Narcotizing the Masses Through Religion

by M. Bakri Musa

In the 19th Century, tiny Britain was able to humiliate the great Chinese Empire and subdue its masses by making opium readily available to them. It was also highly lucrative for the British, with the poor Chinese bearing the heavy burden. To be fair, Chinese leaders from the Emperor on down were fully aware of the dangers, but despite their valiant efforts they were unable to prevail against the British.

Today Muslims, Malays in particular, are being similarly narcotized, not by opium but by an equally potent agent: religion. Unlike the Chinese of yore who were victims of a malevolent foreign power, with Malays it is our leaders who are doing it to us, and with good intentions too. They want us all to end up in Heaven! Touching!

The Muslim masses today, like the Chinese of the 19th Century, were not unwilling victims. They are not to be blamed, just like we cannot blame a patient who is in great pain wanting a powerful painkiller. It may not cure the underlying disease but at least it relieves the suffering. Likewise when your daily existence is terribly painful — the fate of the vast majority of Muslims — you too need immediate relief. It would be cruel and inhumane to deny that.

The familiar official indices readily reveal the targic reality of daily existence of the Muslim ummah: high mortality and low literacy rates, pathetic per capita income, gross abuses of human rights, women deprived of their basic dignity, and oppressive governments. It is obvious to all, except the leaders. Visit the slums and squatters of Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan, and the anguished reality of unbelievable depravation will hit you hard even if you try to avoid it.

Muslim leaders should worry less about their followers ending up in Heaven and focus more on the monumental task at hand of lifting the masses out of their current living hell. It may be argued that if religion brings relief to their daily struggle, so be it. That is a delusion; the narcotizing effect of religion is even more destructive.

Hard Work of Leadership

Making sure that your citizens are fed, educated, and housed so they could have a reasonably decent life to pursue their dreams and realize their potential is no easy task. While there are well-established and proven principles out there, there is no simple solution or ready path for a particular society. Each has its own unique challenges; its leaders must carve their own distinctive path. That would demand, aside from the mandatory diligence, intelligence, and integrity, an even greater sense of humility on the part of leaders.

The problems and challenges are infinite in their manifestations, and great intelligence is required in recognizing and elucidating them. The humility is for the inevitable pitfalls and failures that would humble you and sap your confidence. Humility is also needed so you could learn from your failures and from others, including your adversaries.

These necessary leadership qualities do not come naturally, nor are they easily acquired. Consequently and far too often, the tendency is for incompetent leaders to resort to simplistic solutions or endlessly mouthing meaningless slogans: “Bring back the Caliph!” “Implement the Sharia!” “Establish an Islamic state!”

The masses pick their cue from the leaders. No surprise then that they are only too willing to senselessly “martyring” themselves. Working hard to acquire the necessary skills to make themselves useful to society is much more mundane but necessary undertaking. Nor does it grab the headlines.

The American scholar Abdullahi Naim wisely observed that the experience of the vast majority of Muslims across the world today is about “struggles for constitutionalism and human rights, economic development, and social justice, not about the quest for Islamic states to enforce sharia.” Naim’s words should be emblazoned all over our masjids, ministries, and country.

First Tie Your Camel

Allah will not change the fate of a people unless they first change themselves, goes the wisdom of the Quran. That in turn takes leadership. Islam recognizes the supreme importance of leaders. At Friday and other congregational prayers, it is customary for the Imam to lead the dua (supplication) seeking Allah to provide wisdom and health to the Sultans and leaders so they could lead their people along the path of righteousness.

Our culture too recognizes the importance of leadership, hence the observation: Endah negri kerana penghulu (Great leaders, great society!). It is not enough for us to pray that our leaders would lead us along the straight path. We must also do our part and exercise due diligence in choosing our leaders and then attentively monitor their performances.

As per the wisdom of our Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., first tie your camel securely, then pray to Allah that it does not escape. To put that in current political perspective, we must first choose our leaders wisely, meaning, scrutinize them thoroughly before casting our votes, then pray to Allah that we get leaders with integrity and competence. Praying alone will not secure your camel, or guarantee you honest leaders. Nor should we assume the one who could lead us in prayers is the one most competent to lead the nation.

