Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Allah Mak!! Need Another Expression!!

The only time I ever invoke Allah quite unconsciously is when I say "Allah mak", in expressing regret, like when I miss the turn while driving! Come to think of it, I think most Malaysians would have used "Allah Mak" at some time in their lives despite "lawfully" not being allowed to. Indeed we say those words even in the presence of pious Malays without them starring down at us in dismay.

But really, when looking at this entire debacle one has to ask, who benefits!! ?

Is it the confused Malay/Muslim? I don't think so. No confused Malay or Muslim has given up his religion in any of the countries where Allah is used by Christians. I cannot imagine those who claim confusion can actually point out to any Malay/Muslim who has veered from his faith just because Christians use Allah.

Then why use this argument? Well, it is a claim that no one will bother to test. And when you make such a claim it is always possible to point out made up cases. But really! I cannot imagine even the most stupid or disinterested Peninsula Malay/Muslim getting confused when a Christian uses "Allah" to reference the "Christian God"! Why? Simple really! The Islamic teachings and indoctrinations on their subjects have been so effective that there is usually hardly any space left in them for conjecture or doubts about what and who Allah is to Muslims almost the world over. The fear of Allah that has been conditioned into them has been most effective and that to a large extent is the greatest motivator that has lasted for so many centuries. The use of Allah in far greater Muslim populated areas as well as in more "less educated" Muslim populations than one might find in Malaysia, like Indonesia, Jordan, Syria or Egypt where everyone knows and are used to Christians also referring to Allah, really nullifies this argument about confusion. Unless of course the Malays want to hold themselves out as a tribe that is basically stupid! Other than UMNO wanting to present Malays as such, I really don't think anyone else holds the Malay race to be such.

The allegation that Missionaries purposely insisted that Munshi Abdullah use Allah in his translation so as to more easily reach the Malay/Muslims? Well, maybe some element of mischief might have been intended then. After all they already knew Allah albeit it being an Arabic word and not a Malay word. Tuhan already existed as a word and that should have sufficed. But then this argument would have been valid at that time. At that time when whoever appropriated the Allah word for the use of referencing the Christian God in Malay as a word in the Malay language!

Ah, but then the Allah word was already a word that would have been applied to the Christian God long before Islam came along, one might say. But, hey fine, but that was in the Arabic language as used by the Arabs. There presumably would have already existed the Tuhan word in the Malay language after all which is as generic as God is today in the English language.

Today I say "google it". But "google it" would not have meant a thing only 10 years ago. Google is the company that has come up with the most popular search engine and most widely used. One would have thought, 10 years ago, "yahoo it" might have just as well been understood. A pronoun used as a verb!! Do Google have a say over how I use "google it"?

So, "Allah" which was originally used as a noun, either was appropriated as a pronoun by the Prophet or it was appropriated by the Quran. Or is "Allah" being appropriated as a "pronoun" by the Malaysian Muslims? I guess for me deeper down, I see, that in its present use in this country, Allah is used as a pronoun, rightly or wrongly, to refer to the God that Muslims worship.

Rightly or wrongly, "Allah" has been appropriated as a pronoun amongst Muslims in Malaysia. However, in seeing no demons in its use by Christians in territories where Arabic comes from, the people of that language can be seen using "Allah" more as a noun. Or at least they see when used by Christians, it is used as a noun. That would also appear to be the case in the case of Indonesia, where the language is almost the same as the Malay language that is in contention here.

For most Muslims in Malaysia all this posturings of mine and many others would really make no sense at all. Had well been left alone there would not have been any problems whatsoever. Christians would have happily put up, like in Indonesia, stuff like "Allah ku Cinta" and what not and I cannot imagine any Muslim getting confused over it. They would have had to be a special species subordinate to the least educated Indonesian to even been miffed.

