Indonesian Cops Foiled The Mullahs ‘Coup’


In Indonesia and neighboring Malaysia, Islam is the official religion of the two countries but not to be confused  as being Islamic states like Saudi Arabia. The Malaysian constitution theoretically guarantees freedom of religion, Islam is the official religion of the federation, as well as the legally-presumed faith of all ethnic Malays (?). Both countries are secular states constitutionally, that is. Does that make sense?

Anyways, under that complicated mixed bag of control mechanism, Muslims somehow are caught under two sets of hammer – Sharia Law and  Civil Law. And for a Muslim soldier he will have an additional hammer over his head – Martial Law.

In such a scenario, you’d find the secular government is in a silent war with the Mullahs who are unrelentingly exerting their ‘religious authority’ over the Muslims, and in Malaysia they are intensively pushing the Hudud Law to even reign over the non-Muslims.

There’s a battle going on…


TheStarOnLine

Indonesian cops ignore fatwa

JAKARTA: National Police chief Gen Tito Karnavian has ordered the chiefs of police in Bekasi, West Java, and Kulonprogo of Yogyakarta to revoke circulars on the ban on wearing Christmas attributes based on a fatwa of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI).

“I have asked them (the chiefs of police in Bekasi and Kulonprogo) to revoke the circulars,” Gen Tito said at Jakarta State University campus in East Jakarta on Monday as reported by kompas.com.

He stated that the MUI fatwa was not a law, merely a reference that could be used as coordination among police offices.

“I have firmly warned the Bekasi Police chief and Kulonprogo Police chief. I warned them because it’s not permitted to issue circulars based on an MUI fatwa,” Gen Tito.

“So, a MUI fatwa is not statutory law that should be upheld.

“(The police) should not issue circulars that could become a legal document,” he added.

Bekasi Police reportedly issued a circular on Dec 15 while Kulonprogo Police released a circular on Dec 17, in which both instructed owners and management of businesses not to force their employees to wear Christmas attributes.

Meawhile, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo instructed Gen Tito to uphold discipline among members of the force and make efforts to prevent their power from being abused by hardline groups, in light of the decision of some local police leaders to back a campaign by firebrand Muslim groups to crack down on Christmas celebrations.

During a meeting with Gen Tito at the State Palace on Monday, Jokowi said that the police force must work only to implement official rules and regulations.

“Our existing rules are laws, government regulations, presidential regulations, ministerial regulations and so on, including a regulation from the police chief himself.

“That should be the ground rule,” Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said.

Over the weekend, police in Surabaya, East Java, also came under fire for their failure to prevent members of the hardline Islam Defenders Front (FPI) from cracking down on business establishments that allowed their employees to wear Christmas attributes.

Gen Tito also ordered members of the corps to keep an eye on groups that carried out intolerant acts under the guise of publicity programmes for the MUI edicts.

“If we find some groups that carry out raids while claiming to be conducting ‘familiarisation’, but in fact bring fear to people, we must take the initiative to stop them,” Gen Tito said.

“We shouldn’t bow to those groups,” he added.

The police chief said that he would discuss the issue with the MUI in the coming days.

“I will talk with the MUI so that they take tolerance and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (the country’s motto of “unity in diversity”) into consideration when they want to issue a fatwa,” he added. — The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

 

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Wahhabism – Extremist perversion of theology


NYTimes

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Let Us Rid the World of Wahhabism

wahhabi

Tehran — Public relations firms with no qualms about taking tainted petrodollars are experiencing a bonanza. Their latest project has been to persuade us that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, is no more. As a Nusra spokesman told CNN, the rebranded rebel group, supposedly separated from its parent terrorist organization, has become “moderate.”

