Archive for October, 2013

25
Oct
13

GOD TRANSLATED

allah-book-GQ48_l

THE TRANSLATION OF GOD

Published on 24 October 2013

I REFER to the letter on the Allah impasse published in theSun on Oct 18 which did not go down well with some readers who were unhappy with the compromise suggested. I was privately taken to task on email and publicly chided on Facebook for supporting the court decision.

Having been accused of insincerity and pandering to the powers that be, may I say that my comments are consistent with what I wrote more than three years ago, that is the issue is caused primarily by a poor cross-lingual translation of “God”. The following letter was published in a couple of mainstream newspapers in 2010.

“BEING trained in linguistics, in particular translation theory, I see the “Allah” issue as one involving semantics and the translation of a key religious concept – God.

The word for the Muslim concept of God (Allah) has been transposed or borrowed to represent the Christian God in the Bahasa Indonesia translation of the Bible.

Cultural and religious concepts are the hardest to translate. Many words are culturally loaded and have evolved in the holy books and its teachings among the multilingual community of followers. They are often embellished and reinforced by their distinctive sociolinguistic environment and have acquired specialised contextual meanings.

In the lexicon of a language some words have a direct referential or denotative meaning – the most obvious being a name.

“Ali” refers to or denotes the person of Ali. Others have a referential meaning as well as a connotative or implied meaning eg “pig” refers to the pig (animal) but it can be used to imply the pig’s characteristics such as “gluttony” as in “You are a real pig”.

However this expression would be culturally offensive to a Muslim or Jew to whom the pig is taboo. Similarly the idiom “like a pigsty” should not be translated literally and would need a translation relevant to the particular language and culture.

“Allah” is a culturally loaded concept in Islam both in the language of the Quran and the language of its Malay Muslim adherents in Malaysia. It is imbued with many meanings including the 99 attributes of God familiar to the Muslims.

To juxtapose “Allah” in the culturally distinct Christian milieu is to translate what is basically an untranslatable concept – both of the unity in the Muslim understanding of God and the Trinity in the Christian conception of God. These concepts are highly complex and abstract in themselves. Why confuse people further with a poor translation?

In translation theory, there is the notion of “untranslatability” and when a concept is untranslatable the translator resorts to employing the generic term supported by notes or an explanation. In this case the generic Malay word for the concept of the universal God “Tuhan” can be used in the Bible translation with notes and an explanation about the Trinity.

Translators must demonstrate the highest linguistic sensitivity and exercise the greatest caution when they translate important texts and documents. Not only must they be specialists in the subject area but linguists in their own right. Ideally, the translator must be a native speaker of one of the two languages involved and have a mastery over the other.”

In different versions of the English Bible, the terms “Lord”, “Father”, “God” are used as appellations for the Christian God, to refer to him as well as to call out to him. The same terms are used in Christian prayers chanted by the individual alone or with the rest of the congregation in a chapel or church.

Attending primary and secondary school in the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, Seremban , I grew up knowing the English version of the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary by heart and even mouthed them silently at school assemblies and other events where the Roman Catholic nuns offered these prayers. It would be interesting to know how these prayers are translated into Malay for a Malay-speaking Christian congregation.

Datin Halimah Mohd Said
President PCORE
What The Sun did not publish

Below, I offer my own translation of  the  Hail Mary:

English version:

Hail Mary, full of grace.

Our Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women,

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God

Pray for us sinners

Now and at the hour of our death.

Amen

 

Malay Translation:

Ya Mariam, penuh dengan limpah kurniamu

Allah di sisimu

Kamu dirahmati di kalangan hawa

Dan kerahmatan tunas rahim mu, Isa

Mariam yang suci, Ibu kepada Allah

Doa’kan kami yang berdosa,

Kini dan pada saat kematian kami.

Amin

 

I leave the readers to read into the greater implications of this translation as well as other translations of Christian texts where God in English is rendered into Allah in Malay.

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21
Oct
13

GOD & ALLAH

love-allah

 

Published on 25 October 2013

Allah Impasse

Allah is used in the Malay translation of the Bible used by the Roman Catholics in East Malaysia and Indonesia, i.e. where the people including Christians use Malay in their religious as well as other transactions. A gross error would be for the government to stop them from continuing to do so.

