Saturday, January 09, 2010

Level Heads and Calm Minds

When I was a much younger, I remember I was shuttled into the Agama class of my school for looking 'Malay'(my parents are Indian and Chinese, respectively, I look quite Malay) .I remember my old school friends were mainly Malay. I have attended a string of their weddings recently and we laughed together happily remembering the old times at school. Race then was just a field in our forms, just a formality, it did not matter, apart from the fasting month.In my two classes where I was accidentally placed in Agama,  I remember one of the first lesson I learnt was the name of God, I learnt how to write Alif Lam Lam Ha. Alif is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. When I entered Form One, I read a translation of the Thirukurral, arguably one of the best religious books written in Tamil.The first lines of it was 'A Leads the letters of the Alphabet. The Lord leads the entire World. The first name of God I thought of was Allah, naturally.Anything with the name of God in it sounded awesome to me. Abdullah, son of God, sounded 'complete'. Michael, 'Who is Like God?' sounded powerful. Fast forward 10 years later, we are faced with a potential ignition point that threathens our very social fabric and way of life as Malaysians.All in the name of God.
Religion, both my own or otherwise, is a topic close to my heart.Being born into a mixed family,with Muslims, Christians. Hindus, Buddhists and such, religion fascinated me as a child. Books by Swami Prabupadh, Peter Yancey, Ronald Tacelli, Karen Armstrong,Zakir Naik are scattered in my room. My KJV study bible sits next to my most prized book of all, a nearly coverless 1920 Longman published, Yusuf Ali translation English Al-Quran.So forgive me, if I really do not see the problem here.Much has been said about the history of the early Church in East Malaysia, the etymological origins of the word Allah, how it is used the world over, how its use is even mentioned in the Al Quran et cetera, et cetera. I am not a biblical scholar, nor am I a Coptic Christian. But I am a Semenanjung Catholic. I have been singing 'anak Domba Allah'  in Doxology during Mass since I was in primary school. I am Selangorian.I have been singing 'Allah lanjutkan usia Tuanku' for 12 years in school, and in every state function.So I really did not see the deal in it.If there is a big deal with it, let's talk about it.
The way I see it, History thinks it is OK- Herald has been around for more than 10 years, why the fuss now?A political party whose raison d 'etre is Islam, says its OK. An influential Islamic magazine in the US, along one of its most influential Muslim association says its OK. Quite a few local religious figures, local and abroad says its OK.Christians believe it is OK. Sikhs thinks its OK. Bahais think its OK.Sabahan and Sarawakien Christians thinks its OK. So who exactly thinks its not OK?And if its not OK, tell us why. Why burn down our churches? Why bully us because we are small in number? Why intimidate us using scare tactics?It is disheartening.
One does not provoke with his left hand and attempt to reconcile with his left. Please do not throw a stone and then pretend to pick it up and scold the imaginary person who threw it.You look stupid, and more importantly, you are toeing a dangerously precarious line.Please, there's politics and there's political prostitution.Be a politician, not a prostitute.
A colleague today asked me not to worry, when I told him that two churches had been torched, and I worried for mine, my priest and my family. He assured me most Muslims would not march with Pribumi Perkasa and a few other government connected non government organizations.God, and the world is watching he told me.The day PAS moved to diffuse the tension created by some quarters, I sent an SMS to my good friend in the PAS committee, thanking him, and told him that I owed their leaders a big hug. His reply was ' We just say it as it is, but we always welcome a hug'
Somehow, all this made me feel a little better.After all, God, and the world is watching.

To my Muslim brothers and sisters,
Those who know me well enough probably know the respect I have for every religion. Please consider this a personal plea. Let's let dialogue and conversation, prevail over street hooliganism.Before you proceed with the 'we are under siege',  'you guys started it', 'this is provocation!', 'you guys are getting big headed', and 'This is a Muslim country' usual arguments, please please just ask yourselves these questions.
1. Which religion is growing in Malaysia, which is shrinking?
2. How many Catholic- Muslim converts do you know? And how many vice versa?
3. Whose places of worship got torched?
4. Whose followers got threatened?
5  Who is forced out of their places of worship?
Please ask these questions, and tell me, who should be worried about the position of their religion.
Peace to us all.There is no way to peace, peace is the way.And God knows best.


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