An interesting debate was broadcasted in several forms of media over the past 3 months. A Christian publication wanting to publish their gospel in the Bahasa Melayu aka Malay Language has blown the skirt high above the knee of the Malaysian government.
Apparently to make the Christian publication more easily understood by the locals, it had to be translated into Bahasa Melayu. This is natural as most missionaries create awareness of Christianity in a foreign land by translating text of the Bible into the local language. But this publication got into trouble when there is only one word used to describe the Almighty.
Or so it appears that in the Bahasa Melayu, there is no other words to describe another Almighty Being other than "Allah" which refers to the "only" Almighty Being quoted in the Quran. And so it is debated that the use of the "Allah" word if quoted in the Christianity publication in the Malay language will confuse Malay speaking Muslims.
Seriously speaking, a language should be designed to be able to be expanded with new text when there is a need. In the Mandarin language, the word "神" which is the equivalent of God, can be referred to the Almighty of the Quran or the Almighty of the Bible or the Deities of Chinese folklores etc. We don't see the Chinese Muslims getting worked up over the word "神" that is also used commonly in Chinese temples or Churches. Nor are we getting any feedback from the Arab world where they live and breathe Islam and practice the Hudud law.
And so the resolution that came after months of debate was this. The Malaysia government finally allowed the use of the word "Allah" to be quoted in the translated Christian publication in the native Bahasa Melayu aka Malay language. But here's the catch, only if it is not meant for non-muslims that speak Malay. In Malaysia, almost 100% of the ethnic Malays are Muslims. And in Malaysia, Islam is the main religion which its followers makes up more than 60.4% of the population.
If the original intent of the Christian publication to be printed in Bahasa Melayu is not meant to reach out to ethnic Malays, then why did they want to translate it in the first place. To put a stumbling block to the Christians' intent shows that the nation or its incumbent goverment takes a stand to defend its rights to maintain its Islamic preference.
The most interesting derivative that came from this debate over the various sources of media is that, Malaysia, or rather its incumbent government had a big debate over if it was a "Secular State" or "Islamic State" just a few months ago when Malaysia went to the Polls. And several ministers have to seek clarification from the incumbent party with regards to public statements made from its former Prime Minister and a few other ministers from the same party which insinuate that Malaysia is an Islamic state. As at time of its recent polls, other than adding more cloud to the topic, there were no clear statements on the issue. And hence it suffered greatly at its recent polls.
So the real question here is, how forgetful can they be to not realise that the "secular/islamic state" debate had costed them a few states. The media can be forgetful in the old days when the only archives are the old newspapers, stashed under the shoe cabinet, are the only way to retrieve old news for the everyday Malaysian.
But bear in mind, with the technology in hand nowadays, we all know that:
Wikipedia is not forgetful.
Blogs are permanent memories.
Google brings everything up in an instant.
They have got to realise that the voters are no longer easily convinced.
Every act, every statement and every bill is taken apart, scrutinised and etched forever somewhere on the internet.
Today is the 2nd March 2009
Time now is 10:24 hrs
I'm not Malaysian and I'm not a Muslim.