Bible desecration shows puerile insensitivity

by NH Chan
The Malaysian Insider
March 27, 2011

MARCH 27 — In the Sun on Monday, March 21, 2011 I read with dismay about how insensitive the Barisan Nasional government is of the religion of other people. It reads:

Stamping desecrates Bible, say Christian federation

By Karen Arukesamy

PETALING JAYA: As far as the Christian community is concerned, they will not accept the 35,100 Bahasa Malaysia Bibles after the government imposed new conditions for their release from Port Klang and Kuching port.

Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) chairman Bishop Ng Moon Hing said in a statement that the new requirement that the Malay language Bibles are stamped means they have been desecrated [meaning ‘to treat something sacred with violent disrespect’].

He said Christians could not accept the released Bibles which have now been stamped with a serial number, official seal and the words ‘… for the use of Christians only, by order of the Home Ministry’.

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander is a well known proverb. So how would the minister feel if someone were to desecrate the Quran? The desecration of the Bible clearly shows that our government does not respect the religions of others in multi-racial Malaysia.

Are the rest of us — who are not born a Muslim because we are not Malays — second class citizens? It certainly looks that way to us who are the rest of the people of this nation.

This should be a warning to all of us that the Barisan Nasional government has been in power for much too long, so much so that they think they are not answerable to the people of this country. For sure this is definitely not a government for the people.

They have shown by their deed in desecrating the Bible that they are a government for themselves only. It is so because of self-interest and it is also blatantly clear that they do not respect the feelings of others who are not of their ilk.

In the next election, the people will know what to do. For the sake of the country, so that we do not sink further into the abyss of a dictatorship, we must all do our duty — indeed it is our patriotic duty — to vote the Barisan National out of office thus removing the people’s mandate from such selfish despots to govern this nation, and to replace them with a government for the people.

I am sure the opposition will gladly accede to the people’s request.

However, if the opposition can’t deliver, we will exercise the power of the people’s vote again at every election until there comes a time when we can all live in a truly democratic Malaysia.

We do not want totalitarianism being forced down our throat by a dictatorship because we are smart enough to know that any government, even a democratic one, would inexorably metamorphose into a dictatorship if allowed to overstay its hold on power.

I am not a Christian but I have read the Bible for my enlightenment. I also find it to be great literature. In order to allay some misconceptions about the Bible, I give below my insight on it which I hope may help those who are not Christians to understand and appreciate Christianity’s point of view.

Landmarks in the Law

Lord Denning in his book Landmarks in the Law, on page 313, tells us how the Old Testament in the King James Bible was translated into English:

The Old Testament was originally in Hebrew. It was translated into Greek. The Greek was translated into English by William Tyndale. It takes up three-quarters of the Authorised Version of the Bible.

I wonder why Denning said that. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of manuscripts in Hebrew and Aramaic found in caves near the Dead Sea (between 1946 and 1956) and believed to have been written between about 100 BC and 68 AD, provide biblical evidence that the scriptures the Old Testament and the New Testament were originally written in Hebrew.

I suppose Denning must have known that the New Testament were already translated by the Protestants who belong to the Churches of Western Christendom that are separated from the Roman Catholic Church and who adhere to principles established by Luther, Calvin, etc. in the Reformation. The British Protestants must have the English translation, albeit in Old English, of the New Testament.

At page 314, Lord Denning went on to say:

The New Testament is not accepted by the Jews. It is rejected by them. It has had even greater influence than the Old Testament. It contains the life and teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ who was a Jew and of all the 12 apostles who were Jews and the Letters of Paul who was a Jew.

The Authorised Version, an English translation of the Bible published in 1611 under James I who was king of England and Ireland (1603-25) in succession to Elizabeth I of England. He was also James VI, king of Scotland (1567-1625) in succession to his mother, Mary Queen of Scots.

This version is also called King James Version, King James Bible. This is the version commonly used by English speaking Christians. But there are other translations of the Bible in modern English and other languages as well.

The Authorised Version of King James is printed in old English which most Malaysians cannot understand. This explains why the Bahasa Malaysia Bible is popular because of the educational system of this country where most of our people can read and understand the National Language but not the English language especially when it is in the English of the time of James I in the seventeenth century.