Even a determined and wise Chinese Emperor could not withstand the narcotizing power of opium. Religion is even more so. Given a leadership woefully lacking in integrity and competence, religion can have a stranglehold more tenacious than the most potent opiate.

To Malays today, religion is less a salve for the soul and more a narcotic to make us escape the world and perversely, as God is everywhere in this wonderful universe, away from Him.

  1. #1 by izrafeil on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 9:38 am

    yes, i agree, just look around, 20 years ago, we malays were more liberal, watch the popular re-runs of P Ramlee movies, and see how we live then, and watch our schools now, bordering on fundamentalism, the peer pressure is just too much if you dont conform with the ‘correct’ muslim attire in schools…. at work… etc

  2. #2 by megaman on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 9:57 am

    liberal or conservative doesn’t make a big difference …

    Being liberal doesn’t mean you are progressive, look at the hippies and alternative lifestyle society. It created so much problem and contributes little to the society at large …

    Being conservative doesn’t mean you are backwards, look at the European countries, they retained their traditions and cultures so wonderfully intact and remain true to their roots.

    The problem nowadays, which is true for all religion-heavy societies but poor societies, is that religion is used to numb the senses and pain of daily existence.
    Christianity for the poor Latin American societies and Muslim for the Middle East, they all have the same basic fundamental problems but instead of taking small but concrete measures to resolve these issues, religion became a panacea, a painkiller to dull the pain but does nothing for the actual cause.

    What’s more painful and sickening is that most of the leaders of these societies are doing very well and wealthy while most of the common folk are so poor that they hardly know when are their next meal going to come from.

    Doing the right thing and saying the right stuff always come with a high price.
    Lying and hiding the truth are cheaper.

  3. #3 by Godfather on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 10:06 am

    Dr Bakri:

    Will Muslims go to heaven if they knowingly condone corruption, abuse of power, theft of public funds, and blatantly lie to the public ?

    Is this what Islam Hadhari is all about ? Ada Had, ada Hari ?

  4. #4 by k1980 on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 10:41 am

    At last, Pak Dur admits he has been a failure….

  5. #5 by sotong on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 10:49 am

    The problem is not the religion. It’s the misguided faithful from decades of bad leadership with narrow, short sighted and damaging politics of religion.

    Race is not an issue in Islam. BN UMNO’s politics of race and religion had done enormous damage to the country with permanent, long term and far reaching consequences.

  6. #6 by bhuvan.govindasamy on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 11:02 am

    I beg to differ. The problem is religion, as was opium during 19th century China. It matters not if the religion is Islam, Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism, religion is the opium of the masses.

    Just as the cure for China’s ills was the rejection of opium & re-education of its people, so must it be for muslims, christians, hindus & buddhists.

  7. #7 by sotong on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 11:54 am

    Too much pride and arrogance with little/no leadership of responsibility, accountability and competency had done enormous damage to the country.

  8. #8 by awesome on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 1:13 pm

    I think religion should stay out off politics. We can act so pious but even one sin is enough for us to be counted unworthy before God.

    All the religious hype and self proclamation of piousness and seemingly purity is nothing but filthy rags. It is all outward..inside the heart…only God knows what is happening.

    Non of us can be religious enough for God. All the outward covering and appearance of religious saints actually stinks.

    We need to take a stock of out lives for once and ask ourselves what our priorites are? what are our value system? why we do what we do? etc.

    Then seek God truly with an open heart. No point appearing and pretending to be religious when actually you are sleeping around or living a double life

    Since many politicans live a double life, just don’t try to be a hypocrite. Live religion out off politics…Malaysia would be a better place.

  9. #9 by kanthanboy on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 2:42 pm

    Dr. Bakri,
    Today Muslims, Malays in particular, are being similarly narcotized, not by opium but by an equally potent agent: religion.
    By using opium as an analogy you have so aptly described the use of religion by UMNO to control the thinking of the Malays. Religion(which is not the same as reverend to god), when abused, will have the same effect of drug abuse.
    Drugs like opium, heroin, marijuana and morphine have the effect of altering the mindset and thinking a person. After a short while, the person will become a drug addict and as he is now controlled by the drug. A drug addict will lose his ability to think and act rationally. In order to satisfy his dependency on drug he will do anything to please his controller. This is how the drug traders control their clients.
    This explains why a large majority of the Malays continue to vote for BN and apathy to the rampant corruption among the UMNO leadership.