But to stop the use ofAllah in future publications of Christian discourse  in/by The Herald is the right decision. They should revert to the norm in Christian teaching – i.e. use the terms God,The Lord and translate this into Tuhan in Malay.There shouldn’t be a problem reeducating the Malay-speaking Roman Catholics in Sabah and Sarawak thatTuhan Yang Maha Agong (The Lord Almighty) is another name they can use to refer to God.

In the process, they can be led to see that the Muslim Malays also use another word for God.The adherents of all religions will learn something new and be more enlightened about the religious universalities they share, while knowing that the God in their scriptures have different attributes.

The government should strike a compromise – allow the use of Allah in Sabah and Sarawak where the Roman Catholics are Malay-speaking and use the old Malay translation of the Bible, but for future publication of The Herald in Malay, require them to revert to the norm for Christian discourse in the English bible.

Meantime, the Institut Terjemahan Negara and Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka in collaboration with Christian and Islamic religious experts proficient in Arabic, English, Malay (and Hebrew) should work on the translation of the Bible into Bahasa Malaysia which Malaysia can call its own.
Datin Halimah Mohd Said

President, Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason

 

love-allah

Published on 13 January 2010

The challenge of translating religious concepts

BEING trained in linguistics, in particular translation theory, I see the “Allah” issue as one involving semantics and the translation of a key religious concept – God. The word for the Muslim concept of God (Allah) has been transposed or borrowed to represent the Christian God in the Bahasa Indonesia translation of the Bible.

Cultural and religious concepts are the hardest to translate. Many words are culturally loaded and have evolved in the holy books and its teachings among the multilingual community of followers. They are often embellished and reinforced by their distinctive sociolinguistic environment and have acquired specialised contextual meanings.

In the lexicon of a language some words have a direct referential or denotative meaning – the most obvious being a name. “Ali” refers to or denotes the person of Ali. Others have a referential meaning as well as a connotative or implied meaning eg “pig” refers to the pig (animal) but it can be used to imply the pig’s characteristics such as “gluttony” as in “You are a real pig”. However this expression would be culturally offensive to a Muslim or Jew to whom the pig is taboo. Similarly the idiom “like a pigsty” should not be translated literally and would need a translation relevant to the particular language and culture.

“Allah” is a culturally loaded concept in Islam both in the language of the Quran and the language of its Malay Muslim adherents in Malaysia. It is imbued with many meanings including the 99 attributes of God familiar to the Muslims. To juxtapose “Allah” in the culturally distinct Christian milieu is to translate what is basically an untranslatable concept – both of the unity in the Muslim understanding of God and the Trinity in the Christian conception of God. These concepts are highly complex and abstract in themselves. Why confuse people further with a poor translation?

In translation theory there is the notion of “untranslatability” and when a concept is untranslatable the translator resorts to employing the generic term supported by notes or an explanation. In this case the generic Malay word for the concept of the universal God “Tuhan” can be used in the Bible translation with notes and an explanation about the Trinity.

Translators must demonstrate the highest linguistic sensitivity and exercise the greatest caution when they translate important texts and documents. Not only must they be specialists in the subject area but linguists in their own right. Ideally, the translator must be a native speaker of one of the two languages involved and have a mastery over the other.

Halimah Mohd Said
Kuala Lumpur

14
Oct
13

AUSTERITY FOR PROSPERITY

Videogames-hit-by-austerity-pressure-in-2011-coins

AUSTERITY FOR PROSPERITY

Published in The Sun on 14 October 2013

A PUBLIC outcry again! This time it is with dismay and disbelief at the Auditor-General’s 2012 report which reveals yet another year of mismanagement in government spending.

Yet again, the ministries and departments whose budgets give them access to public money have abused the trust invested in them. The overspending is gross, the wastage behind it atrocious.

The officials responsible must be brought to book. Bloated claims must be investigated as incompetent civil servants have allowed themselves to be duped (advertently or inadvertently) by service providers and suppliers. Invoices and claims defeat honesty as the government spends money, showing an obvious crack in the line of authority.