Thus is fanaticism from the Dark Ages sold as a bright vision for the 21st century. The problem for the P.R. firms’ wealthy, often Saudi, clients, who have lavishly funded Nusra, is that the evidence of their ruinous policies can’t be photoshopped out of existence. If anyone had any doubt, the recent video images of other “moderates” beheading a 12-year-old boy were a horrifying reality check.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, militant Wahhabism has undergone a series of face-lifts, but underneath, the ideology remains the same — whether it’s the Taliban, the various incarnations of Al Qaeda or the so-called Islamic State, which is neither Islamic nor a state. But the millions of people faced with the Nusra Front’s tyranny are not buying the fiction of this disaffiliation. Past experience of such attempts at whitewashing points to the real aim: to enable the covert flow of petrodollars to extremist groups in Syria to become overt, and even to lure Western governments into supporting these “moderates.” The fact that Nusra still dominates the rebel alliance in Aleppo flouts the public relations message.

محمدجواد ظریف: بیایید جهان را از وهابیت خلاص کنیم

سعودی ها میلیاردها دلار صرف صدور این انحراف افراطی ازدین کرده اند. این باید متوقف شود.

Saudi Arabia’s effort to persuade its Western patrons to back its shortsighted tactics is based on the false premise that plunging the Arab world into further chaos will somehow damage Iran. The fanciful notions that regional instability will help to “contain” Iran, and that supposed rivalries between Sunni and Shiite Muslims are fueling conflicts, are contradicted by the reality that the worst bloodshed in the region is caused by Wahhabists fighting fellow Arabs and murdering fellow Sunnis.

While these extremists, with the backing of their wealthy sponsors, have targeted Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Shiites and other “heretics,” it is their fellow Sunni Arabs who have been most beleaguered by this exported doctrine of hate. Indeed, it is not the supposed ancient sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites but the contest between Wahhabism and mainstream Islam that will have the most profound consequences for the region and beyond.

While the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq set in motion the fighting we see today, the key driver of violence has been this extremist ideology promoted by Saudi Arabia — even if it was invisible to Western eyes until the tragedy of 9/11.

The princes in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, have been desperate to revive the regional status quo of the days of Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, when a surrogate repressive despot, eliciting wealth and material support from fellow Arabs and a gullible West, countered the so-called Iranian threat. There is only one problem: Mr. Hussein is long dead, and the clock cannot be turned back.

The sooner Saudi Arabia’s rulers come to terms with this, the better for all. The new realities in our region can accommodate even Riyadh, should the Saudis choose to change their ways.

What would change mean? Over the past three decades, Riyadh has spent tens of billions of dollars exporting Wahhabism through thousands of mosques and madrasas across the world. From Asia to Africa, from Europe to the Americas, this theological perversion has wrought havoc. As one former extremist in Kosovo told The Times, “The Saudis completely changed Islam here with their money.”

Though it has attracted only a minute proportion of Muslims, Wahhabism has been devastating in its impact. Virtually every terrorist group abusing the name of Islam — from Al Qaeda and its offshoots in Syria to Boko Haram in Nigeria — has been inspired by this death cult.

So far, the Saudis have succeeded in inducing their allies to go along with their folly, whether in Syria or Yemen, by playing the “Iran card.” That will surely change, as the realization grows that Riyadh’s persistent sponsorship of extremism repudiates its claim to be a force for stability.

The world cannot afford to sit by and witness Wahhabists targeting not only Christians, Jews and Shiites but also Sunnis. With a large section of the Middle East in turmoil, there is a grave danger that the few remaining pockets of stability will be undermined by this clash of Wahhabism and mainstream Sunni Islam.

There needs to be coordinated action at the United Nations to cut off the funding for ideologies of hate and extremism, and a willingness from the international community to investigate the channels that supply the cash and the arms. In 2013, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, proposed an initiative called World Against Violent Extremism, or WAVE. The United Nations should build on that framework to foster greater dialogue between religions and sects to counter this dangerous medieval fanaticism.

The attacks in Nice, Paris and Brussels should convince the West that the toxic threat of Wahhabism cannot be ignored. After a year of almost weekly tragic news, the international community needs to do more than express outrage, sorrow and condolences; concrete action against extremism is needed.

Though much of the violence committed in the name of Islam can be traced to Wahhabism, I by no means suggest that Saudi Arabia cannot be part of the solution. Quite the reverse: We invite Saudi rulers to put aside the rhetoric of blame and fear, and join hands with the rest of the community of nations to eliminate the scourge of terrorism and violence that threatens us all.


