Thursday, October 17, 2013

Alamak, the Allah-word again?

The Malay Mail Online - Bar slams ‘Allah’ ruling, says wrong to deny fundamental rights on basis others may be confused

Both legally and logically, the Bar Council is right, but then the core issue surrounding the Allah-word controversy has never been about legality, the law or logic, though the court by its ruling informs us of the legal implication.

In actuality it's all about religious emotions and fears, and of course politics or/and the political exploitation of the emotions and fears affected by the subject matter, namely, the use by the Christian church of the Allah-word to refer to their Christian god in the Malay language version of the bible or al Kitab.

For decades, Sarawakian and Sabahan Christian natives have been referring to the Christian god in their native or/and Malay Indonesian language bibles as Allah.

The Indonesian language al Kitab was written by Dutch Christian missionaries centuries ago and in the absence (until recently) of Malay language bible, was the only bible in a language which could be studied, read and referred to by the Malay speaking Sarawakian and Sabahan Christians.

Was there any proselytizing intent by those 16th Centrury Dutch Christian missionaries in using Allah to refer to the Christian god in a book used in predominantly Muslim Indonesia? This issue is but a moot point when considered in the current circumstances of the politico-religio-social-legal controversy in Malaysia.

To reiterate an earlier statement, 'For decades, Sarawakian and Sabahan Christian natives have been referring to the Christian god in their native or/and Malay Indonesian language bible as Allah.'

And so too have the Sikhs in referring to Allah in their Holy Book, the Guru Granth Sahib.

So why has the recent brouhaha arisen over an issue long tolerated by Muslims, at least until recently?

The issue over the use by the Christian Church of the Allah word to refer to the Christian god in the Malay language version of the Bible - and may I just stress on the issue is about the Malay language version, and not the English language version of the Bible and the Church's various news/disseminated documents such as the newsletter The Herald) - was brought to the boil a few years back by a Catholic priest Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Catholic newsletter The Herald.

Much to the deep disappointment, chagrin and even anger of my Christian friends such as Lucia Lai, Ong KM, D'Cruz, etc, I have already taken a stand against the Catholic Herald's wish to use that word. I voiced my various reasons and rebuttals against the Christian arguments in reasonable details in a letter to Malaysiakini and also in the following posts:

(a) Allah, Elohim or Yahweh?

(b) Now who are the Arab wannabes?

(c) The Church & Allah

Thus I won't add anything more to my consistent stand on the issue, other than to remind those angry Sarawakians and Sabahans (see Malaysiakini's In Sarawak, angry reactions to 'Allah' ruling) that they only have Father Lawrence Andrew to thank for their current unfair religious disadvantage when he should have let a sleeping dog lie.

god's names in kabbala

I once wrote that religion should be about faith and morality and not legality or for that matter, political approval. Thus I find it unfortunate that the Catholic Herald had taken the issue to the courts. In doing so they have opened a nasty Pandora Box where some innocents may well end up getting hurt.

Even Terence Netto (an ardent Anwar Ibrahim advocate) in his article in Malaysiakini's Perhaps it's time for church to desist wrote:

In deference to the maxim that discretion is the better part of valour, the titular head of the Catholic Church in the archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur should not appeal the appellate court's decision to restrict the use of the term ‘Allah' to Muslims.

To appeal would likely invite another panel (coram) of Muslim judges, this time from the Federal Court, to engage in the legal and literary gymnastics that masqueraded as reasoned judgment of the three Court of Appeal judges who handed down their rulings yesterday. [...]

Until then, if the Malaysian Caesar decides that the term ‘Allah' is exclusive to Muslims and if our appellate courts doff their judicial hats to this, Christians on the peninsula at least, should restrict themselves to the limited form of demurral that thus far has seen them take the matter to court, win it at the one level and lose it at the next.

If those demurrals were unaccompanied by the stoking of tensions between Muslims and Christians, the latter could usefully take their disputation to the apex court.

But the fact is it has been attended by a heightening of tension between the two communities such that Christian persistence in appealing for further adjudication of their claims that the use of the term ‘Allah' should not be exclusive to Muslims is imprudent.

I recall a conversation I once had with my dear (late) friend Haroun about religions. Haroun lamented to me: "Kaytee, those Jews and Christians are not fair. We Muslims respect their prophets and even accept them as ours but they don't ours especially Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). Why, when we are all of the Abrahamic faith, the people of the Book?"

I then wised up dear Haroun that his belief in the existence of an Abrahamic religious fraternity was a gross fallacy, because the earlier religion doesn't/won't accept any that comes after it, regardless of their claimed connected pedigree or source. 

For example, the Jews consider the Christians at best as pagans or worse, if they were/are Jewish Christians, apostates (or 'poshea Yisrael' meaning 'transgressor of Israel').

