Lost in translation

Lost in translation

Funny, but we thought that “Allah” was the Arabic word for God – you know: the one God of the major monotheistic religions, which used to be, in order of appearance, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But a band of rampaging Muslims in Malaysia last week took it by force, and the stature of Islam, a faith once respected worldwide, has again been diminished by shockingly violent adherents.

The seizure of “Allah” would be laughable if it were not so frightening: Over the weekend, according to news reports, Muslims in Malaysia, angry about a court ruling overturning a ban on – as The New York Times put it – “the use of the word Allah to denote the Christian God,” trashed and firebombed churches and a convent school. “The Christian God” – as if there were a pantheon of many, duking it out like Zeus and Hera.

One bizarre aspect of this bizarre and barbaric situation is that it’s not unusual, in Arabic-speaking countries, for Jesus to be referred to, in translations of the Christian scriptures, as the “son of Allah.”

It is not only Christians who are the butt of the Malaysian Muslims’ anger. Stones were thrown at a Sikh temple in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday night. Sikhs also use the word “Allah,” as well as other Arabic words, in their scriptures. (And by the way, Mizrahi Jews use it, too. Don’t tell the Malaysians.)

Such mass acts of violence, like the violence against the Danish cartoonists, do not erupt spontaneously. Some malicious presence tends to incite them – and then they spread. According to BosNewsLife Asia Service, the marauders “were apparently encouraged by Muslim community leaders who reportedly suspect Christians of wanting to use the word Allah to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity.”

Ya know, that could be the case. Think about the duplicitousness of Jews for Jesus, who use his Hebrew name, Yeshua, to attract unsuspecting Jews. But it doesn’t excuse violence and terrorism.


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