I PROMISED myself that I would not make any comment on the whole Bible row and the ‘Allah’ issue. After all, many bloggers have commented about it; some have even raised an almost academic point over the whole matter (read this post on LoyarBuruk). There are enough mouthpieces in that sense, so no point flogging a dead horse. In fact, just last night, after drinks with Ivan Lam at Chilli’s, I was thinking it’s high time for another narrative on art (it’s been a while and I miss it).
But when I got to work this morning and got online to read the news, the reports on the whole Alkitab and Allah issue stifled whatever plans I had the night before. The politicising of the matter and the fact that it has gotten inadvertently tied up with the coming Sarawak elections — and very likely, considering our (political) track record, even the GE — really got me hot under the collar.
Let me first say that I am by no means a staunch Christian; I admit to being unable to live out the tenets of Christianity for the most part, but I try my best. I believe that the Bible (or the Alkitab, in keeping with the current religious dissensions in the country) is true and that it is a source of inspiration to me as a believer; a reminder to live right and be good to others.
And I believe that calling God ‘Jesus’, ‘Lord’, ‘Yahweh’, ‘Tuhan’, ‘Elohim’ or ‘Allah’ is really within my rights as an individual and as a Christian, and is certainly neither wrong nor offensive to others. After all, the Indonesian Christians as well as our East Malaysian brethren have been using the word ‘Allah’ when calling on God from time immemorial. Many (both Muslims* and non-Muslims), have argued that ‘Allah’ is not exclusive to Islam. Frankly, I have no interest in going into the apologetics of the word because many others before me have done so, and it served no purpose. Why the whole debate sparked off in the first place remains incomprehensible to me.
The defacement of the 35,000 imported Bibles not too long ago is another senseless matter. I can’t understand how the Alkitab is a threat to national security. I have far greater faith in our Muslim citizens’ intelligence and ability to tell that the Bible/Alkitab is for Christians and that the use of the word ‘Allah’ therein is also within the Christian context, therefore there should be no cause for confusion. Does the government not have enough faith in the discernment of Malaysian Muslims? In any case, isn’t it the prerogative of Ali, Ah Seng, Arumugam and Alistair anak Batu to choose what they want to believe in? Or is there a new provision that certain religions should be crammed down one’s throat? All that has been debated before.
What really gets my goat is when wisecracks like Mr DPM start making claims that BN is not against Christianity. If that is true, then why bring it up in the first place, why the need to clarify? And why is the issue not resolved thus far? And then there is the Cabinet’s rather suspicious 10-point formula, not to mention Mr Long-Time Chief Minister’s (another Muhammed Yaacob, Wan Mokhtar, Samy Vellu wannabe) dialogue with the Christians.
What’s even more saddening is how this whole issue has gone so awry with SMSes circulating around that Christians should not vote for BN because voting against BN means a vote for Jesus. Call me an idealist, but in my book, politics is politics, and religion is religion and the twain shall ne’er meet.
Yes, I am worried that this issue never ends. That it could be a precedence to curb ALL non-Muslims of their freedom of religion. That this would spell darker days to come not just where religion is concerned. But the fact that the politicising of my faith has invaded a realm that is as intimate as the SMS makes me shudder at the reality of the implications ahead. I urge non-Christians and Christians alike not to send out SMSes like this because, personally, (1) that is using Jesus’ name in vain and, (2) that is disrespectful and a low blow. I’d like to think that we do not need to stoop to such levels and bandy the supremacy of Christ with such flagrant disregard. It looks bad on us. If we have to resort to tying religious beliefs to politics, we certainly are losing our religion.
*If my memory serves me well, PAS strongman Nik Aziz has come right out and said that it’s OK for non-Muslims to use the word ‘Allah’ and if PAS is not the most Islamic political party in the country, then I don’t know who is.