Mohamed Hanipa Maidin
Jan 5, 2014
At present we are witnessing religious bigotry rearing its ugly head. As a Muslim, I am asking myself what kind of Islam is my fellow Muslims are trying to portray.
Many religious issues are unfortunately being mishandled by the BN government. The muted prime minister lacks political courage to find any effective solution to heal the wounds.
The issue of shia, the ongoing fiasco over the use of ‘Allah’, the attempt to amend Article 3 (1) of the Federal Constitution declaring the sect of ahlul sunnah as an official version of Islam, the statement by Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria linking the participants of peaceful assembly in Dataran Merdeka as traitors, thus it would be lawful to execute them, the raid by Jais leading to the seizure of Malay Bibles and the arrest of two Christian adherents, are but few examples depicting the fragility of religious issues.
Islam has nothing to do with all this. Neither has Christianity, I sincerely believe. Unfortunately, Islam has been always misjudged through the prism of irresponsible acts of its adherents.
It has been said that Islam is being hidden by Muslims themselves through their conduct and behaviour.
To quote Alexender Pope, “a little knowledge is dangerous thing”.
Knowledge of Islam or rather the lack of it, has contributed to this state of affairs.
It is further exacerbated by irresponsible elements seeking political mileage out of this issue. Religious tension is an effective remedy to derail netizens from discussing more pressing issues facing the nation.
Instead of portraying the beauty of Islam, some Muslims in this country are more comfortable to assert their supremacy. The problem of this attitude is that it breeds religious arrogance.
When the view that ‘Allah’ is an exclusive possession, irrespective of whether such a view is really valid or not, intolerance will definitely follow.
Those who claim to have religious authority are supposed to be the gatekeepers of religious tolerance. But not in this country.
Here the order is reversed. The religious authorities happily exhibit religious intolerance by issuing a very harsh edict on matters which were perfectly legal and constitutional.
The participants of a peaceful assembly protesting the rise of cost of living, according to this edict, were traitors, thus it is lawful for their blood to be shed.
The edict of the Perak mufti, with due respect, is an utter disaster. It brings Islam into disrepute. The issuance of such a mind boggling religious edict presupposes that Islam is against freedom of speech and assembly.
The edict runs counters to the superb tolerance shown by Islam to religious minorities during its heydays. The practice of inquisition was never practised by Islam when it ruled Spain for hunderd years.
Karen Armstrong conceded the religious tolerance exhibited by the Muslim second caliph, Umar, when he refused to pray in the Christian cathedral in Palestine. fearing such an act may later provoke the Muslims to assert the ownership of such a sacred place.
The Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h allowed the Mecca pagans to use the word ‘Allah’ when he signed a hudaibiyyah treaty with the latter despite the fact the pagans never believed the oneness of Allah.
In his book ‘A world without Islam’ ex CIA man, Graham E.Fuller acknowledged the Christian dilemma in that it has to bear all the religious baggage that ensued, when the church failed to exhibit religious tolerance to Muslims and the Jews, when it conquered Spain.
You can see the evidence of atrocities inflicted against religious minorities in the Inquisition Museum in Cordova. This will convince you why religious bigotry needs to be avoided at all costs.
Muslims and all religious adherents in this country must maintain a peaceful coexistence.
That is why we are puzzled by the utter intolerance shown by Perak mufti. Such a ridiculous statement should have never come from a person of his standing.
Now apparently it is very hard to differentiate between Ibrahim Ali and Harussani.
The history of Islam demonstrates that the Islamic scholars were very vocal in opposing any unjust policy introduced by the Muslim rulers. Imam Nawawi was one of those scholars.
When a Muslim ruler , Zahir Baber, wanted to collect the taxes from his people , Imam Nawawi stood up and opposed such a move.
He bravely told the ruler that the latter had to forgo his extravagant life styles first and liquidate all the expensive government’s assets purchased by the people’s money, before he could collect taxes from the people.
That was how our brave ulama defended the interest and rights of the people.
Yet what we are witnessing right now is the opposite. Here we are seeing the ulama defending the government to the detriment of the people on the street. Here we have ulama who are for the killing of people for protesting the rise in cost of living .
What is so frustrating is the same ulama is keeping mum on the lifestyle of our prime minister and his beloved wife, or the leakage of public funds shown in Auditor-General’s Report etc.
We can also see the religious intolerance in the way the government handled the issue of shia.
In Parliament I asked the minister what really was the government’s official stand on this.
What prompted me to raise it is because the government had officially signed the Amman Message which duly recognised certain shia sects as valid.
The Amman Message was an initiative by the government of Jordan to bridge inter alia, the gaps between various school of thoughts in Islam.
Malaysia was one of the signatories. As usual, the Malaysian Parliament is known by the regular absence of ministerial replies to questions made by MPs. I have not received any reply to the said question.
The Umno assembly also contributes to religious intolerance. In the last Umno assembly, the idea of making ahlul sunnah the official version of Islam was mooted by Umno delegates.
This is yet another attempt to promote exclusivity despite the fact Islam is known and respected because it celebrates diversity. In Umno’s vocabulary, diversity is seen as an evil to be uprooted.
We also see a paradox here. The sunni Muslims condemn Iran for having a provision in its constitution declaring shia as its official school of thought.
Yet we are copying the policy we condemn when we making ahlul sunnah as our official version of Islam in the constitution.
Religious diversity is a grand design of God. Any attempt to assert exclusivity will end up with failure. What needs to be fostered is mutual respect and civilised dialogue.
The day when religious diversity seen as an enigma is the beginning of the end of any civilised nation.
Religious bigotry is not the triumph of any civilisation. On the contrary, it is evidence of its decay.
MOHAMED HANIPA MAIDIN is the PAS parliamentarian for Sepang.