Monday, January 07, 2008

Dogma

It has been hitting headlines like shit hitting the fan. In a sense, the shit has hit the fan. Far be it for me to suggest that the issue itself is shit, but it is, in a sense, ridiculous to the core.

Now it has been decreed that the term Allah can only be used by Muslims, after it was discovered that a Catholic newspaper, The Herald, used it to describe 'their' God in their Bahasa Malaysia section. Cue a lot of furore about this, with the government saying that there is the possibility of people being misled, while non Muslims and sensible folks wonder how language can be copyrighted by a single race/religion.

Only in Malaysia do we actually bother ourselves with this.

While I do consider this whole thing to be ridiculous (Allah, after all, is a part of the Arabic language, not the Muslim language, if ever there is such a thing), I do wonder about the true intentions of the Catholic newspaper.

After all, if they're really serious about writing about God in Bahasa Malaysia, why not just use the Bahasa Malaysia word for God, which is Tuhan? The utility of any word in any language relies not only on the literal meaning, but also those the accepted semantics within that particular culture (which is why subtitles at Malaysian cinemas can be a form of entertainment in its own right).

From personal experience, I know that Christianity has a tendency of trying to convert people. I know that some Christians, if not many, are also trained to convert others. I've had many inopportune meetings with such people. Hell, I had people trying to convert me even while I was filming in Korea.

Not that other religions don't do the same, mind you. For example, I just haven't come across Buddhist monks trying to convert me. I've slept in a temple once, but the only spot of bother that came with that is the fact that I had to wake up at 5am.

But it's interesting why The Herald insist on using the term Allah for the Bahasa Malaysia section. If they're writing it in Arabic, then it makes more sense. But they're not.

And so I wonder.

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