Lost in translation?

FEB 13 ― It is heartening to hear that the one who gave out white packets for Chinese New Year does not speak for the ruling government.

He does not speak for me, my family and friends either. Nor do those who belong in the same book-burning club, masquerading as defenders of all that is good and holy even when the public perceives them to have little or nothing between their ears.

God forbid someone like that ever speaking on my behalf, ever.

I have often pointed out the danger these people pose to the society. They may be small in number, noisy empty cans, but leave them alone and you will find many joining their ranks. What started off as a small flame will end up burning our home.

Our education system, as we know it, does not produce the sharpest tools in the shed. The education minister must realise this when calling for calm.

It is only a matter of time before the like-minded get together to form a bigger coalition. Imagine if those running correction camps for LGBTs join forces with the Perkasa boys. No number of marches by BERSIH and water cannons will ever clean our streets of them.

Fools seldom differ.

But since we are talking about the usage of Allah in Malay-language bibles, let us discuss it rationally. I am in no way trying to question the decision by the High Court regarding this matter, nor pretend to be an expert on Islam or Christianity so my comment is based mainly on logic and rationale. Those who lack these two faculties should stop reading now.

But before we wade into deeper waters, Malaysians who were shocked to find out about Malay-language bibles please grow up. To think that all Malaysian Christians speak English is a bit too much. Besides what is our national language for if not to unite all Malaysians across racial and religious lines?

There are, of course, bibles in other languages too: Arabic, Mandarin, Tamil, Urdu, French, Japanese, Korean, etc. Christianity is, after all, a religion embraced by many worldwide.

As the bible is read across the world in many, many languages, there is a need to translate the word for “God” in the English bibles into one that the locals understand. For instance the Mandarin bibles translate the word God into “Shen,” in Tamil “Devan.”

The Arabs would translate the word God as “Allah” in their bibles.

If we were to follow this logic, and leave foolish emotions, politics, and most importantly egos aside, what would the word God be in the Malay language? Bahasa Malaysia 101, people, what is “God” in Malay?

I may be wrong but isn’t God “Tuhan” in Malay?

So here comes the big question, what is an Arabic word doing in a Malay bible? Allow me to be more specific. What is the ONLY Arabic word doing in the Malay-language bible?

There are no Arabic words in the Mandarin, Tamil, Japanese nor Korean bibles. So why the Malay-language bibles?

This is not a rethorical question. I need it answered.

The Indonesian bibles, for instance, use the word Allah. It was first made by Dutch Christian missionaries in what is now Indonesia, aimed at converting Muslims to Christianity, and so deliberately used the term “Allah” instead of the Malay term “Tuhan” to refer to God.

Is that the answer, then? An attempt at conversion?

Yes, the Christians and Muslims may worship the same God in spite of our differences. You may say that we share the same prophets who were sent down to guide us by the same God, The Author of all our holy scriptures. The word Allah predates Islam, and is therefore not exclusive to Muslims.

So what is the big deal?

We live in a world where people wage wars, burn families and severe heads in the name of religion. What makes every religion addictive to mere mortals like us is the emotional, and spiritual attachment that is unique to every follower which demands a certain amount of faith to follow.

Depending on education and upbringing, it could bring out the best in people but unfortunately also brings out the worst in some. That is religion ― which is why it is a big deal.

If you ask me, I would be more than happy if everyone can accept the fact that we are all descendants of Adam and Eve, that we all share the same God akin to one big happy family instead of eyeing and treating each other with suspicion.

But this is Malaysia, a land where our children eat, play and learn separately. A land where disparities are as clear as day with religion worn on sleeves for all to see.

A land where politicians use race and religion to attract votes and are willing to stoop low for an extra point or two.

To use an Arabic word in the Malay language bible, when it is not the case with the bibles of other languages would seem wrong, unfair, and suspicious to Muslims. For someone who has Christian family members and friends, I will be the first to defend their freedom to practise the religion without interference from anyone.

But this isn’t about freedom of worship, or defiling the sanctity of a holy book. Nor is it about the exclusive ownership of the word Allah by Malaysian Muslims.

This is about respecting other religious sensitivities in a multiethnic, multicultural society.

Fighting over a mistake such as this will not be beneficial to Muslims nor Christians and will only allow politicians to put a wedge in and part us further. We need to resolve this amicably and move forward for the sake of our nation, and the future generation.

My suggestion is that the Malay language bibles need not be any more different than the bibles of other languages. Do what has been done elsewhere. There won’t be any confusion then.

To you your religion, to me mine (Quran 109:06).

* This is the personal opinion of the writer


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