The dispute between the Sabah-Sarawak churches and the government over the rights of Christians to use the “Allah” word in the Bahasa Malaysia Bible (Alkitab) has lasted more than 10 years. The Malaysian church leaders continue to reach out to government officials to find an amicable solution even as they await the judgment of the court in two cases where Sarawak and Sabah Christians sued the government for their right to use the word in the Alkitab.
The dispute has lasted so long that it no longer garners attention as front-page news. Not surprisingly, many young Christian leaders today fail to understand the fundamental concerns that compelled the church leaders to bring the dispute to court – the dispute over the “Allah” word would not have arisen if the Malaysian authorities acknowledge the undeniable historical fact that Christians in Malaysia who use the word are merely following the honorable tradition of Arabic Christians who have been using the word for centuries long before the advent of Islam. By prohibiting Christians from addressing their God as “Allah”, the Malaysian authorities are violating common sense and human courtesy.
Image Above: Gospel of John Shellabear Bible Originally Printed 1912 (Image from 1949 reprint)
Recently, Concerned Lawyers for Justice (CLJ) argued that the Christian community should work closely with Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka (DBP) to correct purported errors in the current translation of the Malay Bible. Suggestions to improve existing translations of the Bible is in line with the ethos of the Christian enterprise of Bible translation which is an ongoing exercise undertaken by Bible societies all over the world.
However, CLJ’s proposal to allow DBP to prepare an authoritative translation of the Malay Bible is unacceptable. The reason is because given the terms and conditions for DBP’s involvement, the proposal amounts to an illegitimate restriction of religious freedom and infringement of the autonomy of the institutions of the Christian community. It is a violation of the integrity of Christian faith as it will lead to an imposition of Islamic religious beliefs on its sacred Bible. Continue reading “DBP Translating the Malay Bible? CLJ Needs to Get the Historical Facts Right!”
Several seminar speakers were reported to have mocked at Christianity as they posed rhetorical questions that suggest the grounds for Christian beliefs are fundamentally flawed. For example, in a forum “Christianisation vs Islamization”, the speakers answered pre-prepared questions that included “Did Jesus really die on the cross for the forgiveness of sins?”, “What is the Trinity?”, “Why did Jesus cry ‘Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani’ (Aramaic for “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”) while on the cross?”
Another speaker claimed that the parts of the Bible based on his teachings should simply be called “Tales of Jesus” instead of the “Gospel”. The books in the Bible were written by Christ’s disciples such as Matthew, Mark, and Luke were considered hearsay and similarly should not be considered the Word of God. The so-called gospel is only Jesus’ words, speech, hence should not be called gospel. He asserted, “The Christian gospel is a fake gospel.”
These speakers were trying to confuse Christians with fabricated lies. Instead of clarifying confusion among Muslims, they were promoting prejudice among Muslims against Christianity. Christians are justified if they feel offended. However, they are mindful of the divine exhortation given in their Holy Book on how to respond peaceably to faultfinders, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-15).
Instead of reacting to these Muslim polemicists, Christians are more interested in reaching out to other Muslims who are sincere when they raise questions about Christianity as these Muslims genuinely believe in constructive dialog. To these sincere Muslims we would like to offer “FAQ: Muslim Questions – Christian Answers” as a modest contribution to promote interfaith understanding. Hopefully, the two FAQs given below will assure Muslim inquirers of the intellectual integrity and peaceful intentions of the Christian community.
Marilah kita berperkara, demikian firman TUHAN (Yesaya 1:18)
Kesusasteraan polemik yang menyerang kepercayaan Kristian mudah didapati di kebanyakan kedai-kedai buku di Malaysia. Polemik ini mendapat perhatian media ketika institusi pengajian tinggi menganjurkan forum untuk menyebarkan maklumat palsu tentang agama Kristian.
Namun daripada merasa takut, umat Kristian mengalu-alukan serangan seperti itu kerana ia memberikan peluang kepada orang Kristian untuk menjelaskan iman mereka.
Tetapi dengan tulus hormatilah Kristus sebagai Tuhan dalam hidup kamu. Hendaklah kamu sentiasa bersedia memberikan jawapan kepada sesiapa sahaja yang meminta kamu menjelaskan harapan yang kamu miliki. Tetapi lakukanlah hal itu dengan lemah lembut dan hormat. Hendaklah hati nurani kamu murni, supaya apabila kamu difitnah kerana hidup dengan baik sebagai pengikut Kristus, orang yang memfitnah kamu itu akan menjadi malu (1Petrus 3:15-16).
