Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bin Laden urges jihad against Israel


I was amused yet concerned when I read the above headline of the Yahoo news today.

No, I was not concerned on the content of the news: another senseless war against the innocent (as I am always concerned about it), I am amused at the headline itself.

‘Bin laden’, everyone knows this notorious name belongs to the terrorist chief Osama Bin Laden. However to have an international headline “ Bin Laden urges…” is a joke, as ‘Bin laden’ is not a name at all! ‘Bin laden’ just means ‘son of Laden (father)’, so this term is not a name at all!

I can well understand the basis behind this erroneous name as in Western names, the surname is always placed at the back of the name, e,g Thomas Smith, the surname is Smith, name: Thomas.

For Chinese, the surname is in front of the name, e.g. Tan Ah Kow, the surname is Tan, name: Ah Kow.

However, for a Muslim, there is no surname at all! Take for e.g the terrorist chief, ‘Osama Bin Laden’: ‘Osama’ is the name of the terrorist, ‘bin’ just mean ‘son’ (‘binte’ will means ‘daughter’) and ‘Laden’ is the father of the terrorist! Thus it would be good that the western press has at least some understanding of Muslim names else it is, in my opinion, disrespectful to Muslims.

Since 2001, the US has been hunting high and low for Mr Laden (Osama’s father), Mr Bin Laden (any son of Laden), no wonder the US was not able to track down Osama! (just a joke).

In multi-racial Singapore, where Chinese, Malays, Indians, Foreigners exist harmoniously, such errors in Muslim names are sometimes made by non-Muslims too. E.g you have a Malay friend, Ali Bin Osman, one day you see him outside and call out loud ‘Osman’, don’t be surprised he does not turn back, instead another Malay called Osman may turn back, thinking you are calling him.

I was told some statutory boards in Singapore, due to the format of their computer systems still address their Malay mail recipients by their father’s names! It is nothing funny and hardware system formatting is not a good excuse … revamp the computer system formatting, else risk causing some unintended embarrassments.

Singaporeans are very lucky to live in a country where there are so many diverse races coexisting harmoniously, and where they could savor a buffet of delicacies from different races. I believe Singaporeans should do more to understand the culture of the different local races here. It is an advantage Singaporeans have over many countries. Also the insights brought about knowing other races will overwhelm and interest you!

I am thinking of learning Malay, if I have the time. It is always good to know more about our different races!

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