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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

LRTQ: A Rose, by any other Name...

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Image hosting by PhotobucketNo, no... Walski's not trying to link Shakespeare into the campaign. What Shakespeare wrote, in any case, is this (from Romeo and Juliet):

What's in a name? that which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet.

It's just that once again, we're hearing an uproar about the use of the A-word by people of faiths other than Islam. The familiar refrains of Jangan cabar Islam (Don't challenge Islam) and Jangan bangkitkan kemarahan umat Islam (Don't provoke the Muslims' anger) are once again used as clarion calls.

And the reason this time? Because the Catholics want to use 'Allah' in their literature when referring to God, citing that the Bahasa Indonesia bible does it too, as part of their justification. Which, in fact, is true, albeit not at all with any sort of consistency (via OutSyed The Box).

Walski won't delve into the argument to any degree of detail here, except to say that the uproar does make him wonder exactly how fragile the minds of the Malay/Muslims are. And also wonder why they're so pissed off and volatile all the time. Walski, however, will have to keep wondering, because we're not going to discuss either one of these wondering thoughts in this post.

The real point, and questions, are: are there any limits or bounds as to what moniker we use to call God's name? And who has the right to use which moniker?

As always, we'll refer to The Quran for some answers...
(God's name from the Quranic perspective, and more, in the full post)

Consider these three verses:

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Yes, God has dibs on all the cool names to call him by. And will not acknowledge any un-cool or rude ones. God is referred to as Allah in the Quran, which is what all Arabs call Him, Christian, Jew or Muslim alike. Which is not surprising, because the Quran was revealed in Arabic, in the Arab lands of what is today Saudi Arabia.

It would be safe to assume that God doesn't wear a name tag with Allah on it (or any name, for that matter). Neither does He carry a MyKad - which would be complicated when it comes to what to put under "religion". But let's not go there....

The point is that anyone can call upon him, and call him by pretty much any name. Provided that it's not an insulting name.

Take the historical inscribed stone of Terengganu - the Batu Bersurat. God, on that stone, is referred to not as Allah, but as Dewata Mulia Raya - a way-cool and respectful term to use at that time and age. But based on the rest of the inscription, it is evident that the name refers to the one monotheistic God.

So, if the Malaysian Catholics choose to also call Him Allah, and since most Muslims would consider that a very beautiful name, what then is the problem?

Why would that be an insult to Islam?

Of course, we then come to the perceived intention of the Catholics, and there lies the real crux of the discontent, not so much in the name per se. The Malay/Muslims don't want Christians (or anyone else) to prostelyze to them, especially not in the national language. Particularly since it's stated in the Federal Constitution, which also defines what a Malay is. Muslims, on the other hand, can protelyze all they want, to whomever they want.

It's very much an unfair situation, truth be told, but that's how it's written in the Constitution, unfortunately. And so unless it's amended, that's how things will stay.

But even if the Constitution were to be amended to be fair to all, when it comes to religion...

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You can't force belief onto anyone (or for that matter, un-belief). Kinda like the old saying that you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it play water polo... or something to that effect. Belief is what's in one's heart, and something that one has to willingly embrace.

Furthermore, regardless of how God is referred to in any religious text, the nature of what that religion is becomes evident quite quickly.

But be that as it may... all the beautiful names belong to God. The word Allah is how the Arab's refer to the Almighty, regardless of their faith. Here in Malaysia, perhaps, there is this notion that the word is exclusive to Islam, and therein lies the sensitivity. But it's really no insult for anyone other than Muslims referring to God to use the word Allah, and perhaps the big fuss over the usage is but a storm in a teacup, so to speak.

And according to the Quran, you can pretty much call Him by any good name. After all, the cool and nice ones are His anyway.