Mohammad Javad Zarif is the foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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Malaysia – Disloyalty to leaders is disloyalty to God


The very thin line of separation of church (mosque) and state in Malaysia has diminished as the two bodies are now in union in a marriage of convenience.

This union is actually inevitable as it was never apart to start with, as the clerics have always been the voice of the govern-ment in mosques. The govern-ment (Muslims dominated) on the other hand regularly apply Islamic overtones in national policies, enactments, national issues, messages, and general communication.

The govern-ment, especially Prime Minister Najib is currently under great pressure and is battling for his survival daily as the people are seeking for his removal. In his desperation and running out of bullets fast, the mosque is scrambling to his rescue.

Without fail god will be dragged into their schemes, and what we’re witnessing in this latest effort by the mosque to save him apparently, is to upgrade the PM’s status to a demigod.


 

The Malay Mail Online

Disloyalty to leaders is disloyalty to God, Muslims told in Friday sermon

In its Friday sermon, Jawi says peace could only be maintained by being loyal to the government and its leaders, as long as they continued to be fair and just. ― Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 18 ― God has decreed that citizens be loyal to the government and its elected leaders for the good of the country, Muslim authorities claimed today.

In its Friday sermon titled “The Measure of Loyalty”, the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) said it was incorrect to say that only the government had responsibilities and obligations towards the citizens, claiming that the people must also accord the government the respect and loyalty they deserve.

“The decree to be loyal to the country’s leaders does not come from the leaders themselves, but from God. Therefore, if the citizens are disloyal towards the leaders, that means they have been disloyal to God,” Jawi said in a copy of its weekly sermon uploaded on its official site.

“As much as its citizens deserve justice and fairness from the government, the government also deserves to be treated with justice and fairness by its citizens.

“Therefore, as citizens, we must understand and respect the government’s responsibilities, as well as support what has been planned,” it added.

Jawi claimed that instability and unrest in other Muslim countries were because of “mistakes” committed by citizens who have been emotionally influenced by “provocation and incitement”.

The Islamic agency said Malaysia appeared to be very “fragile” with its racial and religious diversity and claimed that peace could only be maintained by being loyal to the government and its leaders, as long as they continued to be fair and just.

“If there are disagreements and differences of opinions, we must immediately return to the guidance provided in the Qur’an and Sunnah and celebrate that opportunity with wisdom and compassion.

“We should not choose to discredit one another, be hostile and defame each other, which could lead to our own destruction. It would be shameful if such disagreements and disloyalties are witnessed by the international community,” the sermon added.

Jawi’s sermon comes amid the latest campaign spearheaded by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad aimed at ousting his successor Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Dr Mahathir, together with other Barisan Nasional veterans, opposition leaders and human rights activists, recently banded together in a “Save Malaysia” movement by signing a Citizens’ Declaration that called for Najib’s removal.

The movement is the latest platform of the former prime minister’s long-running campaign to remove Najib from office.

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Halal: from alternative to absurd


…this Halal certification business is just like the ISO XXX certification, is an absolute absurd mind game…but its a lucrative selling stickers business… and what’s more (worse) – its in the name of god.

The Malaysian Insider

RUSHDI SIDDIQUI
Published: 2 March 2015

halal sticker

The World Halal Summit is one month away, and we at Zilzar, expect to raisea number of issues during the various sessions at the summit and at our pavilion in the exhibition area.

Today, the halal story, as a Muslim only story, has created widespread hysteria in some markets, has incurred the political push back by ignorant governments like Australia, France and some parts of America, has ‘ironically’ brought Jews/Muslims together in those same ignorant markets, and, frankly, requires repositioning, restructuring, resurfacing, reviewing, and general reboot alignment to ethical consumption and organic movement.

