December 23, 2007

Allah, Tuhan, God, Shang-Ti, Dio!

Posted in Language, Malaysia, Religion at 2:18 am by egalitaria

Welcome to Malaysia, where leaders confuse culture and religion. This issue is not new, and has arisen yet again. Alerted to me by Malaysiakini here, The Herald, a Catholic newsletter, will not get its publishing license renewed if it does not drop the word “Allah”, Arabic for “God”.

The Herald, the organ of Malaysia’s Catholic Church, has translated the word God as “Allah” but it is erroneous because Allah refers to the Muslim God, said Che Din Yusoff, a senior official at the Internal Security Ministry’s publications control unit.

“Christians cannot use the word Allah. It is only applicable to Muslims. Allah is only for the Muslim god. This is a design to confuse the Muslim people,” Che Din told The Associated Press.

The weekly should instead, use the word “Tuhan” which is the general term for God, he said.

This is a ridiculous blurring taking place. The argument is that Christians in Malaysia only use the word Tuhan. The word Allah has definitely been used by Christians, especially those in East Malaysia. Let’s take a look at the definition of Allah here:

Allah (Arabic: الله, Allāh) is the standard Arabic word for “God“.[1] The term is most likely derived from a contraction of the Arabic article al- and ʾilāh “deity, god” to al-lāh meaning “the [sole] deity, God” (ho theos monos); another theory traces the etymology of the word to the Aramaic Alāhā.[2]

While the term is best known in the West for its use by Muslims as a reference to God, it is used by arabic-speakers of all Abrahamic faiths, including Christians and Jews in reference to “God”.[3][1][4] The term was also used by pagan Meccans as a reference to the creator-god, possibly the supreme deity in pre-Islamic Arabia.[2]

The Internal Security Ministry cannot be very well educated in history and geography, much less international affairs, nor religion, since they don’t know that:

As the Arab Christians today have no other word for ‘God’ than ‘Allah’[6], they for example use terms Allāh al-ab (الله الآب) meaning God the father, Allāh al-ibn (الله الابن) mean God the son, and Allāh al-ruh al ghodus (الله الروح القدس) meaning God the Holy Spirit.

While some Christians think that reference is made to a different God altogether, I tend to disagree with that. I think that God is God. If one were to believe in the theology of unity, then God is God. A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. Allah just happens to be the Arabic term for God. Just like Tuhan is the Malay word. Gott is in German. Dio is in Spanish. Shang-Ti in Chinese.

Four years ago, the Iban Bible was not permitted to print the word Allah, but it was lifted with mass Christian displeasure. Now it’s come up again, but I think it is more likely the fact that the Herald has taken up controversial issues recently, focusing on BERSIH and HINDRAF rallies. This may be causing some political unease, and hence little reasons are being brought up suddenly, which were previously resolved already.

July 26, 2006


Posted in Language, Malaysia at 11:21 pm by egalitaria

This is a record day for me: 9 postings in a day.

When inspiration strikes, you answer its call, and this is the final entry for the day:

Did you know the word University really means “unity in diversity”?

We have got it right all along when pushing for a society that is united but practices its various cultures! Now how do we put that into action… thinking caps on, everyone! But wait a minute, this ought to be practiced within universities. In Malaysia, you say? Little hope then. Gottes segen dein Land!

April 29, 2006


Posted in Language, Personal at 12:37 am by egalitaria



aber steif und ein bisschen


ich muss immer erlinnen, wir sind in dieser

zwischen Zeit 

April 15, 2006

God the multilinguist

Posted in Language, Malaysia, Religion at 7:10 pm by egalitaria

Let's have a Little Language Lesson, shall we?

