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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.

16
Sep
13

CLEAN TOILETS

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TOILET CLEANING SESSIONS FOR STUDENTS WILL PAY OFF

Published in The Sun on 16 September 2013

MODERN gadgetry including handphones, digital video cameras and CCTVs are making us impassioned observers and commentators as image upon image appears before our eyes.

As concerned members of society we are quick to sympathise and even empathise with the people we see suffering from personal and societal abuses by their “lawless” and “clueless” compatriots.

The recent brutal handling of an infant by a male staff in a foreign country was condemned by those who had the heart to watch a baby being slapped around like a dead fish. If this had happened in a Malaysian hospital, some of us would have called for the public lynching of the predator animal.

At home, the CCTV recording of a woman being hit and kicked around by a burly husband in a lift watched by her two young children, drew a public outcry which led to a police report and the man’s arrest. We are now disgusted that the brute has the audacity to smile into the camera as he is led to court.

Just last week, the sneaked report of a CCTV installed in a school toilet drew public flak and condemnation of the school management and PTA who “wisely” made the decision in order to deter school vandalism. The education department was not spared brickbats for “foolishly” approving the application.

The general objection is that toilets are private places, even sacred, where the individual alone is allowed liberties. No one else is privy to a person’s bodily functions, let alone a camera which captures toilet actions for posterity.

Developments in the UK, however, show that the new Malaysian obsession with privacy may prove to be detrimental to public security as this excerpt shows: “UK schools so unsafe that surveillance needed in the most private spaces? Since the 1990s, the UK’s Home Office has spent 78 per cent of its crime prevention budget on CCTV installations, and schools have likewise invested significant resources in their own surveillance equipment.”

In Malaysia, now that the CCTV culprits have been witch-hunted and reprimanded, we should look at the issue of school toilets squarely in the face. School toilets are private YES, but not the sacred area it is made out to be. It is not a taboo area that cannot be literally and metaphorically touched but should be seen as a utility area that the school community owns and needs to look after.

Granted schools employ cleaners to clean up after schoolchildren, but would it not be wonderfully nurturing if we get the children involved? Would this not be a hands-on way of teaching the young that ownership comes with responsibility?

As part of their character-building and ethic-instilling roles, many dedicated teachers are now organising community work such as helping the orphans and elderly, doing odd jobs or “gotong-royong” in the neighbourhood, etc. Why not involve students in looking after their school toilets?

Classes can take turns to spruce up the toilets. This can be done with proper time-tabling. And at assembly every week, incentives can be announced. There can be a prize for the class that is judged to be the best in this community effort and stars can be given to the runners-up.

When respect for toilets is nurtured and the particular skill of cleaning toilets is learnt from young, children will grow up with the right attitude and behaviour towards toilet use. Malaysian schools can then look forward to a cleaner future with toilet-trained students.

In this respect, the Japanese who are known for being sticklers for cleanliness and politeness in their daily lives, train children to clean their school toilets.

In the outer community, some of us have had horrendous experiences of Malaysian public toilets, infamous for their stench and water-ridden seats and floors. It does not help to explain that we are a water culture where we toilet clean ourselves and perform spiritual cleansing with water.

For instance, besides dealing with their bodily functions, Muslims pray five times a day and take ablution each time – which explains why the toilets in government offices and agencies are always wet. Added to this are the dirty sinks as office staff wash their oily plates of rice and curry, leaving bits of food to clog the outlet designed for running water.

Yes – Malaysians still have a lot to learn and unlearn as they strive to become a technologically advanced nation by 2020. Woe betide us if we own the most sophisticated technology and gadgetry, have superior mental capacities which have been nurtured by a transformed education system – yet fail badly in our toilet skills.

06
Sep
13

WELCOMING SPEECH

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HER ROYAL HIGHNESS

Raja Zarith Sofiah Binti Almarhum Sultan Idris Shah, Patron of PCORE and Guest Of Honour

YANG BERBAHAGIA

Tan Sri Dr Michael Yeoh, Chief Executive Officer of ASLI

YANG BERBAHAGIA

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Group Chief Executive of Air Asia

YANG BERBAHAGIA

Dr Chandra Muzaffar, Chairman of Yayasan 1 Malaysia

YANG BERBAHAGIA

Dato’ Dr Mohd Tap, President of Institut Integriti Malaysia

Distinguished Speakers and Role-Players

Honoured Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen

SALAM & PEACE!

  • It gives me great pleasure to welcome PCORE Patron, HRH Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah to the ASLI-PCORE Forum on the theme Unity & Multiculturalism: Building A Future Together.
  • Menjunjung Kasih Tuanku for your gracious presence.
  • Since PCORE was founded in 2010 and officially registered in May 2011, Her Royal Highness has been fully supportive of our activities.
  • Indeed it was Tuanku who inspired five Facebook friends to form a citizen movement based on the founding values of peace, conscience and reason
  • PCORE is a young citizen movement and our simple motto ripples not waves  urges us on in small but meaningful ways
  • As PCORE President I’m proud to say that from the onset our strategy has always been to collaborate with partners who share our mission and objectives  – with individuals and small groups as well as giants such as ASLI.
  • We have found collaboration to be a most efficient way of sharing our resources and a most effective way of managing our programmes and activities. Not only does it extend our outreach, it also optimises our capacities. It is economical – when we cost-share, we cost-cut. Efficient, Effective & Economical!
  • Collaborating is an excellent opportunity to learn from the knowledge, experience and exposure, from the talents, skills and training of people who come from diverse backgrounds. By coming together in pursuit of a common cause we are united in working for the best outcomes.
  • We in PCORE believe that if the same spirit of collaboration pervades Malaysian society and seeps into the hearts of Malaysians, we will move forward as a people, united by the shared reality of our daily lives and our shared hopes and dreams.
  • For now, my hope is that the forum goes well with the participation of each and every one of us. We are gathered here today because we care and we believe we can make a difference.
  • Today we are here to speak honestly and sincerely, to share positive and constructive ideas on how to make our beloved Malaysia a better place.

 

  • Today in this miniscule space of a public forum, ordinary people are making a commitment to nation-building – to uphold our diversity and to reconcile our differences.
  • We are defining new approaches and finding workable solutions to manage the little niggly problems as well as the bigger issues that we face as a people and as a nation

 

  • We will collate and compile all your suggestions and document them into the forum Resolutions and Recommendations  to be handed to the relevant authorities.

 

  • We must create more public spaces like this forum where people, including the young can come together and share their hopes and dreams for national unity in meaningful exchanges

 

  • We must create more opportunities for people to engage one another in honest and sincere ways. By giving one another the space for dialogue and discourse, by listening to what others have to say, by sympathising and empathising with people who are different from us, we will undertand one another better and at a deeper level than the surface “Hi” and “Hello”.

 

  • I would like to end by thanking PCORE’s “partner in forum” ASLI for this wonderful opportunity to synergise our many strengths in organising this forum. Thank you Tan Sri Michael, Yeen Seen and the staff of ASLI
  • May I thank the forum’s esteemed speakers and role players who did not hesitate when they were asked to lend their voices. Thank you for your commitment to national unity and multiculturalism
  • I would like to thank Institut Integriti Malaysia for your cooperation in making the forum space a glowing one. Thank you Dato’ Dr Mohd Tap and your team of dedicated staff
  • Last but not least a huge thank you and much love to the PCORE committee with whom I’ve held hands to put together this forum and our other activities. You are great guys!

Salam and PEACE

 

 




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