Monday, February 2, 2009

Allah...The Debate Continues...

This is the continuing discussion from Jebat Must Die's post, The Name Allah: Quid Pro Quo on the Christian Community

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river

I’ve read EWO’s comment which was also published on his blog linked from Dato’ Sak and since you have rapidly approved it here, I prefer writing my piece on the livelier platform.

I have the feeling that this article will trigger emotional reaction from the Muslims and there would be provocations from their antagonists as well. I think I have read the same argument points from one of RPK’s No Hold Barred or Corridor of Power articles last year before he was arrested. EWO’s essay on this does feel like a deja vu. I can apologize EWO for failing to apprehend the issue beyond the surface perspective as he is a non-muslim.

This quagmire is beyond your (or RPK’s) simple reasoning on the basis of lingual relevancy. The fact is that in this country, it is illegal to lure Muslims to leave their religion. The act of the Herald was deemed by the authority to be susceptible in promoting confusion among the local Muslims, therefore the authority is merely intervening to eliminate such confusion. Muslim parents in Borneo share deep fears of having their children understanding in faith silently distorted by undercover missionaries. When the word Allah is seamlessly employed to describe the monotheism in Islam and the trinity in Christianity, what prevents these missionaries from preaching trinity to Muslim children at school who have yet to capture a thorough understanding of their parent’s religion? The usage of the word could start from publication today, and finally ends up as a common term in verbal exchange later.

It is not because the word ‘Allah’ belongs to the Muslims, it is because the law in this country protects Muslims from apostasy.

Malaysia inherited the constitution from Malaya where Islam is the official religion of the federation, since Tanah Melayu was comprised of states with a majority Muslim population under the sovereignty of the Muslim Malay Rulers, coupled with Islamic administration and culture that predated more than 400 years ago. Against Karpal Singh’s objection, Malaysia is indeed a Muslim country which tolerates the existence of diverse religions and minority ethnic cultures. Coming back to the main topic, the Malaysian Christian community should not complain if they are unable to use the ‘Allah’ as reference to ‘Lord’ in bahasa. Believe me, we are referring to the same God albeit the the difference in our understanding on the concept of Deity and the relevant practices. But in a unique country like ours, there is no substitute for mutual tolerance and respect. The majority must acknowledge the rights of the minorities to practice their culture and faith, while the minorities must in turn not insisting on engaging on sensitive provisions dear to the majority such as the religion. In this case, if the Muslims of the country are against the usage of Allah in a non-muslim religious context for various reasons, so be it. ‘Tuhan’ can be a formidable option to replace ‘Lord’.

p.s. Dear EWO. Abdullah, Muhammad’s father, does not equate to ‘Son of God’. It means the servant of God.

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river,

Actually, I have no problems NOT using "Allah" in my faith. I hardly ever use it more than 10 times in a year, and it's only when we are expressing our Malaysian-ness by singing Malay-language songs in church (most of them written by Indonesians).

Apocryphalist may have written a cheeky and appealing article, but it fails to illuminate the real issues in Malaysia as you do in your post. His article merely panders to religious emotionalism, and that serves no purpose but to drive the people of this land further apart.

However, your points are spot-on in the Malaysian context. And you concisely express these uniquely Malaysian issues in a few points. You said it best in this one statement:

"It is not because the word ‘Allah’ belongs to the Muslims, it is because the law in this country protects Muslims from apostasy."

And on that score, it warrants a proper discussion.

If I may summarise your post in one sentence: the majority-Muslims in this country feel their faith - and by extension, their sense of self as defined by the Malaysian Constitution - is threatened when the minority-Christians refer to "God" as "Allah".

While I understand that some Muslims may have fears of rampant apostasy happening (and I am not insensitive to such fears), these feelings are merely symptoms of even larger issues. And these are national issues, that have nothing to do with exclusive language or apostasy or even religion.

Issues like -

* Why does the already well-protected majority-segment of society feel threatened by a well-controlled minority-segment?

* Why has the attitude of the majority-segment of society towards the minority-segments devolved since Merdeka from acceptance to tolerance to suspicion to feeling threatened?

* Why has there been no effective dialogue among segments of society to build bridges and forge a strong nationhood based on mutual trust and acceptance?

* Why have such attempts been suppressed by the government while the divisive concept of "fighting for my own race/religion's rights" have been given free reign?

These are serious questions that need to be resolved if we are to move forward as a cohesive nation. Creating more and more laws to curb the freedoms of the minorities for their perceived "threats" is NOT the way to build a nation!

Why is this happening in our country? Is it because the majority is harbouring more and more damaging suspicions (and subsequently, leading to intolerance) towards minorities? If that's the case, wouldn't the truth be the panacea to mere speculation?

Don't be suspicious, be informed! The government should reveal the official data!

What is the apostasy rate among Muslims? Who are the persons responsible for such apostasies? Have they been brought to book? What are parents and mosques doing to instil solid religious values in their children so that they won't turn away from their faith?

Every Malaysian knows it's illegal for Muslims to convert, and illegal to proselyte to Muslims. If anyone has broken the law in that respect, there are more than enough laws to charge, prosecute and convict such "criminals". We even have TWO legal systems to ensure no one escapes the law!

So where's the "threat"?

All of this can be distilled into one simple truth: individual families and the govt should be doing their CURRENT job properly. If they do that, they won't need to find new ways to keep the "dangerous" minorities away from the Muslims!

In all of this, the ultimate question we need to ask oursleves is "If our nation continues along this path, where will it lead to?"

I'm sure that if you do a little reading, you will have no problem finding a nation where suspicion towards minorities escalated to tragic ends. And you will find that they tread much similar paths that Malaysia is on now.

And THAT'S why I support the Christians' continued freedom to use the term "Allah". Because if we allow ourselves to be governed by more and more restrictive laws while failing to address the fundamental issues mentioned above, Malaysia will eventually become one of the select few nations that the world holds in infamy. !

So let's not shoot ourselves in the foot! Let's talk and come to an understanding as a nation. Dialogue, acceptance and mutual respect builds nations, NOT attrition.

p.s. I stand corrected. Abd-Allah is indeed the "servant of God". Thank u!

5 comments:

  1. Stephen Felix GrosseFebruary 2, 2009 at 5:04 PM

    Allah, God, Isa, Jesus, Musa, Moses, Ibrahim, Abrahim, Mary, Mariam, Fatimah, Fatima...the list goes on.

    I feel it does not matter. As long as we believe in God, and do what's right, that's the main point.

    So praise be to God, Allah, Tuhan...Praise His Holy Name.

    Amen, Amin.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're right. It doesn't matter what name we call God.

    What DOES matter is people telling other people what they can or cannot call their God.

    ReplyDelete
  3. GOD will judge those buggers who denied His people the chance to worship Him.

    A ridiculous point. Nothing better to argue but this.

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  4. This JMD and Apo do not allow for rational debate, do they? My comments have been censored ...

    "What DOES matter is people telling other people what they can or cannot call their God."

    Touche. That's the whole point. It's unconstitutional. It's not about the limit of circulation and all that.

    ReplyDelete