Dear Brother and Sister Muslim and Christians,
We need to resolve this issue and reconcile with one another. There are things we can do that are not opposed to our faith, but ironically require us to be more true to our calling.
1. Be like Jesus. Be like Muhammad.
First of all, at the heart of it – Muslims must be more like Prophet Muhammad and Christians must be more like Christ. The message taught by both Prophet Muhammad and Jesus is one of reconciliation and love between all Allah’s people. We need to have more empathy, to be gentler with one another. All of us need grace. Most importantly, let us have faith that if we truly desire to follow the ways of Allah demonstrated by Muhammad and Jesus, Allah is with us. The Bible in Colossians 3:12-13 says,
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” – Colossians 3:12-13
The Quran in 3:159 says,
“It was by the mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah. Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him).”
– Quran 3:159
I know it is not easy to do this. I understand the struggles this involves. But it is something we must all try to do, lest we end up arguing over the use of the word ‘Allah’ and leave Allah Himself out of the picture. Let us always bear in mind the gentle humility and wisdom with which Jesus and Muhammad responded to others, even those who tried to cause them harm. They were kind even to those who were unkind to them. They forgave those who denied them and hurt them. Instead of revenge, they outpoured love. They did not mind taking blows from people as long as they were true to
Allah. All their actions were guided by love. Friends, let us seek to follow these examples and trust that Allah Himself will guide our words and actions.
2. Make Allah a universal name of God in each corner of the World!
“Verily Allah is my lord and your lord: Him therefore serve ye:this is a Way that is straight.”
- Quran 19:36
Let us make the best of the situation. Let us find a compromise. Let us look at this episode as a chance for us to get to know each other better. Perhaps this conflict will bring us to a place where we can learn how to love one another amidst our differences. Maybe this is Allah’s way of showing us how we can work together at being better Muslims and Christians. Let’s be like Jesus. Let’s be like Muhammad. How would they have handled a similar situation? Surely they would not have been petty because they know that in the bigger picture, it is about the kingdom of Allah on earth. Let us recognize that this kingdom cannot be built on hatred, or through legal quarrels with each other. This kingdom can only be built on the love and comradeship between Allah’s people to defend one another and take care of all His creation, whoever and whatever they may be. Let us learn to work towards our common values. Perhaps making ‘Allah’ the universal name for God is a good place to start as we come to share the understanding of the Good God whom we all serve.
3. Practice Empathy
Let us practice empathy. Let us unearth the root of the issue, which is fear. Let us do what we can to dilute each others’ fears.
The Muslims are wary of overzealous proselytism by some Christians. Any discussion of religion should be done with understanding and mutual respect. But when there are some who are overzealous, the Muslims are on guard and see their brother and sister Christians in Malaysia in the same light without recognizing the difference. The task of Malaysian Christians is to show that they are not overzealous Christians who are out to convert others at all cost, but true practitioners of Christ’s call to love our neighbours.
On the other hand, Malaysian Christians are fed up with inconsistent rules and hindrances in practicing their religion. This is a frustration that they go through day to
day. To get permits, they have to plow through red tape and shifting administrative requirements. They need to wait a long time, sometimes years, before they obtain approvals. Christian groups in some schools and varsities face difficulty getting permission to gather.
These barriers do not only happen to churches, but also to the Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh communities, to social and business organizations. Sometimes these conditions are not explicitly stated, but when it comes to administration it seems as if these obstacles are placed on purpose.
What seems as unfairness has actually a lot to do with unclear processes and inefficiency that happens across the board. Let us clean up and clarify administrative processes, as this will go long way to reduce misunderstandings. Let us make clear laws and standardize the processes in matters regarding religious activities in all states. This will need the attention of the King and all the Sultans as religion is under their care. We need to make it very clear so that our officers working at the ground level will know the exact processes to follow and our people will know the exact procedures and requirements involved.
4. Ban direct proselytism for the time being
Let us stop direct proselytism to convert people into religions through enticement or campaigning perhaps for the next fifty years. Let us discourage direct proselytization for any religion, be it Islam or Christian. We are in a time of history where the faithful of each religion are in the hundred millions. In such a context, let us focus on tending to our own sheep first. Let’s encourage our own brothers and sisters to be better Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs… Let us share our beliefs not through empty words but through our everyday actions. Let us compel people not through fear or rules or superficial compulsions, but because he or she sees good people practicing a good religion. Actions must speak louder than words.
As a businessman, I find an analogy in marketing. In marketing we always focus on engaging our existing clients first, before trying to approach a fresh contact and convince someone completely unfamiliar.
Similarly, it is my belief that at this point of time, instead of increasing the number of converts, what we need are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs who are true representatives of the ways of their faith. When Muslims follow the true teachings of Muhammad and Christians become more Christ-like, others will be attracted to you naturally – not because of your convincing words, but because you are a good personwho makes the world a better place. You become like an airborne positive virus and people simply will catch your fever.
5) Use love, logic and wisdom
Finally, in all our considerations, may all of us guide ourselves with love, logic and wisdom.
Love, because love will make us fair
with our hearts;
Logic, because logic will make us fair
with our mind;
and Wisdom, because wisdom will lead
us to combine our love and logic
in the way of God and for the benefit