By Stephen Ng
While I may want to congratulate Professor Dr Mohamad Tajuddin Mohamad Rasdi for his article, “Turning the other cheek on the ‘Allah’ issue”, the fact is that he is far from the correct interpretation of the phrase, ‘Turn your other cheek’ (Malaysiakini)
Dr Tajuddin has at least the intellectualism necessary for discussion, compared to most other Muslim extremists from Perkasa, Jati and Isma.
Allow me to therefore, briefly take him on with my side of the story, which will hopefully enlighten him further on the controversy of Allah in Malaysia. I speak as a layman, with little or no theological background.
Meek, of course!
Firstly, the Christian community in Malaysia, since the Alkitab was first banned during former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s first year in power, has been ‘meek’ by comparison.
For the past 20 years, church leaders have continued to tolerate the nonsense, but continued to bring in the Alkitab for the younger generation of Malaysians who were only fluent in Bahasa Malaysia. They have continued to use the name Allah in their worship service with great reverence for the name.
Those of us who did not agree initially began to understand why the name Allah has to be kept in the Alkitab translation, in order to be consistent with the rest of the Malay archipelago, which includes Indonesia, Sabah and Sarawak (where the majority of the Christians are based).
I cannot imagine, for example, for a West Malaysian preacher to speak in Malay to a congregation of East Malaysian brethren, “Kamu panggil Tuhan Allah, tapi kami panggil Tuhan kami, Tuhan.” (You call your God Allah, we call our God, God.”
Most of us did not like to use the name Allah as well initially, because of the connotations in Islam, but to remain in solidarity with the rest of the Christian world, which has been using the name Allah for centuries, including our Arab Christian brothers and sisters, we also accepted that our Allah is capable of a personal relationship with people who choose to know Him.
We have meekly explained our stand for the past 20 years. As the older generation of church leaders passed on, the younger generation of Christians like me, who have watched how the situation unfolded, have this one thing to say: Enough is enough!
Umno’s gutter politics has to be put to a stop, as it is destroying the country. I am not the only one who is saying this. A ‘pakcik’ who told me that he had hated the Mamak for many more years, said the same thing about Umno politics. Looking at TV3, he told me in grief: “Look at what we are teaching our younger generation.”
In another occasion, he said this: “In the past, Malays talk about religion. These days, they talk nothing but money.”
Fitnah Has To Stop
It is a lie that is being spread by Muslim extremists that the name Allah was included in the Alkitab in order to confuse the Muslims. This ‘reasoning’ only came about during the last 20 years. The first time the word Allah appeared in the Malay the Alkitab was in fact in the book of Injil Matius, translated by A.C. Ruyl between 1612 and 1629.
It is also a lie to say that the name Allah was used in the Malay translation of the Alkitab in order to convert Malays to Islam. We have always held that conversion is by one’s choice, and although I wish everyone, including Professor Tajuddin, to believe in Jesus, it is a personal choice. Anyone reading the Bible in English or any other languages can come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ even without the so-called confusion over the name, Allah.
Even if the Alkitab is banned, digital copies of the Alkitab in Malay and Indonesian can be accessed via Youversion.com. The Catholic Herald, which I hardly can gain access to myself, I wonder if any Muslim has even laid hands on it to justify such an uproar!
To me, the Allah controversy is nothing but a polemic issue and at best, a political gimmick to win Malay votes at the expense of the other communities. Again, from what I can see in retrospect, the issue has been exploited by Dr Mahathir in the past. Is this the One Malaysia Najib Abdul Razak had been harping on when he first became the prime minister?
As far as we are concerned, religion is not, and should not, be made a State matter. Since Reformation, the church has always separated itself from the State in what is described by theologians as separation of the Church and State. Therefore, for Muslim extremists and UMNO propagandists, when attacking the DAP, said that Christians had plotted to turn Malaysia into a ‘Christian nation’ is an absolute lie. It is nothing but ‘fitnah’.
For those who read Isma’s fitnah that Anwar Ibrahim is the cause of the rise of the Christian voice, I leave this in your good judgement. I rest my case.
Any good Muslim man and woman should know the punishment meted against fitnah, and fear Allah, or face the punishment in one form or another, but despite all the fitnah, one question that I would like to leave with Professor Tajuddin is this: “Has the Christian community revolted with violence?”
Called to Give an Answer
The Christians are called to ‘give an answer’ for their faith, which includes the reason why the name Allah is being preserved in the Alkitab. Reading from its context in 1 Peter 3: 13-17, you will understand why Christians are meekly defiant:
14 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
I do not need to go into the explanations why the name Allah is theologically correct to be used in the Alkitab. There are already a lot of articles written by theologians, but I like to add my point here: The word Allah is a combination of two words, “Al” (where the word ‘Almighty’ is derived) and “Lah” (which, I believe in Arabic, means God).
The origin on the word is from the pagan Arabs, which can be traced back to the original Hebrew word, Elahe, which means Almighty God. Therefore, to me, the word is not strictly a word used by the Muslims. Nowhere in the world can anyone copyright or trademark the name Allah. In fact, the rationale used by Umno and Muslim extremists all along has turned the nation into a laughingstock even amongst the Muslim community worldwide despite Najib promoting the image of Malaysia as a leading Muslim nation.
If Professor Tajuddin wants an answer to his proposition, I would like to end this by saying that the Christian community to date is ‘meekly defiant.’ This is in line with 1 Peter 3: 13-17.
If the Catholic Herald wants to bring this controversy to the highest court, it is well within their rights to do so in the context of a democratic nation. It is because they still have some faith in the courts that they have brought the matter to court in order to allow justice to be seen being done.
The two rallies that were being called for by Umno Selangor against Father Lawrence Andrew are nothing but political ugliness when religion is mixed with politics. As the Christian citizens in this country, we do not burn the effigies of Najib or Rosmah, or even the Sultan or the Agong; therefore, such meekness of the Christian church already speaks volume.
Perhaps, two other men, besides Martin Luther King would best explain the meaning of ‘meekly defiant’ – Mahatma Gandhi who, despite critical was an avid reader of the Bible, and Nelson Mandela, who was professedly a Christian. Both were meek, but both were also defiant against injustice.
Be it a fatwa, a law or a Sultan’s decree, with all due respect to the Sultan and the authorities, the church will remain meekly defiant. Any good Muslim will understand the Christian sentiments.
That, I believe, is the calling of the church, and with better communication, the Christians in both Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak are more united. Even Christians from both political divide are of one mind, that when you touch the raw nerve of Christianity, you will have to face the consequences, as the proverbial saying goes: ‘Reap what you sow.’