Muhyiddin demanded unity among all Muslims and inadvertently gave a clue to the true reason behind the ‘Allah’ debacle when he said, “Why can’t Umno Baru and PAS work together?”

Muhyiddin knows that the only way that Umno-Baru can maintain power is if the Malays vote them in. For years, many Malays have been gravitating towards the opposition because scandals involving Altantuya Shaariibuu, Scorpene and the National Feedlot Corporation have united them against the corrupt Umno Baru.

In order to break this hold on the Malays, Umno Baru needed a plan that would divide Malay opinion, and so, the ‘Allah’ issue was born.

The debacle did not start in 2007 as many people think, but had its roots in 1986, when it was believed that two letters were sent by the Home Ministry to the Council of Churches Malaysia.

The letter contained a list of 23 prohibited words, not just ‘Allah’. It was alleged that Mahathir issued this directive as part of his Islamicisation drive, and to curtail the freedom of religion for non-Muslims, contrary to the rights which are enshrined in the constitution.

Today, we are led to believe that only the use of the word ‘Allah’ is strictly controlled. Who knows if tomorrow, the rest of Mahathir’s list will be strictly enforced?

One last factor has been deliberately excluded. The debacle is not just about control but is also about fear. The authorities are afraid, because they suspect that many Malays are secretly converting to Christianity. A converted Malay will never vote for Umno.

One person alleges that a Special Branch officer who was sent to snoop on a Christian group, listened to sermons about love, faith, hope and charity, and that after years of surveillance, ended up believing in the message of Christ. It may just be another story, but if true, just shows that racist, inflammatory speeches and violent acts, repel most God-fearing people.

The ‘Allah’ issue will be kept on the back-burner and brought to the boil whenever convenient, to control the voting patterns of the Malays when there is an Umno Baru election, or to control the Christians in the Sabah and Sarawak state elections.

The issue will not go away until Umno Baru falls.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).