To them, for example, Jesus was an apostate who should have been stoned to death as per the instructions in Deuteronomy 13:6-11 which says:

If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, "Let us go and worship other gods" (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him.

Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.

As we can see, barbarous religious control of the believers through intimidation of death existed in Hebraic biblical times way before Islam was founded as a religion.

The only reason why today's right wing Israelis and Zionist Jews are pampering American Christians and their religion is Israel's dire need for American political-financial-military support and protection, without which Israel would not have existed or continue to exist for long.

Likewise, the more chronologically-senior Christians feel the Muslims are medieval heathens.

Religions, especially of the Abrahamic varieties, are tribal, territorial and thus intolerant of and even hostile to each other, unless of course a more senior religion (senior in chronological advent) becomes necessary to concretize their own religious pedigree, as in the case of Christians respecting and studying the Old Testament as it provides a link to the pedigree of both their god and their messiah-saviour.

What then is the moral behind my recounting of their innate animosity towards each other?

Well, much as modern clerics such as the Pope of some muftis may talk of reconciliation and the politically correct sweet nothing, the respective Abrahamic religions are in reality rivals, if not overtly hostile then most certainly very keen and unscrupulously predatory regarding the turf of the 'other/pagan' beliefs.

Yes, they want to control more and more believers, and the process of increasing the believers even unto poaching them from other religions is called proselytizing. 

What we're reading in today's media about the court's ruling is mainly bloody politics and self-serving bullshit. Yes, there are a few genuine concerns but 'mainly' it's politics, politicking and about sectarian interests.

In my earlier posts I have said more than enough on the issue, but nonetheless I wish to refer to Malaysia-Today's We have discussed this before which informs us in its concluding paragraphs:

In short, the entire Bible has been translated from, say, Latin or Greek, into, say, Bahasa Malaysia. But then one word in that translation (God) that was originally in Latin (Deus) or Greek (Theos) has been translated not into Bahasa Malaysia (Tuhan) but into Arabic (Allah).

In the original Latin or Greek version of the Bible, the word ‘Allah’ is not used as the name for God. But after translating the Latin or Greek version of the Bible into Bahasa Malaysia, one word, God, has been translated into Arabic. If the entire Latin or Greek version of the Bible is translated into Arabic, then it makes sense that the Arabic word for God would be translated as Allah.

This is what has upset the Malaysian Muslims. The Bible has not been translated into Arabic. It has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia. But instead of using the Bahasa Malaysia word for God they go and use the Arabic word when the Bible is not in Arabic but in Bahasa Malaysia.

Why? And I have voiced my thoughts in my earlier posts (see above).

And just a trivia in concluding - I must ask the readers of the English version of the Bible why their holy book refers to the Messiah as Jesus? I was wondering if there is this argument that the Allah word and its pedigree are so important to the Malay language Bible, why not apply the same argument by referring to Christ in his original Aramaic name Yehoshua (sometimes the shorter Yeshua) or its English translation Joshua - yes, the same name as the Israelite who led the 12 tribes into Canaan.

That's right, the Jesus name would by comparison be incorrect because it was translated twice over, from Aramaic to Greek and then Greek to English, whereas Joshua is from Aramaic directly to English.

So don't forget, your saviour is Joshua and not Jesus, or better still Yehoshua.


  1. by the same logic the malays should refer to god as tuhan, why use arabic? or the quran in malay does not mention the word allah?

  2. Welcome back KTee kia. Don't cari2 makan until you forget your audience.

    Just a response to your riposte. Methinks when the Dutch translated the Bible, they use what is called "dynamic equivalence". The point of Christianity is to make the Word available to as many in their own language in the best transmitable forms. That is why there is a "Good News" version for idiots that don't understand the Queen's English. Further more, an integral part of this process is "contextualization." Therefore, the faith does not insist on reading scripture in its original languages except for a more accurate interpretation of the naunces not required by lay people and only confined to the cold corridors of cemetaries, ooh sorry, seminaries.

    Sorry to say, this by-passes the individual sekolah pondok types. However, intelectuals that carry a real PhD understands the Christian interpretative process, thus agreement in the usage of this term.

    Furthermore, a scholar worth his salt knows language is not confine to the exclusivity of any party but universal - thus the Arabic usage.

    Therefore, on many points this differs from the Quran and its translations.

    Another salient point would be the process of "revelation" inherent in sacred scriptures (any faith). ie. how revelation (wahyu) was transmitted but leave that for after your next rojak foodie posting.

    A quick thinking jackass will see that the sword cuts both ways. If the Christian can use this terminology to confuse his cousin, likewise his cousin can use the same terminolgy to bridge a gap in introducing their faith especially in the rural heartlands in East Malaysia. They have tried and maybe failed, thereby placing a restriction in defeat. Maybe?