Walau bagaimanapun, ada orang Islam yang secara ikhlas bertanya soalan mengenai kepercayaan Kristian dalam mencari persefahaman antara agama. Untuk orang-orang Muslim yang ikhlas seperti inilah kami ingin menawarkan “Jawapan Kepada Orang-orang Islam.” Semoga Allah memberkati umat Kristian dan umat Islam di Malaysia dengan persefahaman dan saling menghormati. Continue reading “FAQ: Jawapan Kepada Soalan-Soalan Orang Islam (Dikemas kini)”
Part 2: Jesus Christ-Eschatological [Final] Prophet And Incarnate Savior: A Christian Proposal To Muslims
Muslims assert the utter transcendence of God. Divine revelation therefore takes the form of revealed commandments rather than a revealed person. The issue that separates Christians and Muslims is whether or not the claim that Jesus Christ as the decisive revelation of God compromises the utter transcendence of God. Resolving this issue requires an inquiry into the prophetic calling of Jesus. We need to ask whether Jesus ministry went beyond mere proclamation and constituted an adequate, if not decisive, act of divine salvation for humankind. Continue reading “God, Christ & Humanity: Christian & Muslim Perspectives (Part 2)”
Thesis: Ultimately, the difference between Islam and Christianity is that the former views the relationship between God and man within the field of power. The Divine-human encounter becomes a contest of strength where human submission is a matter of expediency in the face of sheer dominant power. In contrast, Christianity views the relationship as one that is moral: God, despite his sovereignty, treats human beings as persons with inherent dignity (since they are created in His image). God seeks allegiance from man based not on expediency but as a grateful response to a God who passionately cares for his welfare (c.f., pathos in Abraham Heschel’s work). Man may fail to perceive the depths of divine pathos. Without a personal revelation from God, man can only be dimly aware of divine pathos in pale and fragmented forms, described as divine sorrow, pity, wrath, and compassion because of his psychological limitations, although divine pathos must be perfect and complete within the divine Trinity. However, these partial perceptions of divine pathos are fully revealed and experienced as divine love when manifested at the cross. Hence the glorious declaration in 2 Corinthians 5:19 – in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself.Continue reading “God, Christ & Humanity: Christian & Muslim Perspectives (Part 1)”
The recent amendments to the Sedition Act effectively curtail freedom of speech as the prospect of being hauled up by the authorities for alleged sedition will discourage public debates on social-political issues. There is little assurance that the government will not abuse the wide ranging power given by the Act to suppress democratic dissent, given it pattern of selective enforcement of the law against opposition leaders, lawyers, journalists and civil rights activists.
It should be noted that some Muslim extremists have found it convenient to accuse leaders of the non-Islamic communities of sedition, when these leaders are only defending religious liberty that is enshrined in the Constitution. The amendments to the Sedition Act will embolden these extremists to continue making unfounded and irresponsible accusations.
It would be regrettable if the government uses the Sedition Act to restrict religious freedom, and apply censorship laws to control religious dialogue and debate, as it ends up depriving its citizens of the very tool that could help overcome ignorance and prejudice between religious communities. Indeed, it is the duty of the government to counter religious extremism by promoting open and honest interfaith dialogue.
A group of Christian leaders and professionals call upon all Malaysians to dialogue on how to work together to build a shared nation.
A CHRISTIAN SOCIAL VISION FOR MALAYSIA
Malaysia was formed as a multi-racial and multi-religious nation with a constitutional democracy which grants equality and religious liberty to all citizens under the law. However, recent social-political developments have caused deep concerns that the rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution are being undermined by racial and religious extremism resulting in political marginalization of minority groups, increasing authoritarianism in government and society leading to the restriction of freedom of speech, assembly and association of citizens as well as encroachment by religious authorities on the fundamental liberties of all citizens.
Many individuals and groups have expressed similar concerns. As Christians, we are mindful of the call from the Holy Bible to be peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). As such, we, members of Kairos Dialogue Network would like to share our Christian social vision and call upon fellow-Malaysians of good will to come together for rational discourse and open dialogue. Our hope is that with commitment, we will succeed in building consensus, regardless of our colour, creed or confession and work together to build a harmonious, peaceful and progressive society.
Christians have offered well-documented evidence and cogent arguments to refute the claim that only (Malaysian) Muslims have the right to use the word Allah. However, the dogmatic assertions (notwithstanding the ‘scholarly garb’) from Muslim scholars in the current flare-up suggest that they have either chosen to ignore the evidence or are simple unable to follow an argument outside their logical Procrustean bed. Undoubtedly, their closed mindedness arises because they learned how to use Arabic without reflecting, much less analyzing the linguistic determinants behind Arabic.