The Allah decision in Malaysia is set to have wider regional and possibly global implications. The senior editor of The Jakarta Post and a founding member of the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ), Endy M Bayuni, reflects on the implications of this decision for his country, Indonesia in this poignant opinion piece:
And it is a debate that sooner or later will come to Indonesia, for the seeds of exclusivity have already been deeply planted among Muslims in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Like their Malay Muslim brothers, Indonesian Muslims who share the same Malay root language, translate the phrase Lailaha Illallah to Tiada tuhan selain Allah (in English: No God but Allah), instead of the literal translation “No god but God”.
He goes on to say:
Exclusivity to the claim of God is equally strong in Indonesia, if not stronger, than in Malaysia.
Indonesia has had its share of debates on Islam’s claim to exclusivity, including whether non-Muslims should be allowed to say the traditional Islamic greeting assalamu’alaikum (which means peace be upon you) and other popular Islamic expressions such as Alhamdulillah (praise be to God) and Insya Allah (God willing).
It’s only a matter of time before someone takes the cue from Malaysia and starts raising objections to non-Muslims using the word Allah.
The problem with religious exclusivism is that it breeds intolerance, which leads to prejudices against the others.
Indonesia and Malaysia may rightfully claim to have developed a more moderate strand of Islam, and history has actually proven that Muslims in this part of the world to be more tolerant when compared to their brothers and sisters in Islam’s place of origin in the Middle East or in South Asia.
But there is only a thin line dividing tolerance and intolerance, so we should not take this moderation for granted.
With the rising exclusivism that the Muslim majorities in these two countries are pushing, we may be witnessing the Islam in Malaysia and Indonesia becoming less and less tolerant. In fact, it may already be happening.
Endy M. Bayuni ends by asking a question that many Malaysians are asking of their Prime Minister:
Which begs the question: Is there anyone in this country that is pushing for more religious inclusivism? Insya Allah.