    Lastly, ok-lah, use Tuhan... the Almighty is a rose by any other names who is laughing at mortals... Therefore, suggest maybe the Malay version of Alkitab be printed in Malaysia to avoid imports from Indonesia. What do you think?

  3. For the want of a word, what the hell r u talking?

    Etymology of Allah? Or for that matter, the Abrahamic monotheism!

    U should READ this;

    After all, the supriority of the master race must be maintained, be it been laughed even in the face of the whole world.

    That's include the other Muslim, outside bolihland!

  4. i maybe wrong but what about abdullah munshi who used "Allah" in his translation of the bible into the malay language in the 15th century


  6. The real issu is...
    The Colonial Powers knowingly used Allah ti "divide and rule" the Muslim Arab and Malays. It is purely political or colonial in nature with the Church doing the Colonialist bidding.
    A Masai from Africa said "The white man brought a gun in one hand ans a Bible in the other to colonise our land and our mind.

    Nothing like a good debate to get at the truth
    Read more @..

    Have a nice day. God bless.

    1. Pak Yeh is correct in many aspects but wrong in some. Don't have to go far about the Masai story, China is a classic example since gunboat diplomacy and the opium trade also saw the missionaries come. In some ways, missionaries like Morrison had no choice but to hitch a ride on an East India boat to gain safe passage. Sinister or with good intentions is debatable.

      However, in the choice of the Indonesian translation, we will never know the Dutch so called "intentions". We do know that the NT was translated in Malay using "Tuhan" but the full text was never completed and widely used.

      Then came other translations like the Bup Kudus (Iban) using Allah Taala and God or God Almighty.

      First, with an open mind consider this:

      1. Each faith needs to evolve. Although the sins of the past of each religion should not be written off but it plays an aspect of learning & growth.

      2. Each person or person of faith or movement did things that they felt best at that time - "children of their age". To some, we consider foolish but at that time of limited knowledge, they thought it was good. Therefore "coming of age" isn't confined to the New Agers but should apply to human evolution where spirituality may be considered as an integral part of being human (except atheist or agnostics).

      3. Although some elements of colonial powers used religion to "divide & rule", basically the British did not need to use religion. They already had other ways - the fact that what couldn't be won by argument or persuasion, infusion of elements to divide, there was the gun & not necessarily religion since religion was the enterprise of religious groups & not the colonial masters (case in point China & India).

      Therefore, will Pak Yeh agree that we use "Tuhan" in the text & its printed in Malaysia, by Malaysians for Malaysian Christians?

      PS. Since the British made the colonies their slaves, should we do trade with them or even join the Commonwealth movement? Good debate yah? Sorry, yeh?

      Anon 3:10

    2. Forgot to mention, has Pak Yeh seen "The Mission" starring Robert DeNiro about the Jesuit priests in Latin America trying to shield the indigenious villages from the Conquistadors? Both were Catholics - one wearing religious clothes and the other looking for gold & El Dorado. When it comes to money & politics, religion or no religion, nothing will stop man... even when it comes to good food and a Malaysian at a buffett... wakakakaka

  7. You are not a Christian and therefore you cannot understand. Jesus is the second person of the Godhead. Yahweh is a Hebrew word for God, the father. Allah is the Arabic word for God the Father. Only Jesus, the second person of the Godhead is the Messiah and not God the Father. It is God the Son who is the Messiah.

    1. Everyone should read Karen Armstrong's books- A History of God, The Case for God, The Battle for God, etc. There are also so many sects of Christian, which one to understand?

  8. Forget all the reasons that you had given to support your argument.Are you telling us that we can not use the word because of the translation problem even though we have been using it for generations, way before the formation of Malaysia?
    Were we muslim back in 18/ 19th century? So how did the Dutch confuse and convert us from Islam to Christianity? Our ancestor were pagan and some of our tribe is still having pagan practice.
    A lot of our churches have been here for more than a century, in which the practice has become part of our tradition. All the churches are using Bahasa Malaysia. Do you think that you can just tell us to change our tradition because you feel that we have "wrongly" use "your" word? How can that be your word when we have been using it for a long time?
    By the way, did you guys not realised that what you have done have just offended us pretty much in a Big way?

    1. Hear hear ! Right from the guts...heheheh. If a community had been using Allah even before Malaysia was formed, then all other arguments urging them to change their way of calling their god will be fact more than will be very rightly considered as damn belittling and overbearing, trying to ride roughshod over them ! As the Guardian article mentioned, it was basically a political payback to put the minorities in their place.

  9. Yeshua or Yehoshua is Hebrew
    Joshua is English
    Jesus is Latin
    Esa is Arabic

    Yahweh is Hebrew
    God is English
    Tuhan is Malay
    Allah is Arabic

    Please take your pick. What's the fuss?