How did the spending for this and that get past the scrutiny of department committees and their heads or of the minister for more important inventory? Why were departmental guidelines and the treasury instructions not adhered to? Is not accountability implicit every step of the approval?

With the PAC and other official agencies and committees standing in line to investigate the government’s yearly financial faux pas, some of these questions will be answered and assurances given that they will not happen again.

But the question of whether the government is prudent enough or its calls for austerity serious enough remains unanswered for as long as the budget is superfluous and public monies carelessly disbursed.

One has only to look at the routine activities of government departments such as meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences to realise how big the allocations must be.

Mundane as it is, the supply of food and drink is one area of regular abuse because of its very regularity. It has become normal practice to “lay out the table” at least three times a day – morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea – and lay the plates with food regardless of appetites.

This is one part of the budget which can be drastically cut down without hurting anyone except perhaps the office caterer. If the government is serious about encouraging thrift among the public, it should start by removing the unnecessary and irrelevant details in catering expenditure.

Looking at the generous spread of food served at government events, one should not be surprised if obesity is a prevalent disease among civil servants along with diabetes and hypertension.

It has been rumoured that if a whole roast lamb or several are not in the menu of government open houses, the department “has not arrived” and its KPI will be negatively perceived.

Being a bit of a socio-cultural bluff, I would like to point fingers at the attitudes and values nurtured in and by a society that has never had it so good – at least among the more affluent civil servants managing ministry headquarters and agencies in and around Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, as well as the state capitals.

Being used to the fast-track lane of managing huge budgets for the numerous programmes and activities at all levels of the community, one can become blasé and disconnected. Paradoxically, it is the ministers and deputy ministers who are in touch with the common people and can see for themselves where the real needs lie.

When one thinks of the sheer irrelevance of musical pop groups such as K Pop and their singer Psy in nurturing good values among the young, one wonders why they were factored into the entertainment in the first place.

If song and dance are the reasons why the young support these government programmes, one should not then wonder why the support was not forthcoming when it came to more serious matters.

While it is true that sports and music bring people together and promote integration among the young, there can be greater mileage in low-budget educational programmes such as language camps where young people can be encouraged to create their own music or drama.

As the next Budget draws near, it is hoped that the government will streamline a reduced allocation to the ministries, their departments and agencies. Instead of a superfluously generous budget which encourages parties to overspend and overclaim, the budget should be stringently focused on key areas that will bring the greatest development to the people.

This way, civil servants will be kept on their toes and on their heads to think harder of programmes and activities that will really benefit the communities they serve.

Ministry officials and their political masters must lead the way in showing thrift and prudence in the management of their activities. For one, the entourage which accompany them on both local and international trips can be reduced which then trims down all related expenditure.

The class of air travel is another area which can be revised to reflect the country’s austerity drive. Travel by LCC should be the first choice rather than the last resort. “Austerity For Prosperity” should be adopted as the new national slogan.

04
Oct
13

BOOK LAUNCH

King launches coffee table book by Raja Zarith Sofia

Pomp and publication: Tuanku Abdul Halim talking with Raja Zarith during the launch of the book in Kuala Lumpur.Pomp and publication: Tuanku Abdul Halim talking with Raja Zarith during the launch of the book in Kuala Lumpur.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah launched a coffee table book titled On Common Ground by columnist Tuanku Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah.

The event was also graced by the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah.

On Common Ground is a collection of 80 selected articles by Raja Zarith Sofiah that were published in her column On Common Ground and Mind Matters in theNew Straits Times and The Sunday Star respectively from 2000 to 2012.

In her speech, Raja Zarith Sofiah, who is the consort of the Sultan of Johor, thanked the King and Queen for gracing the book launch.

It was a dream for any writer to have his or her work published, she said, adding that she felt blessed to have hers fulfilled, thus allowing a larger circle of people to share her thoughts.

“Beyond our families sharing memories together, all of us, as Malaysians, share the same concerns about local and international issues,” she said.

“Through the articles I wrote, I was able to share these concerns with my readers.”

This, she said, was much more valuable than the monthly remuneration she got from the publishers.