In the last few years there have been a number stories concerning halal: some bring a smile to the face, some bring a smirk, some bring confusion, some bring fascination, and some bring ‘what the …’ reaction. The below mentioned ‘halal’ offerings range from the alternative to the ‘absurd’:

– Halal water, tea, coffee, and cups

– Halal petroleum

– Halal car

– Halal beer/wine

– Halal sex shops

– Halal music

– Halal art

– Halal comedy

– Halal tourism

– Halal fashion

– Halal hubs

– Halal food conference

– Halal hysteria

– Halal as an asset class

– Halal logistics

…if I may add, what about Halal (fiat/baseless) money ?

Furthermore, there are good-faith attempts to launch a halal version of major social media platforms: Salam-World (Facebook), Halaltube (Youtube), Minder (Muslim alternative to Tinder), My Halal Kitchen (alternative chefshows), HalalTrip (Trip-Advisor), and so on.

To date, expectationsof alarge user base have not been met. But does that imply the Muslims, at acritical mass level, do not want or are not comfortable with someone else providing the edits, filtering and screening?

Finally, there are ‘halal’ products offered for sale on established e-commerce platforms like Alibaba, Amazon, Ebay, Rakutan, etc. Notwithstanding the extremely important integrity issue for onboarding and continuous monitoring/policing for compliance for buyer safety, it sends an important message. The big boys are monitoring this halal space as part of the Muslim Lifestyle Marketplace, as their existing markets are becoming saturated with not only many e-commerce platforms, but also targeting same consumer base, online and mobile.

As part of a series of articles until World Halal Summit, several initial issuesare raised for dialogue and debate.

Does everything need to be halal?

In Islamic finance, everything is permissible unless one of the following conditions is violated in the contract or transaction: there is an element of interest, uncertainty, speculation, or the underlying asset is from the sin sector (alcohol, pork, gambling, etc.). Furthermore, something Shariah compliantcan become impermissible if one of the above-mentioned conditions arises during the life of the contract.

For halal, at a high level, “…it’s halal (animal)… as it does not have fangs, it is not an predatory animal that kills other animals like lions tigers, bears, wolves,etc. it’s not an animal like a rat, mouse, etc.. it’s not a bird of prey like eagle, hawk, falcon.. it’s not classified as a scavenger like a pig or wild boar.”

Mentioned below are other equally important, but often overlooked, issues such as treatment of the animal, sacrifice ritual, and logistics.

Certification bodies

It has been mentioned that there are up to 300 certification bodies in the world. Although there is no central or global authority to verify this number, we, at Zilzar, after review and research, count about 100 widely recognized certification bodies. Some countries have one, like Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, and Singapore, but others have many like Australia with 8 certification bodies.

One of the major challenges that have been identified with certified products and certification bodies is what happens (to the status of the product) when the certification expires and the renewal process takes longer than expected? It may take a longer time because many (privately held) certification bodies may not have the resources to review and revisit the process, hence, a company is held hostage to their time frames resulting loss of sales and (possibly) reputation.

Logistics

An area that has not gotten much air-play (traction) is traceability and origination (halal) in the food supply chain as part of the logistics supply sector. It has not been well understood that something that is ‘halal’ may become haram at the various streams in the food supply chain from farm to fork.

For example, if the animal’s diet comprised of ground-up pieces of other animals and antibiotics, then the ritual sacrifice at the abattoir is irrelevant asit (animal) is “void from the beginning” for consumption by Muslims.

If one looks at the 40-year-old-plus global organic movement, as a reaction to factory farming, the above-mentioned questions forms the DNA for the movement. Thus, there is a general alignment between halal and organic onethical treatment of the animal before the sacrifice.

The midstream focus is on the transportation of the animal to the abattoir and the rituals associated with the sacrifice. There is much material on the subject matter, and two points to highlight are (1) evidence of healthiness of the meat and (2) the concept of ‘tayyeb’ (purity, whereas halal means ‘permissible’).

If the blood from the sacrificed animal is ‘completely’ drained from the non-stunned animal (evidenced), then, it logically follows there should be lesser amount of bacteria compared to a stunned animal when the packaged product is on the supermarket shelf! Thus, this becomes a health issue and not a “halal” issue for dialogue for the media, conferences, academic journals, etc.

