Hornbill Unleashed

August 29, 2013

Blind men and elephants – Part II

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

KJ John

In January 2010, I wrote a column with an almost similar title. But then it was allegorical writing, and I would have thought that most of proponents of this “claim of intellectual and patent rights for the God-word ‘Allah'” would have understood the nuances of why we should not do it. Obviously, I am not as well-read as I would like to think. Therefore, those for whom: “tak makan cili dan tak rasa pedas“, please read the original column here.

The only difference between the original title and this one is that I now consider that there are many more such elephants and these animals have now come into our family rooms; but somehow we all cannot still see them clearly.

Therefore, allow me to write again, and I must have already written each of these arguments at least once before in the many columns related to this matter of discourse, debate, contention and now the subject of an appeal in the Courts. The greatest mistake of ours is the very BIG word: anthropomorphisation and its meaning. Please take time to understand this word so that we do not reveal our real ignorance.

Irrationality is not an argument

My friend AB Sulaiman has written about ‘Sensitive Truths in Malaysia: A Critical Appraisal of the Malay Problem‘. Please read his book to understand the difference between emotional non-rationality and true rationality.

Another good friend, Azly Abdul Rahman, has also written another book with the title, ‘The Allah Controversy and Other Essays on Malaysian Hypermodernity‘. Both books are available with SIRC, the same publishers of the book on Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Pak Lah), ‘Awakening!’ Please read them, too.

Now, for those who do not bother to read, but still choose to give their irrational and ignorant views both in public and private, I appeal with the following words: For God’s sake do not do it. I mean it, as you will be judged for its use and abuse.

My reasons for why bumiputra Christians have the rights to use the word, ‘Allah’ for their heart language for God are as follows:

  1. The Malay word for ‘Allah’ was crafted way back in the 16th century by a Dutch Scholar, AC Ruyl, when he translated the first ever Gospel of Matthew in 1629. It was the first ever non-English translation of the King James Version, even then. By 1646 Van Hasel’s translations of the Gospels of Luke and John also carried the same word and they can be found in the University of Amsterdam and the University of Cambridge. The first ever full Malay Bible was done by 1733. Maybe we do not want to call this a Malay translation; if so, please at least call it an Indonesian translation.
  2. Therefore, the Malaysian and Indonesian bumiputra Christians have been using this Malay/Indonesian translation since before they became Malaysia by joining up with the states of the Federation of Malaya. If we did not object about this issue then when they agreed to join the states of Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia; it is probably too late to protest now, unless we want them to leave and become independent states, as did Singapore.
  3. The Herald’ is a Catholic newsletter of the worldwide Catholic Church, and maybe only the Malaysian ones carry more than one language translation to address the many different language communities of reach. Moreover, within this too, I believe, it is only the Bahasa version which carries the ‘Allah-word’.
  4. The Catholic Church was forced by the 2009 Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri prohibition dated Feb 16, 2009 to file the court case and won the case for the continued use of the word by the High Court on Dec 31, 2009. This has been a contentious issue between the Home Affairs Ministry and The Herald for a long time.
  5. Now that the general election is over, the government has decided to move forward with the appeal to be heard some four years later and just before the Umno AGM 2013. I wonder who timed all this, and why? Nevertheless, on March 30, 2010, CFM (the federation of all Churches in Malaysia) issued a letter of clarification to all Christians about the Allah-word and the Alkitab (revised). This note is available on the CFM website and is worth visiting for a full education on this matter and the long history of the “battle with the government of Malaysia” over the basic human right to use this heart language word for BM worshippers.
  6. The government of Malaysia through the cabinet letter, which is the highest executive authority in Malaysia, has affirmed the grounds on which the Malaysian Malay Bible can use the term Allah.
  7. Moreover the High Court judgment has explicitly agreed to allow the usage of the Pre-Judaic, and pre-Islamic word for ‘God’ as also the Bahasa word for God in Bahasa Melayu now. The issue is a theological one and well within the Christian research traditional of critical historical analysis and interpretation by Biblical scholars. It is not for the government of Malaysia or even the Malaysian courts to decide which word a Christian Malaysian who worships in Malay can or should use to call their Lord and God.

Multi-cultural rationality for 1Bangsa of Malaysians

I was taught ‘Bahasa Jiwa Bangsa‘. If that ‘bahasa’ does not include me and the other bumiputra Malaysians, and the ‘bangsa’ does not include all other non-Malay Malaysians, we need to be told so. Then we have to review our ‘jiwa’ in this nation-state we call home.

Otherwise, I can only advise Najib Abdul Razak to push ahead to create a 1Bangsa of Malaysians which is a multi-cultural, multi-religious and a Bahasa Malaysia-speaking community, who have multiple identities about the same but who all call this nation-state their home.

Moreover, I also sang in Malay about a God called Allah to protect my Kedah sultan. Was I really abusing the God of Muslims but taught to do so by my school system? I understand that even Selangorians sing about an Allah who should protect the sultan. Should that also be banned?

Dear ignorant Malaysians, let us move towards a 1Bangsa of Malaysians. Let us not pretend that the word race has many values and definitions. There is only one human race, and one human-imaged God. Surely, the same God does not change because we change the law or amend our constitution, or call him by different names.

The elephant is in our living room and it is time we recognise it. If we choose not to, then we need to also realise that we may only be describing one small part of the same elephant. If we are still ignorant about the same, maybe we should stop throwing stones at the other houses that also have elephants in their living rooms. May God bless Malaysia with rationality as part and parcel of the God we can know.

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