18 Apr 2021

Now “Tuhan” too exclusively for Muslims?

While the Tamil community is still arguing on the actual date for the Tamil New Year (January or April), the “Keling” issue is still ongoing, and the polemic over the use of “Allah” is unsettled, it seems there are “silent” movements on the move, undermining the religious rights of non-Muslims in Malaysia.

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This became clear when I was reading Meredah Kabus (2021), an anthology of Bahasa Malaysia short stories published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP), recently.

I was saddened and shocked to notice that every time a non-Malay (non-Muslim) mentions “Tuhan” (God), it is printed as “tuhan” (god). Examples:

Mala juga sentiasa diingatkan untuk berdoa dan berterima kasih kepada tuhan. (Hlm. 10)

“Demi tuhan,” tegas Ha Rim. (Hlm. 40)

“Biar tuhan dan undang-undang saja yang menghukum mereka! (Hlm. 41)

Semoga tuhan melindungi John daripada sebarang bencana. (Hlm. 63)

Amanah yang diberikan oleh tuhan kepadanya itu yang harus diutamakan. (Hlm. 99)

Dengan keizinan tuhan, Sangeetha dipertemukan dengan Madam Ivy. (Hlm. 223)

Letchumi sempat berdoa agar dirinya dilindungi tuhan. (Hlm. 231)

Inilah balasan tuhan terhadap dosa yang aku telah lakukan terhadap kalian. (Hlm. 236)

Oh, tuhanku! (Hlm. 251)

Dalam hal Zohra, dia bertambah yakin dengan kuasa tuhan dan karma. (Hlm. 323)

But when the story is written by a Muslim, “Tuhan” is allowed:

Farid tidak pernah putus mensyukuri rahmat Tuhan. (Hlm. 156)

Appaled by this, I contacted a few writers and they confirmed that in their original manuscript, they wrote “Tuhan” but it has been changed to “tuhan” in print.

Personally, I have faced a similar situation when I was appointed one of the panels to amend the student edition of the Interlok novel back in 2011.

Among others, Kumpulan Sasterawan Kavyan (Kavyan Writers’ Group) requested and demanded “tuhan” in the student edition of Interlok (2010) to appear as “Tuhan” in the reprint.

For the record, in Datuk Abdullah Hussain’s original version, “Tuhan” is used. But when it was republished as a student edition, every time a non-Muslim character is involved, “Tuhan” has been changed to “tuhan”. If the character is a Malay-Muslim, “Tuhan” is used.

When this issue was highlighted in 2011, some panel members told me bluntly that if I wanted to use “Tuhan” when it comes to non-Muslims, I had to refer the matter to the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

Now, it is clear to me that not only “Allah” is deemed exclusive for the Muslims. There is a movement to ensure “Tuhan” (capital) is also exclusively theirs. It seems “Tuhan” can only be used for Allah.

I see this as a subversive movement to insult and deny the religious rights of the non-Muslims. This clearly goes against Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which allows religious freedom.

A quick check of my books, Orang Dimensi (1994), Siru Kambam (1996), and Surat Dari Madras (1999) published by DBP shows that “Tuhan” is allowed to be used. But the unwritten rules seem to have changed gradually.

The public, which have been very open and vocal about the recent “Keling” term used in the Kamus Dewan seem to be unaware about this subversive movement to humiliate, degrade, and deny the right of the non-Muslims to use “Tuhan” for God.

For everyone’s note, there is only a single entry for “Tuhan” in Kamus Pelajar (1988). But in Kamus Dewan (2005) and Kamus Dewan Perdana (2020), there are different definitions for “Tuhan” and “tuhan”.

“Tuhan” seem to refer exclusively to Allah, whereas “tuhan” refers to “something worshipped by people whose religion or belief is not based on the One God” (“sesuatu yang dipuja oleh golongan manusia yang agama atau kepercayaan mereka tidak berasaskan kepercayaan kepada Tuhan Yang Esa”).

The very first principle of the Rukun Negara is “Belief in God” (Kepercayaan kepada Tuhan). Does “Tuhan” in Rukun Negara, which was introduced in 1970 to unite the nation, refer solely and exclusively to “Allah”?

As a Hindu, I would like to stress that Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) acknowledges One God under the Eka Aneka concept. Anyone who doubts this fact should read the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita. In Sikhism too, Waheguru is the One God.

Therefore, I strongly object and will not give in to any party trying to belittle the Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists etc. It is unconstitutional to say that the non-Muslims are allowed to use “Tuhan” only if they worship the Muslim God, “Allah”.

Bahasa Malaysia as the national language belongs to every Malaysian. Therefore, it would be unfair for anyone to say that all the words in the Kamus Dewan and Kamus Dewan Perdana has to be seen from the Malay-Muslim perspective.

If that is the case, non-Malays and non-Muslims might as well be fully banned for using the language.

As for the use of “tuhan” in Meredah Kabus and other books, I look forward to an unbiased response from DBP. Meanwhile, I urge the general public – especially non-Muslims – to come forward and voice out their concern about similar issues. Silence could be perceived as agreeing to adhere to everything; including the right to use “Tuhan” in one’s own religion.

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Uthaya Sankar SB is the founder of Kavyan Writers’ Group. This piece was published in Focus Malaysia (17 April 2021) as “Apart from Allah, why is the word Tuhan exclusive for Muslims too?”