Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Letter to Michelle Ng

To my dear sister in Christ Michelle Ng,

Thank you for taking time to write an encouraging letter to our Muslim friends. Besides being an apology and an act of building trust with Muslims, your letter rightly serves as a reminder to the rest of us, Christians, who constantly need to take care of the plank of our own eye. Indeed, and rightly so. If I may, I would like to share with you three thoughts on behalf of our Muslim friends regarding those issues you have highlighted in your letter.

First, Muslims are more generous and inclusive than your letter implies. While there are indeed Muslims who demand exclusive right over the use of 'Allah', we should not forget our other Muslim friends in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore as well as those in middle eastern countries who see no problem at all for non-Muslims to use that word.

You have helpfully noted that our relationship with God is not constrained by any form of human’s linguistic expression. While this is true, let us not forget that many of our Muslim friends think likewise too for their own faith. They call this transcendence tanzih. This is part of the reason they are as puzzle as Christians when they found out that their own fellow Muslims demand exclusive use for ‘Allah’, as if the transcendent God can be compared and equated with a human word.

Second, Muslims are more understanding than your letter allows. The call to burn Bibles is not only condemned by Christians but by Muslims too. Individuals from both religious traditions have jointly lodged police report on it. I think they condemn such a call not because they are holding grudge or acting impulsively. Rather, it is because such a call disrupts the cordial relationship and threatens the harmonious co-existence of both communities in the country.

Third, Muslims are more loving and hospitable than your letter assumes. You assure our Muslim friends that Christians will still be hospitable and charitable to them should the day come when Christianity is prohibited in Malaysia. While Christian hospitality for everyone at all times is a must, let us not forget that Muslims are as much capable of loving those who do not share their religion and be hospitable to those who are politically persecuted regardless of their religion. Your assurance seems to imply that Muslims are somehow morally inferior. It is worth remembering that the Albanian Muslims risked their lives to save thousands of Jewish families from being deported and executed during the Holocaust. Nearing to home, a personal Christian friend of mine was protected by his kampong’s Malay-Muslim penghulu during the 1969’s riot in Klang.

There are many Muslims who are more generous, understanding, and loving than those who have been trying to wreak havoc in the country. The Christians are not alone in responding to those unjust matters that have surfaced in recent months. We have Muslim friends who are in solidarity with us, just as us with them. Therefore any condemnation or critique of our responses to these matters is unfortunate because it implicates our Muslim friends, who are marching side-by-side with us, to be less generous, understanding, and loving than they have always been.

Thank you for reading this. May God continue to bless you in your life and work.

Joshua Woo Sze Zeng
A brother in Christ.

No comments: