Nearly a week has passed since Jais raided the Bible Society of Malaysia, and we have heard nothing from Putrajaya that would soothe the hearts of the many Malaysians who must now be harbouring misgivings about our future as a nation of diverse cultures and creeds.
Prime Minister Najib did not even mention the raid in a recent speech to civil servants about maintaining “maturity and calmness” in handling inter-community disputes. Still, that is not as bad as his deputy’s virtual refusal to rein in Selangor Umno from its plan to demonstrate outside the state’s churches.
The suspicion is in fact growing stronger that Jais was acting not in the religious the interest of Muslims, but the political interest of Umno. The more vocal of the groups defending the raid and protesting against the Christian insistence on invoking God’s Arabic name are the same ones that have been supporting Umno against the opposition parties.
While they speak in the name of Islam, these groups are led by people not especially known to be exemplary Muslims. One of them, the government-funded Perkasa, has as its president someone who has more than once committed calumny with the innuendos that he directed at Anwar Ibrahim. And calumny is a grave sin in Islam.
Furthermore, while supporters of the Christians’ right to call on Allah have quoted from the Quran to back their position, we have yet to hear the other side do the same.
It does not take more than average intelligence to figure out Umno’s probable agenda. It’s the old divide-and-rule game again. Even the most blinkered Umno strategist must have seen—from the first Bersih rally to the recent Turun demonstration—that protests against the establishment have been multiracial in nature, with Malays making up a sizeable portion of the participants.
The problem is that the ruse might just work and Umno would gather more support from those Malays whose only sources of information are the government media and news outlets affiliated with Barisan Nasional. The outcome of the 13th general election showed us that BN propaganda did achieve results with rural Malays.
It’s a problem not because we grudge any increase of support for Umno, but because it would mean a deeper rural-urban divide of the nation and perhaps an abiding animosity between Muslim and Christian Malaysians.
But where is PAS in all this? Apart from a few voices assuring support for the Christians in their hour of strife, the party itself has not made an official stand on the issue, at least none that is clear.
It would indeed be a balm to ease the national suffering if President Hadi Awang would reiterate the unambiguous statement he made around the time of the church burnings several years ago that PAS was with the Quran when it came to Allah being God for all. If he did that, he might just upstage Najib as the champion of wasatiyyah.