Wednesday, 6 January 2010

More on the manufactured "Allah" controversy....

Protests over 'Allah' ruling embarrassing
A Rahman
Jan 6, 10
I refer to the Malaysiakini report Home Ministry applies for stay on 'Allah' ruling.

I fail to understand the logic of some of my fellow Muslims protesting in Penang and the federal government's (our prime minister, the Prime Minister's Department, the home minister and home ministry) stand to appeal over the High Court's decision over this issue. Why should Muslims get 'heated up' ?

The reasons given were:

1. As quoted by Syed Hassan Syed Ali, secretary-general of Malay rights group Pribumi Perkasa: 'We fear that the court victory will mean that Christian missionaries will now use the word, confusing (the identity of) Muslims and undermining religious harmony.' This is the 'confusion theory' that has been given as a reason. There is also a claim by the federal government that it will threaten national security.

2. Due to this 'confusion', it seems we Muslims are not able to distinguish between the 'Allah' of the Christians or that of the Muslims.

Now, when we debate this matter, it has to be done with a sound mind and a clear understanding of whether the ban on the term 'Allah' was done fairly to us Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Consider the facts :

1. The word 'Allah' has been used by pre-Islamic Arabs for God. There is evidence that the word 'Allah' existed before the birth of Muhammad (PBUH) for thousands of years. It is probably the oldest name man used to call God. Prophet Muhammad's father's name was Abdullah (The slave of Allah). This name was common among the Arab pagans and Jews. Abdullah bin Salam was one of the first Jews to convert to Islam in Medina.

2. We know for a fact that the Arabic Christians still use the term 'Allah' for their God. The word Allah is used in all Arabic translations of the Bible.

3. Our Sarawak and Sabah non-Muslim indigenous people have been using the word 'Allah' for God since the 1800s. I have seen, via the Internet, an 1818 version of the Christian bible, with the words 'Allah'. I am not sure of its origins though but it makes use of the word 'Allah'.

4. Other religions too do make mention of 'Allah' as their God.

a. 'Allah' in Sikhismis one of the names by which Gurunanak Sahib refers to God.

b. 'Allah' in Hinduism

i. 'Allah' in Rigveda Book 2 Hymn 1 Verse 2. Even in the Rigveda which is the most sacred scripture of the Hindus, one of the attributes given to God Almighty in Book No 2 Hymn No 1 verse II, is 'Ila' which if pronounced properly is the same as 'Allah'.

ii. Allo Upanishad. Amongst the various Upanishads, one is named as 'Allo' Upanishad in which God is referred to as 'Allah' several times.

5. I remember too that in the Quran, it states that the Christians do call their God as 'Allah', This in Al-Qur'an 5:72-73.

I am not an Islamic scholar but claiming that the use of the word 'Allah' would confuse us Muslims is really rubbish and to go beyond to claim that it will threaten national security is preposterous. Are we so weak in our faith that we cannot differentiate and we would turn apostates easily just because of the works of some Christian missionaries using this word?

Do Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak get confused? Come on, this is an insult to us Muslims. Are we saying we do not have depth in our faith that we can simply convert out of Islam just because of this? Does our Islamic faith carry such teachings? Is this more of the work of Man rather than of Allah?

We do not need Islamic scholars to tell us this. True Muslims do not need the government and self-proclaimed champions such as these Muslim groups to protest on our behalf. Their very act of claiming to protect our faith shows how shallow-minded these people are - both the protestors and the government.

They seem to capitalise on the political aspect of the situation rather than championing for the true cause of Islam. I'm not sure whether these protestors themselves understand the logic of why they are protesting. This is embarrassing us Muslims - not protecting our Islamic interests.

I shared this news with a few of my old Muslim friends overseas in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia and Jordan via e-mail. They could not even believe me when I told them that the Malaysian government bans the use of this word and that some Islamic groups protested in support. They thought I was joking!

We should observe fair administration due to the fact that many of our ministers and department heads are Muslims. We should have treated the non-Muslims fairly as well. The government has confiscated 15,000 Malay bibles of the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak even though the word 'Allah' has been in use since 1800s.

This news has been published throughout the world. We impose and claim exclusiveness on the word 'Allah' when such as act is not even found in our Islamic faith while our Holy Quran even says that Christians do, in fact, use the word 'Allah'. Is this how Muslim leaders act? Is this called fairness to the peoples of other faiths?

You know what is the talk of the town now? That the court of appeal will override the high court decision. This is already expected by the man-on-the-street. So predictable that many of my non-Muslim friends are betting on the odds that it will be overturned. This makes our court of appeal a 'kangaroo court'. Is this how the people should think of our government - of which the majority of leaders are Muslims ?

