I have nothing clever to say with respect to the controversy involving the usage of the term Allah by Christians in Malaysia (specifically, Catholic Christians I suppose) and objection raised by considerable number of Muslims there.[1] What I have to say is just some plain old consequences arising from my libertarian position. I think I have somewhat clarified my position while trying to explain, what I think is why some more conservative Muslims in Malaysia object to the use of the term Allah by Christians in Malaysia.

In any case, I am going to explain my position.

From the principle of freedom, specifically religious freedom and more broadly, freedom of expression, there is no reason for me to be alarmed by the recent court decision to allow Christians to use the term Allah to refer to their god in Malaysia. For any group to claim exclusive right over an idea that cannot be, in a sense, privatized or perhaps — however ridiculous this may sound — trademarked, is problematic. I cannot quite find the right words to describe it but clearly, no individual liberty has been transgressed by this action taken by Christians. Meanwhile, to prevent Christians from doing so will violate their liberty, and therefore should be untenable for libertarians.

Furthermore, based on the concept of secularism, which I consider as an essential aspect of the libertarian concept of the state, the state should have no role in this at all. So, to me, the court decision is only right. If the court had ruled otherwise, it would call for government intervention in form of religious control in the society.

Not only that, that government intervention will expand the frontier of the state into private life of a person. Just imagine the kind of mechanism required to enforce a ruling that insists the term Allah belongs exclusively to Muslims and no one else in Malaysia. Well, actually, you do not have to imagine it. It is already in place.

Lastly, this conflict paints both Christianity and Islam in Malaysia in a bad light: those Christians who insist in using the term Allah when there are other alternatives and conservative Muslims for their schizophrenic attitude. It is true that the Christian insistence does not violate liberty but hey, a lot of things a lot of people say and do do not violate liberty either. Whether all those things are the smart things to do or say is another matter altogether, even within libertarian constraint.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) — Malaysia’s High Court ruled that a government ban on non-Muslim publications using the word ”Allah” is unconstitutional, settling a dispute that stoked questions about religious freedom in the country.

The Herald, a weekly publication of the Catholic Church of Malaysia, filed for a judicial review after it was temporarily ordered to stop publishing for two weeks in December 2007 after using the word, which means ”God,” in its Malay-language section. [Malaysia Court Rules Catholic Paper Can Print ”˜Allah’. Manirajan Ramasamy. Ranjeetha Pakiam. Bloomberg. December 31 2009]

7 Responses to “[2144] Of libertarian position on the Allah controversy”

  1. on 04 Jan 2010 at 18:50 Jackbid

    I agree with your post. No one religion has a monopoly on words (except scientology) :P.

    The word God or Allah or Elahi or Brahma, is just a concept, which means Creator of the Universe. Scientists might as well call Singularity as God. Who cares?

    I hope people think rationally and be reasonable and solve the dispute.

  2. on 04 Jan 2010 at 21:38 Bobby

    Religion is like a range of highways.
    From KL to Klang, you can take the Federal Hiway, NKVE, Kesas etc.
    At the end of the day, you reach Klang, so it doesn’t really matter what you call your journey.

  3. […] so it has come to this. Amid the tension between those who support — or at least do not oppose — and those who oppose the use of the term Allah by the Catholic Church in Malaysian, a church […]

  4. […] what I have written previously, “the Christian insistence does not violate liberty but hey, a lot of things a lot of people […]

  5. on 13 Jan 2010 at 16:33 Hafiz Noor Shams

    religion isn’t like range of highways. it’s a cul-de-sac.

  6. on 14 Jan 2010 at 12:50 zaaba

    Religion is not a cul-de-sac. Its forcing ppl into a cul-de-sac by telling them other highways are jammed.

  7. […] that I hold, it is the only line of reasoning that informs decision not to oppose it. This is the libertarian position. The purpose of this entry is to address 2 other positions or […]

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