Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Turning Christian.

Maybe it is just a trend that will outlive its day but more and more Malay men and women from good Muslim homes are turning Christian at the rate of 1,000 a month (according to a website dedicated to Malay Murtad). There is no way to validate this figure but let's put numbers aside and try to come up with answers as to why Christianity has such a special place among Malay men and women who have been brought up to become pious Muslim but instead, somewhere along his or her life, renounces the religion and opts for jingle bell jingle bell jingle all the way and a patridge in a pear tree.

Let's not talk about Article 11 or Lina Joy or Natrah or whoever because this will only cloud the issue. Let me remind you that this entry is not an open invitation to express your views about issues you feel strongly about, or values you hold sacred. This is not about something that has any connection with the planned gathering organized by Muslim NGOs at Masjid Wilayah this Sunday. This is also not an invitation for you to come in and impress everyone with quotes from the Qur'an or hadith.

Maybe you have never met a murtad in your life. Or talk to one. Let me tell you this. A murtad is just like you and me. He or she could be your neighbor. Or uncle. Or your son. Or daughter. He or she lives in your house. Prays five times a day. Fast during Ramadhan. He or she can even be a graduate of Al-Azhar University with a degree in Usuluddin. He or she doesn't show any untoward sign so you can detect early that he or she is going to crossover. She's got the tudung on almost 24 hours a day. He or she doesn't even have any questions about Islam, especially questions concerning the existence of god. As a Muslim, he or she performs everything that a Muslim is supposed to perform. But you notice something.

You notice that he or she is attracted to the brand of Christianity as depicted on TV. At Christmas time especially, when the TV is filled with Christmas programmes that has snow in it, chestnuts on open fire, sleigh, rudolf the red-nosed thing, santa claus, presents, all-round peace, nice warm houses in the snow field. You too are equally encouraged by these images that without realising it, your innocent child starts to form pleasant images of Christianity in the head. Of course he or she doesn't know that people in the Philippines and the people deep in the jungle of Sarawak or Sabah celebrate their version of Christmas in their own special way and there's no snow involved whatsover. But these images aren't being played out on TV. So your child grows up with this Hollywood version of Christianity thinking 'What a nice religion this Christianity is.' There's snow, chestnuts and all the images he or she grows up with from the day he or she can zip the channels on the remote commander. Even the colors have been streamlined to make the mind think about Christmas and Christianity almost unconsciously. Red and Green. Red and Green. Very nice. Very warm. Very orang putih. And therefore, ada standard.

Maybe my friend who has crossed over to the other side could shed some light as to why she took the road that I should have tried harder to stop her from making that big leap.

Brought up in a strict Muslim family, this friend of mine came to the city with the intention of doing exactly the reverse of what she had been taught to uphold. I don't want to go into the details how long it took her to make that 180 degrees turn but it was fairly quick. Next thing I know she proudly announced that she is now a Christian. And so I said, I am not going to argue with that but just tell me one thing...why?

The truth is, she doesn't know either because it is not the truth that she is concerned with. Neither it is about someone she is in love with. It's not about which is better. It's not about can't-you-see-the-glaring-truth? It's not about One versus trinity. It's not about who took care of the universe if god died for three days on the cross. It's not about Catholic or Protestant or Jehovah Witness or one of those churches you find on the second floor of a shopoffice in your neighborhood. It's not Christianity per se. For cryin' out loud, it's not even about the singing or the midnite mass. She doesn't know. I don't either. Do you?

22 Comments:

Anonymous Rad said...

*too scared to express my view* - just presence

3:05 PM  
Blogger moontari said...

I suppose we tend to think that the other side (whatever it is) seems better especially when we are taught religion to be as is, no question ask.

Only once you understand how society interacts and human-god relationship, where religion is concern, it's just a matter of faith.

Your faith..on how to live your life.

p/s Been reading your blog for a while, like that you're one to not pull any punches. That's kewl!

4:13 PM  
Anonymous hemu2 said...

guess they believe the grass is greener on the other side....

btw..how did the date with the 3 ladies go?

4:18 PM  
Blogger carinasuyin said...

Hi Bergen, I honestly don't think it has anything to do with Hollywood Christmas either... but I'd like to believe that the act of questioning is part of having faith, no matter what religion one believes in. It is important to ask, no?

Peace be with you! :)

5:49 PM  
Blogger OOD said...

Deep.

6:52 PM  
Blogger podgykat said...

Yep, rather deep and thought-provoking. Will mull over this for a bit......

8:21 PM  
Blogger anggerik merah said...

waz here. Really thot provoking.

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Bergen,
I found the topic to be really interesting. I just would like to share my points of view regarding this issue.

