Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dr Ridhuan: Do not use Islam as pawn for power

Dr. Ridhuan Tee Abdullah – I don’t see how Utusan Malaysia was wrong in coming out with its headline report, “Malays free to chose their religion?”

The report came in the wake of the statement made by Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai at a Church-organised forum, “ Islamic State: Which version? Whose responsibility?”

I also read the same in the ultra kiasu web portal, Malaysiakini.

For purposes of expounding on a topic as big as this, please allow scholars and experts on the religion to share their expertise, instead of referring to religiously shallow politicians devoid of solid background in religion. By allowing such things to happen, look who gets caught in the trap! Hence, there is no need to be defensive when such a statement is sensationalised. It is all because of an unthinking act.

It would have been different if one is learned and understands the sensitivities of the Malay political culture, along with in-depth knowledge of Quranic interpretation. If comprehension is lacking, I would suggest that we ask others, but do not make statements as though wanting to show that we are moderate Muslims. We are fundamental Muslims. We adhere to true Islamic teachings.

What is happening now is when one is politicking not with the aim of upholding the sanctity of the faith, but politicking to fish for votes, or to allow for the ends to justify the means.

This caution is meant for those political parties, whose majority are Islam.

In our eagerness to please others, we fail to realise how we have hurt those among us. We have hurt and are hurt deliberately, only to allow non-Muslims to relish one after another of our statements without regards to the sensitivities and decorum of those sharing our faith.

What I understand, there is no force in religion as contained in verse 256 of surah al-Baqarah, which is directed to non-Muslims, although all the verses in the Quran are meant for all of humankind. Thence, we cannot force non-Muslims to embrace the faith, unless they willingly wish for it.

For example, previously I was not a Muslim although I was more inclined towards the faith. During those times none of my Muslim friends forced me to come into Islam, until I willingly opened up to it. It was only with willingness and sincerity at that time that Muslims could assist in the Islamisation process. In short, there is no compulsion, except in certain cases in ancient times.

It must be remembered that only after I became a Muslim on my own free will was I fully conscious and aware that I could not simply leave Islam or become an apostate - because I chose Islam. Islam is too sacred, pure and divine, and that is why we cannot blame Islam and exit Islam after having embraced the faith. Islam is not like a coffee shop, where one can come and go as they wish after realising that is ‘difficult’ to practice.

It is such a question that is often asked; why is Islam so rigid and ‘unfair?’ We can come into Islam, but we cannot leave. Why not emulate Indonesia or India, where one need not convert to Islam in order to marry a Muslim?

I need to explain this. Besides not being allowed to play around with the Islamic faith and treat it like just a coffee shop, Muslims are also protected by the Constitution. Just read the constitutions of the various states and the Federal Constitution, where under Articles 3, 11 and article 160 (2), the definition of Malay refers to those who are of the Islamic faith, speaks Malay and practice the Malay culture. This, invariably, means that Malays must be of the Islamic faith. Should they leave Islam, thence they are no more Malay. Therefore the freedom to switch religion is not applicable to Malays (Islam).

In Arab countries, there may be Christian Arabs, Jewish Arabs and others. However, in Malaysia, when we mention Malay, it means that they must accept Islam as their way of life, except when they are apostates without realising it, as had happened in many cases. This is the safeguard contained in the Constitution, but not in those of other nations despite having a majority Muslim population, except in our country. It is because of this that I find it difficult to accept the ignorant opinion which said Malaysia is a secular nation.

As such, the position of Islam must be defended to the very end from violations by others...because there are safeguards. In this context, upon this premise, I would be thankful to the erstwhile Reid Commission along with its attendant committees.

This safeguard does not mean that the rights of non-Muslims are not taken into account. Also, it does not mean that Islam and Muslims cannot be touched or are beyond reproach. The reality is that the position of Islam within the Constitution is so special to the extent that non-Muslims cannot be allowed to propagate their religion to Muslims as contained in Article 11 (4) of the Federal Constitution. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that we have become so sensitive to things relating to the use of the word Allah, the Malay version of the Bible, etc. But, why only now are such things brought up?

To my understanding, it all emanates from someone who came out with such an ultra kiasu statement, to the extent of not being sensitive and devoid of full understanding of the country’s political culture. Maybe because she is still a greenhorn in politics that caused her to be easily misled or committing a faux paus.