She said it was also rewarding to meet different groups of people and be told that they had enjoyed reading her articles.

Page 132

HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah is the Patron of Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason (PCORE)

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Published by MPH Group Publishing, the 234-page book is priced at RM135 and is available at all major bookstores. — Bernama

03
Oct
13

POLITICAL WILL

chapter_5_political_willWe must walk the talk

Published in The Sun on 1 October 2013

WHENEVER a country’s anti-corruption efforts are discussed, a crucial point made is that there must be political will to fight the scourge. The success or failure in fighting corruption inevitably boils down to the presence or absence of strong political will. In his research on the anti-corruption measures adopted in 10 Asian countries, Jon Quah concludes that “curbing corruption in Asian countries is not an impossible dream if there is political will”.

What then is “political will”? The definitions I googled include the following:
» Demonstrated credible intent of political actors (elected or appointed leaders, civil society watchdogs, stakeholder groups, etc) to attack perceived causes or effects … at a systematic level
» Commitment of actors to undertake actions to achieve a set of objectives and to sustain the costs of those actions over time
» Reform space: intersection of ability, authority, and acceptance
» Willingness as evidenced by commitment and inclusiveness
» Sustained commitment of politicians and administrators to invest political resources to achieve specific objectives
» Concerted use of political power for the good of the nation and its people.

To summarise, political will is best seen as the commitment made by the government of the day and the relevant parties to pursue a cause (of action) to its desired conclusions.

In Asia, the two countries that rank highest in having successfully minimised, if not eradicated, corruption are Hong Kong and Singapore. By empowering their independent anti-corruption agency to adopt effective corruption control and implement the anti-corruption laws, Asia’s two richest city states in terms of GDP per capita have cleaned their once corruption-ridden societies.

By appointing honest and incorrupt individuals to public office, the most important catalyst for change – an incorruptible political leadership – is in place to exert the political will and impartially enforce effective anti-corruption measures without fear or favour.

Among the more effective anti-corruption reforms that can be adopted is the two-pronged approach which integrates political will and the people’s will. By combining the top-down efforts of the government and their agencies and the bottom-up initiatives by civil society and citizen movements, anti-corruption measures can be successfully implemented in the critical sectors such as the police, health and education services which have a direct bearing on people’s lives.

As the public outcry against corruption gets louder and as the people bray for more big fish to be caught, they themselves must admit that they are part of the corruption entrapment. It is the people who are both the givers and takers whether they are in the public or private sector. They are the small fish and the medium-size ones that feed into the mouths of the sharks. This is the ecosystem of corruption so ultimately, the people’s will is as important as the political will.

As the International Anti-Corruption Day (Dec 9) draws near, the prime minister and his cabinet must ingeniously device the ZERO TOLERANCE PLAN FOR CORRUPTION. Key to this is instilling in Malaysians not just the fear of being caught for giving or taking bribes but more importantly, the belief that it is morally wrong. As the United Nations declares:

“International Anti-Corruption Day is a time for political leaders, governments, legal bodies and lobby groups to work together against corruption work by promoting the day and the issues that surround this event.”

The time has come for the prime minister and his cabinet to stand together to sign the Anti-Corruption Declaration and in one voice pledge their commitment to wage a war against corruption. It is for them to lead the way and to walk the talk, hand in hand with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.

However, as we know, political pronouncements alone are not enough. One can say a thousand times that one is against corruption and other abuses of power. One can reiterate that the government and their enforcement agencies are going all out to fight crime and corruption. If the proper measures are not put in place, the battles continue as the movers and shakers of corruption restrategise to beat the law and extract the most awesome war spoils to distribute among themselves.

Ideally, the end result of the war against corruption is the complete eradication of this debilitating disease of society. For, like a malignant cancer which destroys the body’s healthy cells and eventually causes death, corruption gnaws at the organs of society until its very heart festers with pus and poison. And without proper treatment and administration of the right drugs, the cancer cells will multiply and invade the body systems causing them to crumble.

We the government and the people of Malaysia must declare that we do not want our beloved nation to go down to the rats who spread disease and vermin. We ourselves must not be the despicable rats of society.




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