But what really riles me is for the Home Minister to say that the Bible is “for the use of Christians only”. What business is it of him to fear for my conversion to Christianity?

In a democracy I should have the right to choose the faith I want to believe in or not at all — I have freedom of choice and I will not stand for any pipsqueak bully, for that is what a dictator really is, to tell me what faith to believe in. What business is it of him to tell me what Bible I can read or cannot read?

Reading is knowledge and it also gives me a great understanding of the religious beliefs of others. That is the trouble with the puerile mentality of the composite Barisan National party. They cannot even tell the difference between what is right and wrong; they even relish in their own wrongdoings as in the Perak takeover of a legitimately elected state government.

It is because of the BN that we even have an animal farm system of government — all animals are equal but the pigs under Napoleon the head pig are more equal than others.

But I am digressing. The Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had the gall to add insult to injury when he said:

The practice of stamping was standard protocol and not done to “deface” the Bibles. He said the need for serial numbers was to identify the specific Bibles which were held back.

After he mentioned that the act of stamping and serialisation was standard protocol, he said; see The Star, Wednesday March 23, 2011:

For example, Qurans imported into the country are also checked to ensure they are authorised, and are stamped with serial numbers before they are released.

And now (in the Star, March 23, 2011) they say:

The BM Bibles currently impounded in Kuching and Port Klang will be released with the words ‘For Christianity’ stamped clearly in Ariel font, size 16, in bold. No other words or serial numbers will be stamped on the Bibles.

Whether it is stamped “For the use of Christians only” or “For Christianity”, it is still desecration of a Holy Book. The dictionary meaning of a Christian is “a person who follows the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ” and Christianity means “the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”. Therefore, this is a false argument and the dictionary word for “a false argument” is sophism.

The home minister is not even a Christian and he wants to ensure that the Bibles we read are the authorised ones. Did he think he is King James I of England but does he know that James I was a bad king who alienated Parliament by his assertion of the divine right of kings? But Christians the world over have never had their Bibles censored by Big Brother. There are myriad translations of the Bible acceptable by Christian society.

Anyway, the word “authorise” means “to allow someone to do something with official sanction’. When James I came to the throne of England there was no English translation of the “Old Testament”. The Bible of the Church of Rome i.e. the Roman Catholic Church during the Roman Empire was in Latin.

The Pope spoke in Latin and the language of the Church then was Latin. Nowadays the Bible of the Catholic Church can be in any language, although at the Vatican, I think they still use Latin.

The desecration of the Bible is insensitivity of the highest order. It should be enough to bring down the Barisan Nasional government in the next General Election. He forgets that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

It is not that, I think, Christians would return the desecration of their Holy Book in kind. I know they would not do that. They would not demean themselves. Modern Christianity is a religion of love and forgiveness.

Not since the Crusades in the Middle Ages (between 1000 and 1450) have Christian nations waged holy wars. Not even Napoleon or Hitler who were described the Antichrist by Nostradamus nor those who fought against their evil or the warring factions in the First World War had ever called their conflict a holy war.

To cap it all, the Home Minister showed his true colours when he reveals the true reason for the desecration of the Bible in Bahasa Malaysia. He refers to:

… the use of “Allah” in non-Muslim publications …

Can anyone claim proprietorship to the use of the English word “Allah” where English is a foreign language in Malaysia?

I have said this before. The word “Allah” is an English word since the 16th century. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, Edited by C.T. Onions, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1979 reprint, says this:

Allah the deity among the Mohammedans. XVI – Arab. Allah, for al-ilah, i.e. al AL, ilah god = Aram. elah, Heb.eloah (Early forms in Eng. Writers are Alla, Allah, Ala, allough, Alha.)

“XVI” stands for “the sixteenth century”. So that this tells us that the etymology of the word “Allah” in English had been used in the English language since the sixteenth century. In Arabic it is “al-ilah” meaning “The God”. In Aramaic, it is “elah”. In Hebrew, it is “eloah”.