At times this happens when one is full of himself or herself, hence thinking that he or she is above the rest. It is okay for us to look foolish for awhile, so long as we do not cause a loss to Islam. I am very worried with the way things are going for Muslims today, when each is trying to show how much he or she knows about the faith. Little do they realise that their so-called expertise could destroy Islam and level it with other religions through pluralism. We can share the honourable traits and values of religion, but we cannot share a religion, because the faith conviction (akidah) is different.

And because this particular Member of Parliament is not a graduate of religious studies or law, it would be better for her to be less obsessed when discussing such matters, failing which it could place her in an awkward position. This is what happens when one has become over-passionate to acquire power, so much so when we speak, we fail to think or realise its implication on this pure and sacred religion of ours.

Her media statement which was issued a day after was hardly acceptable. If Utusan had made a mistake, then just take the newspaper to court. However, this ‘one term old’ politician went all gung-ho, albeit shaken and reacted with repetitive counter attacks. I would have thought that her father could help clear would the air and come up with an explanation to separate the wheat from the chaff, but I was wrong. He, instead, went on to defend his daughter.

In her media statement, the Member of Parliament went on to emphasise that the rakyat should not be compelled to practise a religion, and that the same was applicable to the Malays. "When you ask me, there is no compulsion in religion ... how can anyone say sorry, this (religious freedom) only applies to non-Malays, it has to apply equally".

What is the meaning of the words? Did it not mean what was reported? That the Malays, too, are free to choose their religion. Worse, when the Member of Parliament for Shah Alam came out to stridently support what she said. I hope that it did not come from a mind so obsessed with party politics. Do please discuss whichever is right and which is wrong, but please do not try to cover the wrong committed by another. If they have done wrong, do correct them, but in this case no, they would rather set their sights on Utusan Malaysia, whom they claimed as sycophants of UMNO. What sort of politics is this?

Like what this Member of Parliament in question said, "Even me, being schooled in Assunta (secondary school) with a huge cross in the hall and an active singing catholic society did not influence me." She, however, did not say the Malays should be rightly accorded rights under law in relation to the freedom of religion while saying, "I am, of course, tied to the prevailing views."

To the question on the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), she admitted that as a Muslim as well as to those who profess the Catholic faith, there are limits.

This statement, too, is not acceptable. What was the ‘prevailing views’ that she meant? The religion of Islam is governed by the Al-Quran, Hadiths and ijmak of the ulamas. In verse 256 of surah Al-Baqarah, the meaning is clear. The same with the question of making the LGBT haram or forbidden. If there are those who say it is not haram, the rejection of the majority in all religion says it all. I do not deny the rights of the LGBT, but what is behind their struggle if not the propaganda to legalise activities that are wrong among the masses.

Which ulamas were referred to the Member of Parliament in giving out such an interpretation of Islam? After having read Sinar Harian, looks like she only referred to the former Mufti of Perlis, following the uproar over her misstep. Why didn’t she refer to the Mufti before she came out with the statement? My advice: if she did not understand, just refer to the ‘ulama’ in PKR who attended the Al-Arqam event. Why, even the Kelantan Menteri Besar did not dare to make any comments on the matter.

I would suggest that the Member of Parliament adopt the culture of referring to experts if she is so inclined to support educational and missionary programmes aimed at strengthening the akidah and increase the level of understanding on Islam. She should not start out in such a way, and when she is caught only then she would refer to an ulama.

Under no circumstances can Muslims be apostates (or even pretend to be), unless faced with a life and death situation, like the one before Mashitah and the Pharaoh where she was given the ultimatum whether to jump into the cauldron of boiling water. In that situation, Mashitah chose not to pretend and jumped into the cauldron. So, can we simply say that Muslims are free to choose their religion for the sake of human rights and not Islam?

Finally, I would advise this Member of Parliament not to regret when they are parties attempting to distort her statement to make it look as though she trivialised questions of akidah and easily accept Muslims who choose to be apostates. My question: Why must we give an opportunity for our statement to be misconstrued? It must be remembered that, reports from opposition-controlled newspapers and portals also manipulate and distort statements from the other side.

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