Peninsula Christians

Unlike the East Malaysian Christians the Peninsula Christians would largely be non-Malay speaking. Thus the primary source of Christian worship and learning would be English, Tamil or Chinese. But with the wisdom of our past UMNO leaders, especially Tun Mahathir Mohammad, our children are now far more fluent in Bahasa Malaysia than they are in any other language. But the Government does not want us to worship using the language of the Malays. They have not encouraged, in fact I read somewhere, even banned the publication of the Bible in the Malay language. So what do we do? Well, we import as we have done in the past and as our East Malaysian Christians have been doing all along, from Indonesia, the Indonesian language Bible, which coincidentally is the same, well almost, as the Malay language. There they use Allah!! And no problems so far in Indonesia. Of course we very much would like to export this debacle to Indonesia as well where we want to see discord and where once this was not an issue, we want to make an issue so that our Malays in Malaysia don't stand alone in this matter.

So, even if we do not use "Allah" in publications and writings originating in Malaysia, and even if we stop using Allah in our worship and confined ourselves to Tuhan, we will need to continue to import Indonesian Bibles from Indonesia as we are not allowed to publish Bibles in Bahasa Malaysia. So, this is just not going away.

Credibility of the Muslim's Position

If Allah had been the only word that was "protected", it may be argued that there was some credibility in their position. However, when you ban such words as Amin as well!! Well, the spelling may be different with it being spelt Amen in English. But the pronunciation is the same whether in English, Tamil or Chinese. And Christian prayers in any language end with Amen. Hymns sung on Sundays in most established churches end with Amen. Prayers are said as well as sung where Amen forms the main theme.

I always thought Masjid was a Malay word until my recent visit to India. In Kerala the mosques' names end with Masjid on them. I always thought "Haji" was a reverent title. But now it would seem like I may not be able to go to Jalan Haji Taib or Jalan Masjid India in case I might be in violation of someone's idiotic notion of piety! Hey, going by this idiot's reckoning I think the goings on in Lorong Haji Taib in Kuala Lumpur do more harm to the sanctity of such names than Christians worshiping employing these words.

Who Benefits?

There are so many more arguments put forward for and against the use of Allah. A lot of these arguments don't really make sense. Some are well argued and arguments based on research are to be commended for what they elucidate.

However, I do too have the right to an opinion. In addition to accepting the facts that have been put forward by both sides of this debate, I would say that it is not necessary that all the facts are necessarily relevant to this debate. Squaring up the facts from both sides and arriving at a balance of possibilities that both sides can be equally right or equally wrong, I then am left to see from an angle that does not draw from the theological, linguistic or historic perspectives.

Who benefits? Who benefits when this was a non-issue to begin with? It was a non-issue 30 years ago. It remains a non-issue today everywhere else. But it is an issue today just only in Malaysia. What made it an issue? Who made it an issue? Why did they make it an issue? How different would it be when those who made it an issue become victorious as a result?

It all began in the mid 1980s when some states in their attempt at protecting Muslims from being subject to proselytising started by invoking prohibition laws. With that in mind, words became protected. Allah was not allowed to be said and used by non-Muslims. It did not seem to matter that in so doing, a Muslim convert would have to tread through an illegal path of having to say or read "Allah" while still not yet a Muslim! The excuses they come up for that would be quite amusing really. But at this time, it would seem like those pursuing this push to protection were the religious and the Ulama. Obviously the politicians obliged.

Was it really necessary then? I am of the opinion that it was just unnecessary. The Muslim Malay should be commended for retaining their faith despite migration to Christian or Hindu dominated territories. Surely there should be no fear of them straying in Muslim dominated Malaysia.

Then what really were they saying? I think it served more as a reminder to Muslims as well as Muslim politicians alike that there was the Ulama who Muslim politicians had to submit to. And submit they did. After all it was the mid-eighties when the first fissures within the Malay community appeared with the crossing of swords with the royalty as well as amongst the politicians in UMNO. The Islamic thread happened to be the strongest thread that could bind the different parts of the Malay community together. It was not espoused as such. It was clearly used like as if it was a protective layer. Yet it had the effect of acting as a reminder that the Malay community was united. And maybe that is why, today, despite whatever PAS might say, there is this suspicion about their true intentions.

