Christians,and ensure the limited availability of the publication to Christians only.

That should have been the way to unite the country with Najib's 1-Malaysia instead of parrying to the religious bigotry of the ultra Malays of the like of the Acehnese Akramsyah Sanusi.

UMNO chose the path of racial and religious division, playing to the shrieking cries of the religiously bigoted gallery of the ultra Malay fanatics.


CLICK HERE: Sura Al-Ankabut 29:46

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous in placing ALL the blames on UMNO.

Sure, UMNO should take most of the blames, but read on ...

From time immemorial church officials have always do the same thing --- they never stand up for the rights of the Christians.

When the government wants to convert the Church schools into Sekolah Kebangsaan, "Okay", says the Church officials, without even consulting the Church laities.

When the government says "You can't use _Allah_ no more", again the Church officials says "Okay", without even thinking of the impact.

Again and again the Church officials retreated when they should have stood up to defend the rights of Christians.

Finally this blew up.

What are the Church officials saying this time?

"But they told us we can use that word mah ..."

Yeah, right !

Why didn't you guys protested back in 1986?

Why didn't you guys asking help from Church networks around the world back in 1986?

True, UMNO should take the major portion of the blame, for whatever have happened.

But the Church officials too have to take up their share of the blame.

If it wasn't because of the Church officials being so coward, the Christians would not have lost so much of their inalienable rights to those fascists in the first place !

Am I being too harsh on the Church officials?

NO !

They swore to GOD that they would tender to the sheep, and they have done NOTHING.

Kris said...

Well said Art. They did miss the obvious didn't they?

CK Peng said...

Hi Art,

Brilliant analysis from you. PM will be crying when he read your article. Fully agree with you the cousins and even IGP lost big in this "Allah" case.

If you look at the way things have developed. You know they have been wanted the court to allow the use of "Allah" by Christian. After Justice Lau announced the verdict. It took the Govt few days to file for stay. Why? In Perak Case, Zambry got it in the Next Day! They need time to fan the fire so that there will be big demonstartion On the Friday....

Few things not going according to plan:- One, PAS not falling in line instead they Support the Court Decision. Two, Churches Got attacked. Three, IGP said police do not have enough manpower to protect the churches. (I left a comment on our Dear PM 1Malaysia Blog calling for IGP to be replaced for leaking the Country Top Secret to the Enemy, since then I hae not seen IGP on paper Ha... ah..)Four, Nazri openly attacked Justice Lau verdict, for Law Minister to say Judge has rule wrongly just make all people believe that UNMO is fanning fire.

Look at how people have left commenst on the PM blog and you can see how bad this has affected whatever Public Relation effort he done has gone to the drain.

I can remember the photos of PM with Cousin, Liow and Koh vsitied the burnt church. Gloomy..... It's a wild party that went out of hand and organiser are left to leak their wound!

Now Najib and Muhydin is oversea. All is left to Hisham to correct the wrong. As a Johorean I always hope Hisham will shine. But frankly he is more like Pak Lah.. Flip flop easily and no pricipal. I think Kairy score better then him this time!!

CK

Anonymous said...

Art,

It was bound to happen sooner or later that 1Najib shoots himself in the foot. But we have a double bonus as 1Najib and his 1cousin 1Noshameoodin both shot their own feet and each other's at the same time. What a glorious sight. Amen.