The monotheistic religions refer to their higher being as "God". Let's see what the word is translated into, in the different colourful languages of the world:

  • Arabic: Allah
  • Chinese: Shang Ti
  • German: Gott
  • Greek: Theos
  • Hebrew: Eloah
  • Latin: Deus
  • Malay: Tuhan
  • Spanish: Dios

These generally refer to the same entity. However, due to cultural differences, inevitable when one studies Language, the way each society refers to that same entity is not the same. Therefore, one faces a difficulty where the Latin Deus is really the same as that of the Spanish Dios, and so on. Taking into consideration the context of time, society and culture, one then understands each's reference point.

Nevertheless, if there is no better way of explaining a certain point one attempts to make, than to refer to the word itself, one does it.

If I am speaking Spanish to a Barcelonian, will I temporarily pretend I am unable to speak Spanish and say "God" instead of "Dios"? I will not.

I'm not making any criticisms here at all, but just wondering aloud as to the reasons for this. (Page 3) Does banning certain words really do anything?

A rose by any other name should smell as sweet.

A God by any other name should mean the same.

April 1, 2006

Forgive & Forget

Posted in Language, Religion at 6:49 pm by egalitaria

I took a German course for 9 months in my year abroad. Because it is so similar in form to English, it was a breeze to me and I could chatter to friends quickly. Basic conversation, of course.

In Berlin I joined with a youth team to speak with other international students about their beliefs in God. Forced into using the only language they could speak, I fumbled and flopped around looking for the right words. Explaining something philosophical is tough in English, and what more so in a foreign language and with no proper training!

Instead of saying "Jesus hat uns vergeben" (Jesus has forgiven us), I made the blooper of saying "Jesus hat uns vergessen" (Jesus has forgotten us).

I must have left a trail of people with raised eyebrows, clouded thoughts and a confused disposition!

Keine Ahnung, Keine Ahnung…!

February 14, 2006


Posted in Language, Theology at 9:44 am by egalitaria

My German friend constantly said “Scheibenkleister” whenever something went wrong. Literally translated, it means “slates of cement”. I found it very amusing that one would say “slates of cement” whenever one cut oneself, or dropped something by accident. It’s no more a swear word than is: Strawberry Shortcake.

The truth is that it sounds phonetically similar to the word Scheisse, which means shit in German. Plainly, shit is the common swear word across the globe. My friend, in attempting to disguise an ugly word in the language, replaces it with an innocent-sounding word.

We laugh about it and Scheibenkleister has become an internal joke whenever we meet up.

But this naturally begs the question of what constitutes a swear word? In the Bible, we are taught not to curse and swear from the same mouth that is used to bless others and worship God. Cursing and swearing at others is seen as a negative act, simply because it inflicts some level of pain towards the person it is directed at. Buddhists also believe that it is wrong to cause any harm towards anyone other than self.

So we have established that cursing and swearing is wrong when it comes to relating to a second party. What happens when this takes place out of no consequence to an other? Is using nasty language in everyday situations right or wrong? Is it alright for us to spew out verbal abuse, if even merely upon an inanimate object that has recently taken to hitting you on your leg (as you kicked it, but never mind).

Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.

Why curse and swear at something, which is merely a manifestation of unworded frustration and anger?

Furthermore, a word is a word is a word. The form and shape of an innocent word has the exact meaning attached to it as does the word it replaces. If used for all the same intent and purposes, nothing is taken away nor added to it. Fish is the same as F**k, Basket is the same as Bastard, and sadly enough for me, Scheibenkleister is the same as Scheisse.

Having said that, this does not give me free reign and permission to immediately start swearing in heavy language. The solution is simply not to say anything at all, of course. But if necessary, it is also responsible acting not to use a word when one knows this will have a negative impact on someone. Depending on the recipient and level of maturity, one ought to be careful in conversation. This doesn’t require much; just a responsible act.

And so, to qualify myself for my final statement, 1) I am not directing this at any party; 2) This is not a result of latent frustration and anger at this very moment; and 3) I do not feel this would negatively affect someone either by circumstance or character.

I just like the word… Scheibenkleister!