  10. #10 by Godfather on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 2:43 pm

    Awesome said:

    “Then seek God truly with an open heart. No point appearing and pretending to be religious when actually you are sleeping around or living a double life

    Since many politicans live a double life, just don’t try to be a hypocrite. Live religion out off politics…Malaysia would be a better place.”


  11. #11 by waterman on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 6:03 pm

    “Christianity for the poor Latin American societies and Muslim for the Middle East, they all have the same basic fundamental problems but instead of taking small but concrete measures to resolve these issues, religion became a panacea, a painkiller to dull the pain but does nothing for the actual cause.”
    For your information, latin Americans follow the Catholics with lots of riligious rituals , to do & not to do legalism,much like Muslims in certain way.
    Without the truth,they remain in bondage and poor.

    The Christians follow Jesus Christ (Christ- ians). Jesus said ” you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free” and He said ” I’m the way, the truth and the life……” So, everone of us has a free choice to choose, to be free or to remain in religious bondage.

    I am a living testimony. In the University I read Karl Marx and was pretty convinced by it that religions are just political tools use by the rich to fool the poor. I used to mock & scoff at Christianity until a day I was rescued by Jesus from a suicide attempt. I was wrong to have classified
    Christianity as a mere religion with all other religions.

    Religion is about us searching for God,
    Christianity is about God serching for us.

    Before I used to work so hard trying to gain promotion at work but all to no avail. After Jesus came into my life and living out a new life in Him, I myself was changed, my outlook on things & everthing began to fall into correct places and I experienced miraculous promotion & pay increment without even conciously working for it.

    A lot of people are confused with Catholics & Christians. But if you care to dwell deeper into it, you will agree with me that people & nations that follow Jesus are very prosperous and well off and stable in all aspects of life.

    All Christians carry this mandate in their hearts “Love God and prove that by loving man”. And you know when people love & care for one another and build up one another without playing racism & religion, the nation will grow strong.

  12. #12 by borrring on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 6:57 pm

    2nd that waterman….

    I think ppl r misled with what they see & not really looking at the source….

  13. #13 by Jamesy on Monday, 8 October 2007 - 9:34 pm

    M. Bakri Musa,

    I couldn’t agreed with you more.

    *Two Tumbs Up*

  14. #14 by megaman on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 - 9:58 am

    hi waterman,

    I am a Catholic myself, and I know that the latin Americans are following the Catholic faith.

    I have nothing against religion itself, just the abuse of religion by the leaders and misuse of religion by the followers that irk me.

    Please read my post again to understand what I truly and really meant.

    It is not easy to follow the true path of a religion. Without a clear and true understanding of the basic teachings, it is very easy to steer or be steered off the path.

  15. #15 by mickey01 on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 - 1:05 pm

    Muslims around the world have no choice but to stick to islam as they have no freedom to choose whether to have a religion or not, and once a muslim forever a muslim. There is no such thing as a free thinker for muslims. So where is the basic freedom in life? That is why extremism and deviations exist and the world suddenly feeling so insecure becos muslims will one day united together and declare jihad against all humanity. Why? You just cannot criticise any parts of koran unlike other religions. If you do, be prepare for hell.

  16. #16 by borrring on Tuesday, 9 October 2007 - 8:09 pm

    mickey01….”no choice” & “no freedom” was instilled in the minds of the muslims….they have a choice,it’s just a matter of taking that first big step, but at a cost of persecution…you might be surprised to find many muslims apostates around the worldwide….they made a choice at the cost fleeing from their own countries,death threats or even being killed etc….

  17. #17 by mickey01 on Thursday, 11 October 2007 - 9:58 am

    If you live in Saudi Arabia or middle eastern countries, and wanted to give up islam officially, you are in for trouble. So think very very carefully before become one! Your life is at stake.

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