Second, a large segment of the Muslim population believes in and wants non-stun hand slaughter, but are they prepared to pay a higher price because ofthe economic inefficiencies (today)?

Finally, a properly sacrificed animal’s ‘meat’ (halal) may becomecontaminated (haram) at various stages of transportation from the abattoir to the super-market shelf. Thus, what was halal at the abattoir has become haram due to (1) chemical composition changing due to proximity to say, alcohol, swine, etc., (2) liquid (melted water or even blood) from swinepackages/crates touching halal packaged meats, and so on.

Having said that, all products are usually packed for storage andtransportation offering protection to the product itself and avoiding contamination in general.

However, for logistics providers today there is no established way to identify Halal product shipments upon acceptance. This may lead to co-loading with non-halal products in the same container or Halal products may be loaded in the same containers that carried pork or alcohol products in previoustransportations.

Awareness and implementation is still lacking in logistics even though an international Halal Logistics Standard was published in 2010.

Unfortunately, there are no tracking, no record systems in place. Consequently, the dimension of the potential problem is unknown.

In a smaller context a recent development relating to the last section of the supply chain to the consumer is remarkable: separate check-out counters for non-Halal / pork products have recently been implemented in supermarkets with Non-Muslim sections in Dubai. Dubai Municipality has clarified the handling of respective products and implementation of existing rules.

Packages with pork items should be tightly sealed to avoid any potential leakage of liquids or any direct contact with a conveyor belt. However, in order to mitigate any contamination risk separate check-out counters have been assigned. This gives peace of mind for the Muslim (and Kosher?) consumer.

Today, Muslims do not control the halal food supply, hence, the integrity risks linked to the halal food supply chain needs to be measured, mitigated and managed.

Let’s focus on the alternative as the absurd erodes credibility. – March 2, 2015.

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Report: Saudi Arabia May Aid Israeli Strike on Iran in Exchange for Progress With Palestinians


Algemeiner

F16 JetIn closed talks with European lawmakers, Saudi Arabian diplomats said they are in total accord with the Israelis on the Iranian nuclear issue, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Tuesday.

According to an official at the headquarters of the European Union, as part of a framework coordination agreement with the Israelis, Saudi Arabia is ready to allow Israel’s air force to traverse Saudi airspace to attack Iran, if necessary.

However, the Saudi approval is conditional upon progress towards an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. The Saudi government is sensitive to public opinion, and cannot allow Israel to use Saudi territory or airspace for military action without demonstrating some progress on the issue of Palestinian statehood, according to the report.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have denied that they do not know the details of the deal with Iran currently being negotiated by world powers, to which they are opposed. The lawmakers stressed that Israel doesn’t need the United States to reveal what is being said during the talks because Israel has other partners among world powers, along with information obtained from Israel’s intelligence services, which alone have made it clear that the deal in the offing is a bad deal.

An official close to the Obama Administration said that security guarantees won’t be discussed with Israel because the United States, “can’t initiate substantive discussions” before Israel’s upcoming elections.

Today, US Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the issue of negotiations, less than a day after a major leak occurred regarding the negotiations with Iran. Kerry, who spoke during a Congressional hearing on the State Department’s budget, said that it is too early to speak of an agreement between the parties, and noted that the United States is not prepared to agree to a nuclear Iran. Kerry also lashed out at the opponents of the agreement – including Israel – saying that they do not know the details of the talks.

“This is our policy: Iran will not get nuclear weapons.  Anyone going around saying that they don’t like the deal, doesn’t even know what the deal is. There’s still no deal at all,” said Kerry. He added that the United States expects to know soon whether Iran is ready to agree to the proposed terms, which he said were reasonable and verifiable. He ended saying that Iran must comply with the demand of the p5+1 and demonstrate it is not interested in nuclear weapons.

Before Kerry’s address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he intends to fight the emerging agreement when he visits Congress next week. During a tour of Israel’s Southern Command bases, Netanyahu said that, “Unfortunately, the information I have been receiving these last few days confirm many of our concerns about the upcoming deal between the P5+1 and Iran. This agreement, if signed, would allow Iran to become a nuclear threshold state.”

