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Talk Faithfully To Me: Religion & Language

I’m not a religious studies scholar by any means. I honestly, have a limited understanding of what I practice myself. Nonetheless, it doesn’t interfere with my status as a believer. Furthermore, when I do read (as I often try) my faith only becomes reaffirmed. However, it still baffles me when I hear people hold strong to these weird ideologies and claim it’s their faith that’s the reason for why they think the way they do. There needs to be more of an effort to find common ground instead of bickering over differences.

Take the example of Pakistan’s most recent uproar of the Pakistani-Christian, Asia Bibi, allegedly said something about the prophet. She’s been on death row since 2010 and recently, Pakistan’s court proclaimed her innocent, since there was no hard evidence. Nonetheless, there were rampant protests in the streets of Pakistan. People were loudly proclaiming what sinful behavior the court exhibited by allowing, what they saw as, injustice to go unpunished. Additionally, these Islamist protestors were calling for her death and it’s led Pakistan’s prime minister in a conundrum, However, I wonder in what world do these Islamist Conservatives think the Prophet (SAW) would be okay with this? If you ask me, I think it’s just because she’s a Christian and Pakistan is trying to maintain it’s title as an Islamic state. Even though, by all accounts, it has failed in doing so.

I am by no means holding all Muslims or Pakistanis accountable for this behavior. Obviously, there are Muslims out there, such as myself, that can live peacefully in the same company as non-Muslims. Reza Aslan has said many times that Religion is like a language, or symbols, that people use to identify with. He gives the example in one interview by saying, if I were to say to a Christian, “I’ve been washed in the blood of the lamb,” it would make sense to them. But to say that exact same sentence to a non-Christian, you might as well have been speaking Chinese. Therefore, when you’re living with people that don’t share the same religious views as you, it’s like you two are speaking different languages, but that don’t mean similar things, you just have different ways of saying things.

In other words, I think there is a strong correlation between religion and language in that the way we practice our faith is unique and heterodoxic just like when we speak. Sure, we may understand one another but we have. Just like in Spanish and Italian, there are common words and even sentence structures, but they’re completely different languages. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other, it’s just not what some people are used to speaking one of them. Now let’s take completely different languages like Hindi/Urdu and English:

Take for example a dinner with friends and since your friend invited you out, they are insisting to pay for the entire meal. You might be taken aback by this so you’ll ask, “are you sure?” and they can respond in Urdu, “sawal hi paida nahin hota,” which roughly translates to , “it’s not even a question!”  In the proper lexicon, however, meaning if it were translated word for word, it would be, “the question does not even arise.” How much different is that if someone responded to “are you sure?” in English with, “yeah, don’t worry about it.” or “it’s no problem, I got this.”

But then you’ve got some individuals who are more fluent, in a particular language and will say, “if you want to say … the proper way, then you’ll do this…” First off, that’s pretentious of you. Second, there are ways to approach that without being too abrasive. For example, if you want to say you’re embarrassed by something, you won’t say, estoy embarazada” in Spanish. You would say, ” estoy avergonzado/a” Why? Because even though the first one sounds the most closest to the word “embarrassed,” you’d be saying you were pregnant. And then you’d be REALLY embarrassed.

Everyone has their own flavor, interpretation, or accent on however they do anything. Just like language, depending on where you’re learning from, you may say certain words or phrases differently. And if you continue to practice that dialect or open yourself to other languages, you may become stronger in your first language or be more understanding to how similar the messages are, just the vocabulary is different. Ultimately, it doesn’t mean you’re speaking incorrectly. And if you are speaking incorrectly, it depends on whose standards. Who in the end is being affected by this? Unless you’re going around writing books on how everyone else should speak YOUR version of a language, which interferes with the life and death of other people’s accents/dialects, then you should be penalized for it. But if not, then quite simply, who cares?  Apna cheez karo. Do you, boo-booComo quieras.

-Mr. Writer

Originally written on the 8th of November, 2018 at 1:43 A.M.

 

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