Where will you be my darling? Where will you be when the dark is rising?
Saturday, January 16, 2010
This word has been quite the topic in the last week. If you don't know, that's the Arabic script for Allah.
I suppose by now everyone knows about the church bombings and attacks. And I thought it's about time I said something about it too. First and foremost, Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious society, of that there can be no doubt. However, their claims of equality of all races and religions leaves a hell lot of room for doubt. How can all races be equal if Malays are given so many privileges? Islam as the state religion is fine, promotion of Islam by the government is the norm, but making the entire country Islamised; now that's not equality either.
There's been a lot of controversy with regards to the unequal treatment of other religions. People can convert to Islam easily, but its illegal in all but one state to leave Islam. And even for Negeri Sembilan, the cases that do go through are a small minority of those applied. Then there's the case of the Hindu temples being demolished, for being so-called illegal, even though several have been around much longer than a lot of us have been alive. And now there's the case of the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims, specifically Christians in this matter. I must admit a lot of turmoil in this country doesn't affect me to a large extent. I may be angered by the arbitry destruction of the Hindu temples, but I am not a Hindu. I may be pissed off by the fact that people can't just choose their religion for themselves, without it being illegal. But I am not a convert who's trying to have it recognized nationally. But now there are churches being attacked and bombed, and I am a part of this Christian community. In a sense, I am part of this community being attacked.
I'm surprised that a lot of people don't know the specifics of what's going on, so if you're one of them, allow me a bit of background information. The Herald is a Catholic newspaper that uses the word Allah in its Malay translation of its newspapers. God is translated Tuhan, but Lord is translated Allah. The government said they couldn't use the word Allah as it was only for Muslim use. However, they challenged this in court and won. And so starts the protests at mosques, and the attacks on churches, just days after the court ruling.
Thankfully, several Muslim leaders have condemned these attacks and none of my Muslims friends condone these attacks either. It's the conservative, narrow-minded uneducated people who commit these attacks. I mean, do they even know that Allah is simply the Arabic translation for God? It's not a personal name or something, theology aside. Arabic speaking Christians use Allah all the time. Hebrew and Arabic have a common Semitic root, which I believe is also closely related to Aramaic. Okay, there's a bit of history I guess. And for the non-Christians, here's a little bit of info for you. The passages translated as Lord in the Bible don't directly mean Lord per se. In the original Hebrew texts, they were a specific name of God that was used to describe an aspect of him. Like Jehovah-Jireh, God the Provider. Jehovah-Rapha, God the Healer. Elohim, God the Creator. All these are simply translated as Lord (or God) in the Bible. Jehovah is the Latinized version of Yahweh, which is the correct pronounciation (or as close as you can get) in Hebrew, for God's name. As Hebrew and Arabic have a common origin, therefore the most accurate translation of Lord is therefore Allah. And these bombing-trigger happy idiots just don't get it.
I'm not condemning Muslims. Of the millions of Muslims in Malaysia, only a small handful commit these attacks. Of course, hundreds (possibly thousands, if estimated liberally) have protested in mosques, and that's another case. But at least they do no violence, no vandalism. They may be offended and protest, but its not to the extent of violence and deadly protests.
And the response from the Christian community? Pray and forgive. Over all of Malaysia, Christians are asking for their fellow brethren to forgive and to allow this as a wake up call for more inter-faith dialogues, and to strengthen to fragile harmony between the different ethnic groups and religious beliefs. I'm pretty sure there's a small minority of Christians who are sinking down to the arsonist's level and demanding revenge and such, but that's just informed guessing. I don't imagine every single Christian has the ability to forgive so easily such a major issue. I don't mean to be a moron or to be degrading to Islam, but I can reasonably infer that were this to happen to mosques, there'd be a much, much bigger group demanding revenge and violence to the perpetrators. Yes, it sounds extremely rude, but I don't think you can deny that.
Of course I'm angry over the bombings and attacks. Desecration to places of worship is an extremely sensitive issue, and an extremely offensive one. No doubt its personal when your specific community is the one being targeted. And no doubt I'm pissed about the fact that cars with Christian articles are getting smashed and such. Paint thrown onto church buildings. But the fact that churches are telling their congregations to forgive? The fact that so many Muslims have condemned these attacks? The fact that Muslims have offered their help and services to affected churches? The fact that Christians still go to church in spite of these bombings?
It gives me hope, that things in this country are better than most of us give credit.