Mohd Izzudin Saedon
It is believed in Malaysia that “Tuhan ” is the general Malay word for the deity of any religion. (dewa also)
The recent Malaysian court ruling banning the word “Allah” from a Catholic newspaper denies religious freedom of the minority Christian community in Malaysia. How true is this?
(“denies” is too strong a word to describe, ” restricts” woud be more more accurate)
Christians make up less than 10% of the Malaysian population. Although the percentage is higher than Hindus, the religion is a little uncommon among the native Malay Muslims, especially to those living in the peninsula.
.( such a small minority and still cannot compromise nor accomodate the community, making mountain out of molehill , esp in peninsular, even a smaller percentage, hardly a dent in the scheme of things if they had just let things slide and let the christians carry on with it, who would have noticed if no one makes a big stink out of it, but as usual, )
As the more familiar religions of Buddhism and Hinduism refer their deity in words alien to the native Malay Muslims, it is unofficially known that the word Allah denotes only the Muslim “Tuhan” or God in Malay.
(in peninsular, undoubtedly but not so east malaysia, Allah is uniformly acknowledged as meaning God in christianity as well in east malaysia christian bahasa lingo.)
God (in the context of Christianity) is never referred to as Allah.
(in peninsular english /chinese /tamil speaking churches)
Furthermore, the word Allah itself is very foreign to these Christians with some obviously awkward in pronouncing the word. Before the Allah issue, almost all of these Christians would agree that Allah exclusively refers to the Muslim God.
However, things are very different in the other parts of Malaysia, Borneo. Almost 50% of the East Malaysian Bumiputeras (natives) are Christians. These Christian Bumiputeras use their native Iban, Dayak, Penan and other languages in everyday life. All these languages belong to the same group as the official Malay language with many common vocabulary and similar grammar. The use of ‘Malayic languages’ in their religious matters has lead to a controversial issue just recently. Today these Christians are not allowed to call their “Tuhan” as Allah anymore. Now, must they delete all the Allahs in their circulated Alkitab (Malay or Indonesian translation of the Bible) and think of a new name for their Lord?
The real issue
Christianity is not a new religion in this part of the world. Christian missionaries and traders have long spread their faith here with their gold, gospel, glory thingy ever since the Malay trading ports era. There are many Christian Malays outside Malaysia, maybe within Malaysia too, if one does not constitutionally need to be a Muslim to be considered a Malay.
One of the first men believed to have circumnavigated the world, Panglima Awang, who was baptized and known as Enrique of Malacca, was a Malay. Later in the modern world, there were suspicions that another Malay who sailed around the world, Azhar Mansor, had converted to Christianity. The man eventually denied that accusation. There’s this unending, maybe inherited, fear that the Malay Muslims are in constant danger of being converted into another religion (especially Christianity as other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism are not very popular in this once Hindu-Buddhist society). And there are real situations to base this fear on.
While spreading the teachings of other religions to Muslims is illegal in Malaysia, there are evidences that many Malays were converted into Christianity. Malay Muslims become restless as more and more murtad (apostate) cases are uncovered. Some are even concerned about the Orang Asli community who no Malay Muslim gives a damn about before, being proselytised by Christian missionaries although it is not illegal to do so to the mostly animistic Orang Asli.
( why shud they be fearful , if one is strong and proud as to one’s own identity and faith, it shud be unshakeable, no amount of persuasion can change minds if unwilling, in a same vein, it can be viewed from the islamic perspective, why no attempts to reach out and introduce the islamic faith to the nons, not compulsion but explanation,, it is legal and no restrictions)
Back to the Allah controversy, if non-Muslim non-Malay natives of Borneo have long been Christians and have long been introduced to Yesus Kristus, Ruhul Kudus and Allah as the hypostases in the doctrine of Tritunggal (Trinity), why is it that only recently the non-Islamic usage of Allah becomes controversial nationwide?
( because of the home ministry trying to create the impression as champions of the malays/muslims. not anticipating the public reaction)
.Is this not because of all the murtad cases igniting fear among Malay Muslims as I mentioned earlier? Let’s not get to the argument over “rights of spreading the truth”, “religious freedom”, or that “Allah is used in the Arab world”, yet. Let us first agree that the sole reason of this controversy is the fear among Malays that their ancient Muslim identity is being threatened by another “Allah-worshipping” religion.