In the Collins English Dictionary for the word Allah, it gives the etymology of the Arabic word for God:

[C16: from Arabic, from al the + Ilah god; compare Hebrew eloah]

“C16” means “the sixteenth century”. The word “Allah” in the dictionary is from the Arabic al the + ilah god, so that in Arabic al ilah means “The god”. In Hebrew “God” is “eloah”.

If you do not already know, Arabic is the language of the Arabs who is one of a branch of the Semitic race. Aramaic pertains to the northern Semitic languages, the biblical name for ancient Syria. And Hebrew is a person belonging to the Semitic race descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Jewish is their language. Source: The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

Also in the same Dictionary of English Etymology you will find:

Semite Hebrew, Arab, Assyrian or Aramaean, regarded as a descendent of Shem (Gen. X): see The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology.

So that we now know that neither Arabs nor Jews would pronounce the word for their God as “Allah”. The Arabs would pronounce the name for their God as “al-ilah”. The Jews would pronounce the name for their God as “eloah”.

The word “Allah” is an English word (as seen in any English dictionary) and is a mispronunciation of both the Arabic and the Hebrew word for God. The pronunciation and spelling of this word “Allah” is distinctly English because it is a word accidentally invented by the British people because they have mispronounced a Semitic word.

Before Bahasa Malaya, now Malaysia, there was no national language. The Malay language is the language of the Malay race. They could have used the Arabic word for God with the correct Arabic pronunciation and make this a word in the National Language for the God of Islam. Instead they plagiarized the English Word “Allah” into the National Language.

Now they say we cannot use the English word “Allah” because the National Language has now claimed proprietorship of the English word “Allah” and, therefore, it is now the Nation’s word for the God of Islam which only Muslims can use.

But why must they insist that they must use an English word for the Islamic God when there is always available an Arabic word for the Islamic God as understood by all Muslims?

  1. #1 by dagen on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 1:54 pm

    Hey people, tell ya wot. The stamping and wot not, yeah, they are not proper or legal. So just ignore them. Use a slip of paper to paste over the stamped parts.

    Go to customs with two dozen people. And bring the online press people along. Forget about the printed press people. They are umno gang. Paste the slip over the stamped parts in the Customs’ premises and in the presence of those press people. Yeah insist on doing it for every one of the 35,000 copies. This exercise should take several days, I reckon.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 2:21 pm

    This an issue made sensitive.

    First and foremost is the Question: Is stamping “for the use of Christians only” on the Malay Bible (Alkitab) an act of desecration of it? (To desecrate is to violate and disrespect something sacred).

    One could argue to be so based on following: The Bible is to convey the Word of God is for all peoples of all nations.

    The Home Ministry’s part (at best) is to fall back on constitutional provision that prohibits proselytising persons of Islamic faith.

    There are 2 problems here that the Home Ministry will have to resolve.

    First: “for the use of Christians only” is not the same as “Not for use of persons of Islamic Faith”. For the “use of Christians only” implies it should not be accessible to Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, agnostics as well.

    So wouldn’t stamping that message “for the use of Christians only” be defiant of the Bible being Word of God for all peoples of all nations??? It is likely perceived so by faithfuls.

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 2:23 pm

    Second: But even if it were otherwise stamped “Not for use of persons of Islamic Faith” – which it is not the case – it is not free from controversy.

    For it may be asked why is this necessary from the practical angle.

    Firstly requiring the Alkitab to be unstamped with any words does not necessarily suggest in any way that those who import them has any intent to proselytise persons of Islamic faith.

    Secondly, does it mean that if the Alkitab were stamped it would serve the cause of our constitutional prohibition and be a greater deterrent to persons of Islamic faith reading it?

    There’s an old saying – forbidden fruit tastes sweeter. That’s perhaps why In biblical terms, Eve took a bite of the fruit from Tree of Knowledge notwithstand God’s specific injunction against!

  4. #4 by sheriff singh on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 2:45 pm

    Why indeed.

    Maybe the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) can explain why.

    Then they will have to explain 10 – 20,000 Malay words taken from other languages as well.

    They won’t have the time.