Netanyahu added that, “this is a bad agreement which endangers our future. My duty as Prime Minister is to do everything possible to avoid such an agreement. So I am going to Washington to speak before Congress, because Congress might be the last chance to stop the agreement with Iran.”

Related:

Terrorist Bedfellows: Saudi Arabia and Israel

Will Israel merge with Saudi Arabia?

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Naked truths of a confused Muslim


FMT

A fussy dresser lifts the veil on conflicts from head to toe

Muslim dressingAs a Muslim, I have learned a valuable lesson: thanks to Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, I now know that wearing Hindu attire and a garland is against the teachings of Islam.

I have learned that it is not appropriate for Muslims to wear the traditional costumes of other religions. Or is it: of other races? Hmm…

I have learned that it is okay to wear a suit but never a kurta or dhoti. I am a female, so that would mean I should wear a dress and not a saree or Punjabi dress. I take it that cheongsam and samfu are also a no-no? But wait, what about baju Melayu or baju kurung with a kurta or samfu collar or neckline? I am confused.

I now worry my faith is easily swayed by my wrong choice of attire. Sigh.

But wait, what about jubah? If it is wrong to propagate other cultures, why then propagate the Arabic culture? If I am not mistaken, at the time of the Prophet, the Arabs who consisted of Muslims and the non-Muslims, all wore jubah!

Oh, I get it now – it is okay to wear any attire from a Muslim nation. But then why did Asri say it is okay to wear a suit – Mat Sallehs wear suit and most of them are Christians! Perhaps he means wear anything that is modest (covering aurat). Err… but kurta, dhoti and samfu are all attire that are modest, right? I am confused.

What do you think about the Pakistani kameez aur shalwar? Although Pakistan is an Islamic nation, the kameez aur salwar is also worn by Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists in India. So how now? Scratching my head…

How about sarong? Are we allowed to wear sarong? I sure hope Islam allows one to wear sarong because it’s so comfy, you know.

That reminds me of the pilgrims to Mecca. Why do the male pilgrims in Mecca cover themselves up like Buddhist monks and Hindu priests?
Confused… confused…

There is one thing I don’t quite understand. If one should dress like a Muslim, then why did Asri not mention anything about Rosmah not covering her head? Ayoyo I pening la. Wait, perhaps I should refrain from saying ‘Ayoyo’ (Masya Allah, may God forgive me) because it resembles the Hindus.

I have learned that Muslims are not allowed to wear garlands although it is merely an Indian way of showering respect and gratitude to guests. Perhaps Asri should also make some effort to preach to our Muslim brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Bangladesh where garlands are a normal practice.

Oh, a question! Does that mean I should refrain from wearing garlands when I visit Hawaii?

How about the orchid garlands used to welcome our guests during Tourism Malaysia campaigns?

Thanks to Asri, I have come to understand that as a Muslim, I should be careful in selecting which event I should attend. Any religious event should be a big fat no: that would include Thaipusam, Christmas and the Hungry Ghost Festival. But how about Ponggal, Chinese New Year, Chap Goh Mei, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving and Halloween? Are those festivals religious based or cultural?

Hmmm… I am more confused.

How about inviting the non-Muslims to Muslims religious events such as Eid Mubarak? Should I stop having Raya open house? Or perhaps I shall only invite the non-kafirs?
I know now that it is acceptable to attend certain religious-cultural events if you are a leader of a nation because it is your duty and responsibility to be the leader of everyone of different faiths and cultures. Fine.

Does that mean it is okay for me to attend a religious festival organised by a very close friend? As a good friend, wouldn’t it be my duty to show my love and respect by accepting his invitation? Or does it only apply if you are the Prime Minister of a country? I am confused.

I am not only confused, I am actually getting a slight migraine now.

I would really appreciate it if our Muftis would issue a fatwa on how Muslims (including the PM and Ministers) should be attired when attending non-Muslim functions. It could save me from all these confusion.