I think when someone from a religious background decides to convert to the other side, it will suprise others because they have a perception that someone who performs all the rukuns must be a good Muslim. But then what is the 'pengisian' of the action? Why does someone perform a solat, etc? Is it because he/she 'taat' to Allah's command, or because that is what the parents ask, or merely because he/she is frighten of Allah's wrath?

In the end, it all boils down to niat. Maybe a person does something, but the niat is not right. He/she might just perform the rukun for the sake of performing, but there's no penghayatan. It's the same as when a student do his/her revision for the purpose of excelling in the exams, but doesn't really understand what it is he/she is studying about.

The root of the problem is the lack of iman. Someone is not a pious person just because he performs all the rukuns. Only Allah knows the iman of a person.

As what you said about the glamorous side of Christmas, I think someone might be lured to it because of the lack of iman. Sometimes I think the celebration is too commercialised.


-Didi-

8:44 AM  
Blogger Nazrah said...

hmm, it is highly suspect that the christian missionaries are highly effective marketing strategist, if the prevalence of conversions is influenced by superficial intrigues.

Islam could use similar methods of branding the religion as a desirable lifestyle/way of life and really cash in on the idea of peace. What we can do for starters is to be exemplary citizens of the world and draw more people towards what we believe as the right way.if we could learn a thing or two from the powerful religions of the world today, i think, that would be it. we do know in our hearts that Islam requires a deeper level of faith, thus more of often than not, we take our own sweet time to better ourselves as individuals first, dakwah and tarbiyyah (at least for me) are better left to those with authority. but then that in itself is a weakness. if i could take at least 2 hours of my life everyday consciously spreading the word of God, and overtly propagating the Islamic way of life, I think that would have made a difference. Obviously, I am hindered by sheer cowardice, plain laziness and downright selfishness. that's not Islamic at all.

i went to a missionary school for 3 years,what I thought was a drawing factor is the fact the nuns were always positively happy and warm. as opposed to ustazahs who snide, criticize, pinch and threaten us with images of hell. as a grown up, only now i know that Islam is not a negative at all.

thank you for this entry. i gotta go sit on my naughty chair and think about things.

9:14 AM  
Blogger dee3 said...

[quote] Let me remind you that this entry is not an open invitation to express your views about issues you feel strongly about, or values you hold sacred [unquote]

ehmmm... terribly thought provoking....

young or old, it doesnt matter. people are attracted to kind people, and if that's what being SEEN as offered on 'the other (seemingly greener) side, then i guess they're buoyed and lulled by the kindness (also along the same lines as what nazrah had commented)...

it doesn't matter what religion 'the other side' represents, it's always heart-wrenching for the families (i guess, and i've seen). i guess it just boils down to the individual who's making THE leap, only he/she is able to say why.

that being said, it's always good to be kind.

and i believe my comment doesn't contradict the quoted line from en.bergen's post. (me being cautious) *phew*

9:32 AM  
Blogger AuntyN said...

Agaknya sudah terputus HIDAYAH Allah kepada dia ini. If she has o reason to give for the her conversion.
I agree wit nazrah on being the examplary muslim to bring others to our religion, but what about preventing cross-over i.e murtad? I don't think being examplary muslim will ever do that.

10:16 AM  
Blogger pu1pu3 said...

I've mulled over this for the longest time and have refrained myself from posting about this for like..FOREVER. I have strong opinions about this and will not write about it here. I may be liberal in a lot of things but not when it comes to changing religion. I am not liberal about that. Maybe she is lured by the kindness of the christians which we as muslims should follow instead of being like a typical stern ustazah as mentioned by Nazrah. There is no force in Islam but the Ustazahs makes it like a mandatory jail sentence if you dont cover your head. I covered my head in my own time. Not because of the pressure from bossy aunts and scary ustazahs.
Enuff said for now. Don't want to post any provocative statements which can go awry, esp since your blogreaders are from different religious stance. I respect other religions but 'murtads' are a sad case to begin with..

11:24 AM  
Blogger S said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:17 PM  
Anonymous S said...

Even If I was introduced to a murtad today, I would treat that person with respect, for we don't know what that person went through.

I remember this quote by a muslim philosopher, Abduh, 'I see Islam but no muslims' while in his own country he sees muslims but not Islam. Even on our shores, ask me, I would say 'I see Islam but no muslims'. We embrace our religion, but with shallow understanding. Over here we lose sight as to the spirit of the religion.

You see the religion is good but the people, yeah, it's the people that is at fault. Muslims themselves do not really understand the religion and do not embrace the religion in the right spirit. Muslims today are more self-serving, which is against the true spirit of the religion. They are more for scoring points than actually doing good sincere deeds.

