I don’t often blog about Malaysia, despite it being my birth-country and home for many of my family, but on receiving an email on the family mailing list last night warning my Malaysian family off going to Church I was suitably inspired.
The news is that Malaysian churches have been firebombed overnight because of an upset that the courts have ruled that Christians can refer to their god as ‘Allah.’
Why do Christians want to refer to god as Allah? Well, as I understand it, this desire is derived from three sources – first, a desire for national unity; Malay is the National Language, ‘god’ to the Malays is ‘Allah’ this is both coincidence (as pretty much all Malays are Muslim) and the actual definition of the word in Malay — a lot of Malay words are derived from Arabic (and English). Secondly, because Malay is the National language there are Christian youth that don’t speak English, so presumably there’s a desire to integrate them (the “Lord’s prayer” is often read in Malay). Thirdly, Christians are probably trying to draw a link between the various ‘gods’ in an attempt to promote some idea of religious harmony – all gods are one etc.
Now I’m not particularly religious, but I find it absurd that when we’ve got massive economic problems, climate change, etc., to deal with, an argument of the semantics of worship has resulted in violence, terror and fear. There’s a part of me that wants to tell my family not to give in to it, to defy the fearmongers and go wherever they want, but the larger part of me that’s afraid for their safety agrees with the warning off church.
Extremism cannot be tolerated. Despite the appearance of sophistication and development Malaysia delivers to the casual visitor, it seems there is still a brutal, ignorant core of people happy to make political statements with violence – I can’t believe things haven’t changed since 1969, despite 40 years of Malaysia’s New Economic Policy (designed to diffuse issues over race and religious tension). And over an issue that cannot be an issue – I simply do not understand how this matters to anyone. I find it particularly surprising as I have myself never met an intemperate Malay person – not about anything like this. Where do these people come from, and what should be done about them?