  10. Kaytee, such fucking stupid remark would guarantee the secession of sabah & sarawak from Malaysia. Anyway, now I am very supportive of bang karno invaded malaya if I were there then

    1. and we can thank Father Lawrence Andrew for starting the acrimonious mess

    2. Now, u r been small minded for 'disframing' Father Lawrence Andrew for stating his belief in freedom of religious & expression RIGHTs!

      The promoter of this acrimonious mess was none other than umno, with syed Hamid as the front man, supporting by a small group of religious blur-sotongs

      Yr only reason of supporting the ban of Allah for the Christian M'sians, especially the natives of the East M'sia, is the fear of proselytizing/propagation of Christianity among the Muslims.

      It's unfounded!

      Just re-ponder this - Anonymous6:21 pm, October 17, 2013,

      The long hiatus has bring u nothing good - iff yr pet subject of kalimah Allah wakes u from a dizzy slumber, where yr stubbornness of self-right (note not self-righteousness) overwhelm all yr normal sense of logical deduction.

      Look at the big picture, iff u can see that far!

  11. Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Christian10:46 am, October 18, 2013

    "Father Lawrence Andrew..... should have let a sleeping dog lie. " That's not the real story.
    The Catholic Church publishes a Bahasa Malaysia edition of the Herald, and it uses the word "Allah" the same way Malay-speaking Christians in Malaysia refer their God, right from the early days of Christianity in Sout-East Asia.
    For that reason KDN (the Home Ministry) essentially banned the Bahasa Malaysia edition of the Herald by refusing to renew its Publishing Permit.

    The Herald had two choices - accept the KDN directive, dropping "Allah" and using some word like "Elohim" , as Ktemoc suggested, which is unknown to Christian BM speakers. Or go to Court to protect its rights.

    Whether the Dutch had some sinister hidden agenda in using "Allah" in their local-language version of the Bible is a moot point today.
    It is a historical fact which long predates the existence of Malaysia, and I think will still be around long after Malaysia is No More in existence as a country.
    The Church has outlasted the Roman Empire, all the Chinese Dynasties, all the European Empires, the Moguls , Sri Vijaya, will likely still be around long after all the currently existing countries have gone to dust...

    The Malaysian government should not interfere with centuries-old religious traditions.

    I'm not trying to convert any Muslims to Christianity.
    I just want the right to worship God in my native language. "Elohim" is an unknown word to me. I cannot accept the Malaysian government trying to interfere with my religion.

  12. Coincidentally, over at syedsoutsidethebox the blogger also wrote about this matter just today. His exposition can qualify as level-headed and reasonable, and buttressed with a bit of historical background.

    1. You mean syedoutsidethebox-jekyll n hyde ? He is very level-headed and reasonable most times until he touches on the subject of his beloved Ayahanda, his loathing for Anwar Ibrahim, and his utter hatred for DAP and PAS.

    2. We have to acknowledge that almost everyone has his/her own pet hates and loves and other foibles. Therefore, just cherry-pick what appeals to you and disregard the rest. As a housewife/home-maker, I do that all the time - in shopping, in food preparation. Emotion and partisanship have no place.

  13. This is an admirably thoughtful and sensible look at the topic. It's unfortunate, but it appears like many followers of religion (almost all religions) have a tendency to be uncompromising and recalcitrant (ah ha, a word famously associated with someone!!).

  14. Kristang is the language that the Portuguese descendants in Malacca have spoken for more than 500 years.

    In Kristang, Alamah means "mother of god".
    Allah = god, mah = mother

    So every time someone exclaims "Alamak", he or she is invoking the Virgin Mary.

    Another interesting fact is that the Portuguese also brought this word to Japan hundreds of years ago. Today Japanese use "Aramak" the same way we use "Alamak".

    The word is also said to exist in Goa and Kenya. Both of which were colonised by the Portuguese many centuries ago. (Although I could not find any references on the internet)

    A few other words in Malay that originated from Kristang include:

    kereta (from carreta, car);
    sekolah (from escola, school);
    bendera (from bandeira, flag);
    mentega (from manteiga, butter);
    keju (from queijo, cheese);
    gereja (from igreja, church);
    meja (from mesa, table); and
    nenas (from ananás, pineapple).

    BTW: Allah originated from Aramaic and/or Arabic. The Portuguese probably adopted the word at the time when Portugal was ruled by the Moors. Allah is no longer used by native Portuguese but is still used by descendants throughout Asian and Africa.

  15. FYI: The bible is a collection of books written by different people who spoke different languages. Three languages were used in the original bible. These are Hebrew. Greek and Aramaic.

    So its not true that the original bible was written solely in Greek.
    God in Aramaic is "Allah".

    But arguing from a religious, historical or etymological angle is beside the point. There are some other issues:
    1. People should be allowed to worship in any way they please.
    2. The views of the majority can not be used as an excuse to persecute minorities.
    3. In general, words can not be banned as this impedes freedom of expression.