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Malaysia – The dangers of naming God


The Malaysian Insider

The dangers of naming God – William Grimm

Zeus

I wish I could remember the exact words and who it was who said them to the effect that while Christianity can be believed, some Christians are absolutely incredible.

The same can be said of Islam and some Muslims.

The biggest threats to Islam are not from non-Muslims. The threats come from within the community.

Terrorists who claim that Islam justifies and even mandates atrocious violence come to mind immediately, of course. Their actions reinforce prejudices against the religion, giving Islam a reputation for violence.
But it is not only the perpetrators of violence who undermine the image of Islam – even, I assume and even hope, among many Muslims.

There are people who claim to speak on behalf of Islam, making ridiculous statements and performing horrific acts, which can only make non-Muslims wonder on what it takes to be a Muslim. Of course, these individuals do not represent all Muslims.

In fairness, Catholics like those who get themselves nailed to crosses in the Philippines each Holy Week, or evangelical Christians in America who handle rattlesnakes, raise the same sort of questions about Christians. Lunacy in the name of religion is not a Muslim monopoly.

A couple of years ago, an Egyptian Muslim group declared that, “Eating tomatoes is forbidden because they are Christian.” The declaration was accompanied by a photo that showed that when a tomato is cut in half horizontally its core resembles a cross.

Eventually, ridicule of the commandment resulted in the group’s issuing a revision that allowed the eating of tomatoes so long as they were not cut in a particular way.

Now, a majority-Muslim nation is joining the parade of the brainless who seem intent on making Islam a laughing stock in the world.

The Malaysian justice system has upheld a ban on a Catholic newspaper’s use of the word “Allah” in its Bahasa Malaysia-language texts to refer to God. This is in spite of the fact that such use by Christians in Arabic-speaking lands predates the birth of the Prophet Mohammed.

Much of the religious vocabulary of Bahasa Malaysia, comes from Arabic. In fact, the word “Allah” is ultimately of pagan origin, as is the English word “god”.

Those disturbed by the ban on the centuries-old use of a single word in a single publication see it as a first step toward increased suppression of religious and ethnic minorities in Malaysia. They are probably right. In that case, the country will be seen as not simply ridiculous, but malevolent.

Are the Malaysian government agencies lately promoting tourism to that country ready to see that happen? Are most Malaysian Muslims happy to see yet one more event that increases perceptions of their religion and their country as not only tritely ridiculous, but potentially dangerous?

Christians and other minorities in Malaysia legitimately fear that proscribing the use of “Allah” in the Catholic newsweekly Herald will simply be the beginning of more persecution to come.

In the meantime, however, might this ban open new possibilities for Malaysian Catholics to broaden and deepen their relationship with God?

Of course. Persecution always provides that opportunity. But, on a less dramatic level, having to search for new vocabulary can be a blessing.

A priest in Cambodia who was engaged in translating Scripture, liturgy, the catechism and other texts into Khmer, the local language, said there is a value in not using common words.

The problem with commonly used words is that people think they know what they mean. And that meaning might not capture the richness of new thoughts. They have become stale and carry no more taste. They may even carry connotations that go against what we really hope to say.

A difficult or uncommon word can stop us and make us think: “I’m not sure what that word means. What might it mean?” Thought begins and insight can happen.

This can be especially true when we begin to think that a word can encompass the reality of God. In fact, the words we use can carry “linguistic DNA” that can infect that relationship.

For example, the English word “god” is of pagan Germanic origin. The Latin “deus”, related to the Greek Zeus via “theos”, does not speak of the one true God who is love.

Both the Germanic and Mediterranean words originally denoted a domineering warrior, though mythology does present Zeus as a rather promiscuous lover in a non-Christian sense of the word.

The search for an alternative that Malaysian authorities are imposing on the Herald may be a gift in disguise.

My personal recommendation is that Herald follow Jewish custom and simply say the Bahasa equivalent of “The Name”, which is “ha-shem” in Hebrew. That might even be worth considering for English use, a way of opening up new vistas for reflection and prayer. – ucanews.com, January 26, 2015.

* Maryknoll priest Fr William Grimm is a publisher of Ucanews, based in Tokyo.

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