We are more for symbolism. We stress more on phisical manifestation of how religious we look than manifestation of how sincere as muslims we are, through actual sincere good deeds. Like truly caring for all the marginalised groups.

So, why should we be shocked by all these turn of events, whence the supposed hard core muslims themselves are lost souls. Whence the supposed 'good' muslims are themselves not true to form.

We must never be judgemental. At the end of the day as we don't know for sure who is right and who is wrong. Just be open minded and kind, meantime.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Restless said...

I can only relate to the term used in Othello - "turning turk", which is used to describe the Christian's fear of Ottoman Expansion during the 16th century.

Thus, are we saying that we are afraid of their expansion?

I wish not to sound controversial in my statement, though.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous demonsinme said...

Master Bergen:

Been here, read your entry - nice one.

Leaving here with a note -

Believe what you want as you see it and as you understand it. but, remember what the old malay sayaing say -

IKUT HATI MATI, IKUT RASA BINASA, IKUT AKAL BEBAL.

Use the mind to guide the heart, the heart to guide taste. much of what we see and hear is not as what it may seem.

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bergen: Sometimes I felt that Christianity in Malaysia and Singapore is like fashion - its fashionable to have "Mat Saleh" names - Patricia Ahmad is perhaps more fashionable than Aminah Ahmad, Patricia Lim rather than Lim Mei Ling, Bergen Abdullah (just kidding) vs Muhammad Abdullah - so it is kind of trendy. Nevertheless, I apologize to my Christian friends who sincerely believe in their religion and not adopting it because it is "The Trend" or "The Must Thing to do".
As a believer of Islam, All I can say is that Allah does not lose if we decide to deviate from Islam - we will be the loser if we choose to leave Islam. So to those that are Murtad or of different faiths -may Allah guide them, and to us that are believers of Islam - may Allah guide us all too - and let us dooa that we live and die as Muslims. For a Muslim believer to die not as a Muslim is scary. So let us not judge those that deviate or those that are strong followers - Allah is the judge - we can use all these happenings as "tests" from Allah to us all. Life can be so "scary" sometimes - just tawakal and dooa for the best.

6:15 AM  
Blogger bergen said...

Rad, Moontari, Carinasuyin, Ood, Podgykat, Anggerik Merah, Didi, Nazrah, Dee3, AuntyN, Pu1Pu3, S, Restless, DIM, Anonymous.

Thank you for dropping by, everyone. Thank you for the insight and opinion.

Have a nice day.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Restless said...

Astaghafirullah... I guess I shouldn't be saying that.

2:03 PM  
Blogger kenakelayan said...

I think you hit the nail on the head - twice - with these words:

'Very orang putih.. and therefore ada standard'.

and

'It is not the truth she is after'.

Just my thoughts.

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hmm no comment sebab most of "muslim" bukan kerana nak jadi muslim tapi kerana ikut ugama mak bapak jer pengisian as a muslim takde cuma solat dan pose jerrr hmmm jadi cam hampehhhh jerr

6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear fellows, my questions :
Can religion bring a person back to God? Can a person judge a nother person as amurtad? Who are we (human) to judge a nother human a murtad?
I was an Islam believer who came from pious Islam back ground and was schooled full time in Madrasah, I don't fine peace while I was an Islam believer. until one day, I longed to learn more between Islam christianity (believing in Isa al masihi). After looking and searching in the taurat, zabur, injil and quran (torah, old testament, gospel and quran) I finally found the answer, who is Isa almasihi. In the quran stated: And when Jesus came with(Our) clear proofs, he said: "I have come to you with al-Hikmah, and in order to make clear to you some of the point in which you differ, therefore fear Allah and obey me. (surah 43 Az-Zukhruf 63). And as in injil state: In the beginning there was a word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. (John 1:1). If in the quran said fear Allah and obey me, and in the injil said about God's word so who is Isa?

So as a Islam fellows, are you going to judge me as a murtad, because of I am malay but I am Isa al masihi follower? think about it friends. Tidak ada manusia yang bisa menghikum sesama manusia! Dan tiada ugama yang boleh menjamin kita ke alam kekal. Melainkan dengan keimanan kita bukan dengan ibadah kita kepada Allah. Kami sebagai pengikut Isa almasihi juga dipangil Muslim! (muslim ertinya manusia yang pashrah kepada Tuhan). Murtad (ertinya orang yang tidak percayakan Tuhan)!
Kami sebagai pengikut Isa almasihi, hanya sujud kepada Allah yang maha esa (The Alpha and The Omega).

3:20 AM  

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