The demonising of other religions, the sectarian ideas put to kids attending Ugama classes, the hate invoked and perpetuated for anything seen to be as enemies of Islam and the cultivation of hate as a good emotion to have for anything and anyone who might be considered under the classification of "enemies of Islam" have to a certain extent developed the Muslim/Malay psyche. If hate as an emotion can be measured you might just find that for the average Malay it would in all probability be greater than that for others. The hate is in fact cultivated and nourished unlike, for instance, the Christian where he is expected to "love his enemies"!! Thus, what in other Muslim territories is a non-issue, by putting this "Allah by Christians" into that classification the perpetrators have quite successfully staged a rise in temperature amongst the Muslims in Malaysia. Any hope that this will follow on in Indonesia or the Arabic nations has sadly failed to materialise. Maybe the demonising that happens here did not happen in their countries. Even the Taliban have not made any comment on this. Maybe they are just as confused or maybe they are a little pre-occupied with other things.

UMNO would be seen as leading this thrust right now. Of course they are denying it. Well, at least the church burnings. But certainly they want to be seen as being the ones championing what they would like to classify as a violation of Islamic icons of images. Or would it be more right of me to say "impressions"? After a life time of indoctrination, what constitutes Islamic has now been reduced to what UMNO says at their whims and fancies really. Both Allah and Amin are Islamic words and therefore protected and they are the ones standing up to protect them. That is what they want the Malay people to see. It does not matter that 220 million odd Indonesians are laughing about this. It does not matter that the Arabic world is rather amused and confused. It does not matter that the entire Turkish Muslim population and the rest of the new Muslims are finding it hard to explain this quirk. So long as the disingenuous hands in UMNO see that they have a play here to turn the tide of support from PAS and the indifferent amongst the Malays to them, what does it matter? After all they know that their corrupt ways and practices don't also sit along with Islamic teachings. So why not use Islam for their benefit?

I am of the opinion that UMNO leaders actually believe that this episode will play in their favour. After all if the Malay vote is divided 35:35:30 between UMNO, PAS & Keadilan, and undecided respectively, what UMNO needs is maybe a shift of only 5% of the undecided to make it 40:35:25 and they would have their sanctimonious two-thirds majority in parliament.

Yes. As much as they might be pleading otherwise, UMNO sees itself standing to benefit from this entire episode. The Church burnings are just self-fulfilling prophesies of theirs when they claimed that Allah being used by the Christians will incite the Muslims. It has not in 1400 years in the Arabic nations and it has not for several hundred years in Indonesia. What is is that is so unique about Malaysia?

The Chrisitian Position Now?

Before the court case I was of the opinion that it wasn't essential for Christians to use the term Allah. We could use Tuhan and that would be fine. I even wrote about it. But now, with the UMNO led BN without pause after the verdict was announced very quickly submitted the appeal, where it is expected the verdict to be reversed, UMNO's hand in this entire manufactured shenanigans cannot be hidden anymore. Including the violence. The mere fact that this UMNO led government is unable to see what has so far been the greater sacrilege committed against Malaysian Christians by those motivated by the pursuit of their self-claimed Islamic interests, is sufficient evidence that they really don't care. Yes, the sacrilege committed by the two reporters on the holiest sacrament in the life of a Christian is much worse than the burning of churches. All that they do here is the burning of buildings. And that, as all Christians will tell you, is not exactly the Church!

But now? I say let us hold on to our rights!! Why? Quite simple. If we go down on this, they will then say we are confusing them when we end our hymns with Amen or end our prayers with Amen. It is only a matter of time when they will say that we are confusing the Muslims with the lie that Jesus is the Son of God. Indeed every time UMNO feels vulnerable we shall become their useful punching bag. We will be required to say that the son that Abraham was about to sacrifice when God stopped him was Ishmael instead of Isaac. And because the English, Tamil and Chinese Bibles have this "lie" written in them, these Bibles too have to be banned. Is this scenario an impossibility? Fact is, only losers dominate the leadership of UMNO. Losers use any and every means not to sink.