This concludes Iain Buchanan's article from the previous posting:
(3) The Malaysian Connection. In a country as diverse as Malaysia, the use of culturally or religiously charged words is especially problematic. After all, words are never neutral, they mean what we want them to mean. So the intention behind the word is all-important - especially in such sensitive (and strategic) concerns as bible translation. And especially in a context which involves so many known points of potential conflict - whether religious, ethnic, rural-urban, or regional; a context in which disparities may interact and interweave in the most complex of ways: as evident, for example, in the status of East Malaysian Christian bumiputeras in a Muslim-majority federation.
Within this context, the Christian campaign for the use of the word "Allah", especially within a Malay language context, is unfortunate - in a number of highly sensitive ways, it stands as a metaphor for dissent and division, rather than tolerance and coexistence. And it conforms to an evangelical message that too often seems hostile to Islam and Muslims, and (at the very least) designed to alienate Christians from non-Christians in a multi-cultural country. This can be seen at two levels: first, in the highly ambiguous usage of the word, and second, in the political context of the campaign (including the relationship between Malays and non-Malays, and the relationship between Peninsular and East Malaysia).
Perhaps, given this dire state of affairs, there are a number of steps that evangelicals can take to restore a degree of confidence in their honour - and in their role as partner in the task of nation-building.
They can begin by restraining the zealots. In modern evangelicalism, much of the zealotry revolves around people like C. Peter Wagner. And in Malaysia (as elsewhere) the influence of C. Peter Wagner and his ilk is strong and growing - in large churches (of various denominations) such as Metro Tabernacle, Grace Assembly, City Harvest, Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB), and Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), in an increasing number of smaller churches both in Peninsular and East Malaysia, and across a wide range of "secular" activities (such as business, education, and entertainment) - evangelization, it is worth remembering, is not just a matter of church prayers.
But Wagner and his friends don't have a monopoly on zealotry. As active players in a global movement, Malaysia's NECF (National Evangelical Christian Fellowship) itself may sit beside some very dubious bedfellows - like Brother Yun, leader of the Back to Jerusalem Movement, who claims that his efforts may cost over 10,000 martyrs to the cause of evangelizing the Muslim world. In 2005, Brother Yun's recruitment visit to Malaysia was enthusiastically sponsored - and later defended- by the NECF. In addition, Brother Yun's main Western promoter, the missionary Paul Hattaway, now teaches in the Malaysian School of Cross-cultural Mission.
If zealots are to be controlled (and trust between religious communities restored) it is people like Wagner and his cohorts, and Brother Yun, who need to be reined in. Not, in the first instance, by the authorities. No: above all, it is such people's co-religionists, their fellow-Christians, who need to take steps, in full public view, to clear the air. After all, Muslims are constantly being urged to banish the zealots from their own stables; so this is not much to ask. Perhaps, then, Muslims can begin to feel that there is nothing suspicious about the use (by Christians of any persuasion) of any particular word.
Secondly, it may be politic for Christians to admit that non-Christians do have reasonable grounds for doubting their good intentions. And this applies across all denominations, whether avowedly "evangelical" or not. For in Christianity, more than any other religion, the line between what is evangelical and what is not is extremely (and often wilfully) blurred. And furthermore, as the present situation shows, evangelical fervour can be a very cooperative virtue - uniting Catholic and Protestant, "evangelical" and "mainline", on matters of common strategic interest (such as the use of the word "Allah"). It may be wiser to show a little more tact, and a little more humility - rather than to hammer on about "victimhood", "state persecution", and "abuse of human rights".
For the reality is, in global terms, and in Malaysian terms, Christians are not victims. That is not to say that many Christians, (or Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists) are not victims. It is to say that, in terms of wealth, happiness, and personal safety, Malaysian Christians are certainly no worse off than their co-religionists in the West - whatever their mullahs try to suggest to the contrary.
And in this whole tangled debate, this is perhaps the most important fact of all.