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Non-Muslims too can reply to Assalamualaikum

In the world's largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, Christians of various denominations refer to God as 'Tuhan Allah' without having to worry about possible rioters waiting outside their churches.

As another traveled Muslim, it frustrated me to watch the movie 'Kingdom of Heaven' on Astro where greetings of peace between Muslims and Christian were censored along with the speech made by the character Balian before the attack and siege of Jerusalem by Salahuddin's army. This speech referred to a city where lay the ruins of the Jewish temple, the Christian church and the Muslim mosque, all in worship of the same god (an excellent statement for inter-fatih reflections).

'Assalamualaikum' generally means 'peace be unto you' (or, 'peace be with you') and the appropriate general non-Muslim reply is 'Mualaikumsalam' which means 'peace be also with/upon you' in the Arabic language.

Why is it in this my country, a majority of fellow Muslims propagate a monopoly over who can and cannot greet one another?

Years ago, I remember attending a dinner held by the People's Progressive Party (PPP) attended by a crowd numbering in the hundreds with the then deputy prime minister Pak Lah as the VVIP in attendance.

PPP president M Kayveas ended his opening speech with parting words of 'Terima kasih', 'Shyer Shyer ni', 'Romba nandri" and 'Thank you'. And then my beloved Pak Lah took to the podium for his opening speech. And he said:

'Dato Kayveas, you have expressed your thanks in four languages but you forgot to say 'Assalamualaikum'. Which in Arabic simply means 'Peace be upon you'. The proper reply by non-Muslims is 'Wasalamualaikum' which in Arabic means 'Peace be also with you'.

'The proper reply by Muslims is 'Wasalamualaikum waratu'allah' which invokes the name of Allah as the one true God.' Pak Lah continued:

'Nobody should have a monopoly over the Arabic language and I say to all of you present here, Muslim and non-Muslim to reply appropriately in Arabic if you choose to.'

Parts of this BN component party's dinner function was broadcast over Malaysian TV channels RTM and TV3. Unfortunately and immaturely, their editors censored the opening part of Pak Lah's enlightening and warm speech.

So as I stand here, frustrated yet reassured, a travelled Muslim on the long, long road journeying towards changing the attitude of some of my fellow Malaysian Muslims, I say to one and all Malaysians of every creed, colour, religion or atheist 'Assalamualaikum' and I will hear your whispered (and perhaps censored) replies accordingly.

Peace be with you.