Where is this fear stemming from? insecurity ,resentment or a supremacy complex, safeguards are in place, illegal to proselytize , or for muslims to convert , born and die as muslims, repressed jealousy/ bitterness coz they cannot and do not have the religious freedom the other faiths freely enjoy so they dont like it and deny it to others subconsciously? )
Being born a Malay Muslim myself, like most Malays living in Malaysia, I cannot guarantee that I perform all the compulsory religious duties or that I do not enjoy any religiously forbidden things.
What is important is that I believe in God. In contrast to most Malays, I do not believe in “Allah, the Malay God” but in God of the universe. He who creates the worlds but is not in this world. He who I believe has been worshipped by people of religion everywhere post=paganism, maybe earlier.
( my point exactly , to many the expressed views are logical n acceptable as forward thinking but Muslims will see it as dangerous threat, creating tension n insecurity and resentment, seems more emphasis on rituals and programmed behaviour in approach to faith matters than true substantive element of the heart and the conscious awareness and desire to worship out of faith and understanding.
“Your God and the God of those Christians, Jews, those people with holy books and all is one” or something similar is actually written in the Quran (see Quran, 29:46). Yes, that big book those Malay kids are bringing to the Ustaz’s house for mengaji (Quran recitation class). These Malay Muslims read the Muslim holy book but they seem to have failed to comprehend anything about the religion besides knowing polygamy is a sunnah.
Ask a typical Malay Joe about inter-religious things. They can only say that the Chinese worship statues of fat men, the Indians worship statues of handicapped men and Christianity is a religion which allows you to practise free sex and wear sexy clothing, among other things. I can imagine how furious a typical Malay would be if I tell them that they have been worshipping the same God as the Christians and the Jews. “But God say must wear tudung (hijab), Christians wear bikinis! Outrageous!” says an imaginary baffled Malay Makcik (elderly woman).
We can say that most Malays, even those with kopiah (skullcap) who go to surau, have little knowledge of their own religion, let alone of other religions. So, with their belief that only Muslims worship Allah, there is no doubt that a typical Malay reading a Christian article or bible with the word Allah all over would probably think that it is an Islamic text. “And that’s when they start to go astray!” says an unknown, maybe imaginary maybe not, Malay Islamic scholar.
Clueless and hence dangerous fertile breeding ground ,evrything is perceived as a threat or they are under siege mentality, reciprocating in retaliatory response that has violent overtures or fanatical mindset)
Malay Muslims with better education are dissident about this issue. While some disagree that Christians are banned from using the word Allah, most Malay Islamic scholars are in favour of it. I believe that those scholars do know that Allah is universal, not exclusive to only Muslims (because them being Islamic scholars, they should know!), but they are afraid Islam is losing its followers in Malaysia. It is because of their awareness about the fact that majority Malay Muslims are only following blindly what they know as “Islamic teachings” told by their ancestors and school text books, or “taqlid”, without real knowledge about Islam.(Irresponsible , They will definitely know but just to conveniently not bring up ,political expediency, manipulative agenda)
Let’s go to the Christians. It is a noble thing to share what you believe is the truth with people around you. Any religion in the world would encourage spreading the teachings of that particular religion to everyone. The more, the better. Even Muslims do this.
There is nothing wrong with it unless you’re in Malaysia and you’re teaching it to Muslims, simply because the constitution prohibits such a thing to happen. If somebody is unhappy about this, that somebody may bring it to the court or take other appropriate ways.
(muslims are shielded and they still behave insecure n fearful of proselytization, are they so worried that they are weak in faith that like north koreans or east germans, floodgates opens, mass abandonment..which if in depth consideration , not far fetched after all, considering the society comprising malays mat rempits, glamor puss, entertaiment celebrities etc.)
All in all, the recent Malaysian court ruling calling a Catholic newspaper to stop using the word Allah is made not to intentionally deny the rights of minority Christian community in Malaysia but more of a protective measure to safeguard the faith of the majority Malay Muslims, done in a not-so-smart way. This is what I believe. (Truth)
Personally, I am against the exclusivity of Allah to Muslims as it is against my belief of a universal God and also because it is un-Islamic.
(maybe a view shared by many malaysian muslims )
In fact, any religious publication should be allowed to use Allah to refer to the Almighty God, be it Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or others, for Allah is the God for all. However, I’m hoping the Malay Muslims get proper and better education.
(liberating the malay mindsets is the key to understanding and acceptance of other faiths and also self confidence /assuredness)
While they are getting there, Herald Malaysia should just use the word “Tuhan” instead. ( impossibility, too deep ingrained spiritually the word Allah to mean God in malay for them.)
My thots are in bold letters..Bryanbb