We talk so much about this '1Malaysia' and 'People First' (Rakyat di Dahulukan). Looks like this is just more empty talk. We are back to square one as far as the man on the street is concerned . The Muslim leaders in the government and some self-proclaimed 'champions of Islam' are the ones giving Islam a bad name, sad to say.

All I am saying is let us put this issue to rest with the high court's decision and let us move on as Malaysians. If this issue of using the word 'Allah' by any other religion is not prohibited by any our Islamic teachings as spelled out in the Holy Quran and the Hadith, then what is the fuss by some misinformed Muslims?

Further appeals and counter-appeals would do more damage to the nation's reputation in the eyes of the international community and to the unity of the various races of different creed within Malaysia. To the prime minister and the home minister, shouldn't the government act like true and just Muslim leaders and spend more time rectifying the economic situation rather than appealing over this issue?

Allah can’t be substituted with Tuhan in Bible translation

Muslims in other parts of the world (Arabs, Persians, North Africans, Pakistanis and Indonesians) have no objection and are not worried about getting confused when Christians using the word “Allah”. In contrast, some Malaysian Muslims claim to be confused; a strange phenomenon indeed.

By Dr Ng Kam Weng (Sin Chew Daily)

This observation lends credence to the suggestion that the Allah issue is an artificial Malay issue and not a genuine Muslim issue. The truth is that the current orchestrated protests against the recent High Court decision to allow the Catholic Herald (and Christians) to use the word Allah must be seen to be as cynical manipulations by Malay politicians to gain votes from their community.

I am more interested in going beyond these political manoeuvres. Politicians (and that includes government bureaucrats) are happy just to stay at the level of vague suggestions since they have no competence nor care to address real issues of translation. In contrast, Christians must ensure their arguments for the right to use the word Allah are based on concrete evidence supported by a coherent linguistic philosophy of translation of Scripture.

One major demand from the Malay protestors is that Christians stop using the word Allah on grounds that Christians can find a simple alternative, that is, simply substitute the word Allah with the word Tuhan. Unfortunately, this demand only betrays the ignorance of the protestors.

I would have thought that any Malay would know that the meaning of the words Allah (God) and Tuhan (Lord, Rabb) are not the same. How can they suggest that Christians simply use the word Tuhan to substitute the word Allah? To express the issue linguistically, Allah and Tuhan have different senses even though they have the same reference.

Both the terms Allah and Tuhan are used in the Malay Bible. Following the precedent set by Arab Christians, Allah is used to translate el/elohim and Tuhan (or TUHAN in caps) is used to translate Yahweh (YHWH). The two words are sometimes paired together as Yahweh-Elohim in 372 places in the Old Testament (14 times in Genesis 2-3; 4 times in Exodus; 8 times in Joshua; 7 times in 2 Samuel; 22 times in Chronicles; 12 times in Psalms; 32 times in Isaiah; 16 times in Jeremiah and 210 times in Ezekiel, etc.).

More importantly, the word Tuhan is also applied to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Thus we read of the LORD Jesus as Tuhan Yesus (The word LORD was used to translate the word kurios 8,400 times in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. It refers to human beings in only 400 times and refers to God 8,000 times. Of these 8,000 times, 6,700 are substitute for the word YHWH). The transference of the title kurios LORD/YHWH to Jesus Christ is testimony to the belief in the deity of Christ right at the beginning of Christianity.

This simple statistical survey shows clearly that the demand by Muslim demonstrators that Christians simply substitute the word Allah with Tuhan is unreasonable since it renders many Biblical references to God and Jesus Christ incoherent. First, the substitution is incorrect since the meaning of Allah and Tuhan are different.

Second, it creates an absurd situation when Christians try to translate the paired words Tuhan Allah (LORD God). Are Christians now required to call the LORD God, Tuhan Tuhan? This sounds like committing linguistic redundancy. Worse still, the repeated words Tuhan Tuhan come across to Malay readers as suggesting that Christians believe in a plurality of Lords/Gods (since the plural form in Malay is expressed by repeating the noun and setting them in apposition).

Finally, Christians are unable to express the Lordship of Jesus Christ as one who is distinct from the Father and yet shares with the God of the Old Testament, the name that is above every other name — kurios/Tuhan (Philippians 2:9, cf. Isaiah 45:23). In other words, Christians are rendered unable to affirm the deity of Jesus Christ and teach the doctrine of Trinity without the foundational words that maintain the semantic relationship between the words Allah and Tuhan as they are applied distinctively in the Malay Bible.

