We are fools who fight over religion

It is unfair, perhaps even mischievous, for Fathima Idris to suggest that proselytisation is the aim of Christians who use the word ‘Allah’ instead of ‘Tuhan’. In fact, both are used interchangeably. Even in the English Bible, God’s other names are used. Many of these names are not dissimilar to the 99 names of God in Islam.

The question I would pose is "Why not?" Why should Christians not be able to use a word that is widely used by Christians elsewhere? In the context of the national language, the word ‘Tuhan’ is also used to refer to God. Why should they be restricted to only one word when there are several words referring to God in the English Bible and other translations?

The problem only arises in Malaysia which practices unfair religious restrictions with no basis. Ironically, those who tell us that Islam is a religion of justice would deny Christians natural justice. Those who profess often don't possess the truth. There is only one God and thus, we should expect people to describe him in ways they understand.

The issue then is whether what was said is true or false. It is unlikely that there will be a consensus. When people say that Allah is not the same, what they mean is that their teachings about him are not the same. If there is only one supreme deity everyone refers to, it is illogical to say that they mean someone else. It would then mean that there are two or more Gods and I am not referring to the polytheistic gods here.

Despite what Muslims believe about Christianity, the truth is that they believe there is only one God. They differ in their theologies. While there are similarities between the two, there are also huge differences and misunderstandings can occur. This is also demonstrated by some American Christians who insist that Allah is not the same God as the Christian God. Again, they mean the differences in theology. There is no need to throw the baby away with the water.

The Christian theology of God and his attributes are distinctly dissimilar from Islamic theology even though there are some similarities in descriptions. Christians appeal to God as a loving father, someone who is in constant intimate fellowship with his abiding creatures whereas Muslims don't share that idea. They believe that God is aloof and impersonal. Thus theirs is a religion more similar to the Jewish faith which Christianity replaced when Jesus ushered in a dispensation of grace.

But there is no doubt they are talking about the same God. Just because people have different ideas about God does not mean they are not talking about the same God - the supreme being and creator of the universe. The term ‘Allah’ was used before Islam and if we are honest about history, it was a term used by polytheists to denote the highest God. If people understand the history of Islam, they will understand its context better. They must not read from biased sources but study it objectively. As Gandhi said, "Truth never hurt a good cause."

God is one and no matter what humans think of him, he is still God and the only supreme being. It is an entirely different thing if people think of the sun as God. There is no disagreement that Muslims historically believed in the God of Abraham, Moses and Isaac long after the Christians and Jews - whom Muslims consider as “people of the book" and with whom the Islam’s founder had dealings.

Etymology is a complex subject but the important thing is that no one should lay claims to words like ‘Allah’, ‘God’, ‘Jesus’ or ‘Muhammad’ as these belong in the public domain. Religion exists in a world of controversy and contradictions. It is an extreme measure to interfere with someone else's religion in the way the government has. What did the prime minister say about the dangers of religious extremism in his Christmas message?

Of course it upsets me, as a follower of religion, if someone misrepresents a name that is endearing to me or distorts my faith. But we are all victims. All religions share the common experience of being misrepresented and ridiculed. God is blasphemed all the time but why should we be upset? God has said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." Who are we, mere mortals, to play God and exercise judgement - sometimes with brutal force upon others?

If I did not honestly believe in God, I would have nothing to do with religious people. They are so full of hypocrisy. They seem more concerned about people doing the right things and saying the right things about God. They are so pedantic about religious propriety that they forget that the real purpose of religion is to benefit others. Of course not all religious people are like that, but why do we only hear about these ones?

They will quote this text and that text, appearing like the strict Jewish pharisees who will spin rule upon rule and pick on those who fail to follow those ridiculous and cumbersome rules. Their inordinate concern for ritual propriety and disproportionate indifference to human suffering has earned them names such as "white-washed tombs" and "brood of vipers" even from Jesus himself. Those nitpicking religious people were of no use to people burdened with sin who need help, not hindrance.

In Malaysia, we see religion pasted everywhere. We have our own religious “pharisees”. They attribute the country's woes to the fact that it is not a religious state. They think that if the country is a religious state then everything will be well. Of course, they are biased and have a skewed view of justice.

An adulterous husband or wife may be given another chance but never a politician. If they don't deliver what they promised, kick them out. They have to prove themselves before they are allowed back into power. This is how democracy works. But sadly many Malaysians are like cult members, unable to think for themselves and blindly following the leader. They are deluded, afraid, undiscerning, corrupted. Those who support bad politicians and their parties later spend time lamenting their faults and then repeat their mistakes five years later.

We are fools who fight over religion. If all religions teach peace and tolerance and claim to embody that, why are their followers quarrelling with the audacity to claim they do so in God's name? Let's not be duped. The devil laughs all the way to hell while humans kill and hate each other. Instead, we should reason together, agree to disagree on theological matters but be united against moral evil. But if we are afraid of someone else's religion, we will try to shut them up if we have the power.

When it floods, everyone is affected. Floods don't pick their victims based on their religion. Malaysians must unite against floods and help each other rather than stumble over religious jargon. The floodgates of corruption and deception have been opened for some time now. It is up to every Malaysian to shut them before the nation sinks.