    Besides. They may want to transfer the responsibility of answering to the religious fellows to issue some fatwas.

    I read somewhere that most of our slang words are derived from the word “Allah”.

    For instance, “Ya, lah” is short form of “Ya, Allah”. So is “No, lah”, “Alamak”, all sorts of “lah”s in our daily conversation.

  5. #5 by sightseeing on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 2:48 pm

    //In the next election, the people will know what to do. For the sake of the country, so that we do not sink further into the abyss of a dictatorship, we must all do our duty — indeed it is our patriotic duty — to vote the Barisan National out of office thus removing the people’s mandate from such selfish despots to govern this nation, and to replace them with a government for the people.//N.H. Chan

    The people will know what to do? No I don’t agree.

    A large majority of Malaysian are stupid. Their stupidity is proven in the past 50 year by returning the same corrupt and stinking dictatorship. The entire membership of MCA, Gerakan, SUPP, MIC, PPP are made up of stupid people

  6. #6 by Loh on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 4:52 pm

    If you burn Koran, there could be riots. If you burn Bible, there will be reactions. So Bible and Koran are not ordinary books. The stamping of the unnecessary words is uncalled for.

    Allah is an English word. It seems that nobody owns the language, and so Malaysia just claim that the word chosen belongs to Muslims. Might is right, and in Malaysia UMNO has the might.

  7. #7 by limkamput on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 5:06 pm

    This wretched government has calculated all. To galvanise Malays’ support they have to find faults with the non Muslims and the non Malays – the more the better. They know they can’t regain the support of the non Malays/Muslims in the immediate term. So come the dual-track strategy – pretending to be inclusive using the 1Malaysia slogan while at the same time indulging in extreme rightist policies through organisations such as Perkasa, Utusan, AhTee Kia of the Defence University, Mamakkutty and Nazri insulting the non Malay parties in BN. Last time they pretended to share power, this time, when push comes to shove, they have to openly do it. Police and the Army collaborate to save cost – you guys buy the story. Since when is this government frugal and thinking about cost????

  8. #8 by jus legitimum on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 5:25 pm

    The people are made stupid and ignorant by msm and bn controlled tv network.Some of these fools are easily deceived by election goodies such as cash give out,free meals cum lucky draws and entertainment,donations to schools,temples on ad hoc basis during election campaigns.As long as there are such idiots around,the road to change for PR is not easy.

  9. #9 by drngsc on Monday, 28 March 2011 - 6:22 pm

    I fully support the Christian stand on this. It is a simple matter, blown into a big political issue. Just as we would NOT wish anyones religious holy book to be stamp on by anyone ( we do have freedom of religion in Malaysia, or don’t we ), just as we do not wish anyone to stamp any words on the Holy Koran, we expect that the Christian Holy Book should also NOT be desecrated. Just allow the books to reach their intended target, so that Christians can worship their God as provided for by the constitution. Please just release the Bible to the Christians without any fuss or pre-conditions. This issue has fester long enough. If the government cannot even solve a simple issue like this, it is time to change the tenant at Putrajaya.

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 29 March 2011 - 12:31 am

    “In the next election, the people will know what to do”
    Ho, ho, ho – sadly lots of ppl don’t know what’s d RIGHT thing 2 do
    D other day, so many ppl (surely Christians included) in Muar so hapi 2 meet NR

    Dis thingy “For the use of Christians only” is MOST STUPID
    Does it mean libraries, including UKM n IIU’s libraries, cannot hv BM Bibles 4 loan 2 readers (Christians n nonChristians) who wish 2 study BM Bibles in order to pursue, say, world religions or comparative religions?
    Does it mean a nonChristian scholar (free thinker, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim) cannot carry out academic research on BM Bibles?
    Christians in d current UmnoB-led cabinet n gomen hv sold their souls 2 devils, burn lah

  11. #11 by good coolie on Saturday, 2 April 2011 - 12:30 am

    What is this about keeping the Bible in Bahasa from the Malays? Let the Malays read it if they want to: they too have the freedom to read widely! Don’t worry about confusing the Malays – they know more than you think they know!

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