Christians in Malaysia would do their utmost to maintain religious harmony in Malaysia. Indeed, the Christianity community has made many concessions to accommodate the concerns of the Malay community.

However, it cannot accept the demand that it abandons the use of the word Allah and adopts the word Tuhan as the substitute simply because some ill-informed Malays take offence at their practice — an offence which would not have arisen if only these people set aside emotions and prejudices and examine the historical and linguistic evidence in a calm and rational manner. At the very least, Malays (or rather Muslims) should understand that believers are not at liberty to change the meaning of their Scriptures, the word of God, to satisfy the unfounded scruples of man.


I refer readers to the accompanying post, “Translating the Names of God” published in the learned journal (The Bible Translator) that gives more concrete examples of how the names of God are translated in the Malay Bible.

The article also discusses the controversy among some scholars on how words Allah and Tuhan should be used in the revision of Shellabear’s version of the Malay Bible. In any case, all the scholars in the controversy agree that Christians need to use both the words Allah and Tuhan in the Malay Bible. Please note that the article is reproduced (partially) with permission from the author Dr D Soesilo.

What? Malaysian? Welcome to Umno-Land, Buddy!

A Letter to Lim Kit Siang

Dear Mr. Lim Kit Siang,

I have utmost respect and admiration for your tenacity in remaining in Malaysia to champion the cause of justice and equality and fight for a Bangsa Malaysia.

My heart broke when I read about your article regarding the honest cyber cafe operator especially when he wondered if he ‘had chosen the wrong country’ to start and operate his business.

I see my situation summed up in that phrase. You have said before that the best and brightest are leaving this country. Well, I am making every preparation to leave. I have consistently scored straight As in every public exam and placed among the top 3 of my form. In university, I studied medicine and am among the top scorers. I have just graduated and scored near perfect results in a medical licensing examination that will enable me to work abroad and further my studies.

I was born a Malaysian yet I cannot see myself as a Malaysian. As a Chinese, I feel that I am being discriminated against. I feel that the government is trying its hardest to sideline me just because of my race. I look around and see this discrimination manifested in various forms. From the issue regarding religious conversion to the allocation of places in local universities, the stench of discrimination is sickening.

It was horrifying to note in my batch of medical students, there were a substantial number of malay students who actually did not apply for medicine but were sent to study it. It is disgusting to think that many STPM straight A scorers are deprived of a chance to study medicine while the government gives the places to people who are not even sure that they want to study medicine.

I have seen how racial politics sully the environment in the university and how unqualified people are in high posts at the expense of far more intelligent and qualified individuals just because they are Malay. I have heard the terrible statements made by delegates at the recent UMNO General Assembly about revoking my citizenship rights should I question their special rights.

I have seen the videos on YouTube where UMNO MPs have the audacity to ask us to ‘keluar’ of the country if we don’t like what they are doing to it. And I see the pathetic attempt by the PM to ‘discipline’ these racists. I hate the fact that Gerakan and MCA have done NOTHING to fight for my rights instead of just kow-towing to UMNO for their own gains.

Patriotism isn’t about singing the national anthem or raising the flag. It isn’t about accepting at face value everything the government says. It isn’t about attending merdeka celebrations. It is about feeling accepted as part of your nation. It is about knowing that your nation accepts you as a son or daughter. It is about realizing that being a part of a nation entails certain responsibilities. That is my definition of patriotism.

And right now, as a Malaysian, I am feeling anything BUT patriotic. 50 years of independence? So what? What has it done for me? Whoopee. I have a chance to change my life. I will change my destiny. I could not choose the country where I was born but I can very well choose the country that I will swear my allegiance to. I want a country that will recognize me as a citizen and grant me rights equal to that of all other citizens. I want a country that has the wisdom to recognize my potential and talents and reward me accordingly. I want a country where the government fears its people and conducts itself in a manner worthy of respect and honor.

This is not my nation. I am leaving. Mr. Lim, I salute you and all those like you who can find the strength and energy to fight for an ungrateful bunch of people. How many actually held mass protests, hunger strikes or rose up to defend you and your family when you or your son was imprisoned for fighting for us? How many did more than just shake their heads and move on with their petty little lives? None that I know of. Yet you continue to defend their rights.

You are an amazing man, Mr. Lim and I truly admire you for that. Unfortunately, I have a bright future ahead and I will not waste it in this country. It is not my nation.

Thank you for fighting the good fight.

(Author’s name withheld for privacy)