Just how dangerous is pluralism really?

by Farah Fahmy
The Malaysian Insider
December 23, 2010

DEC 23— Just when you think public pronouncements can’t possibly get any worse in Malaysia, along comes the recommendation that Jakim should provide some sort of definition of our various festivals and celebrations so that Muslims can steer clear of the virus of religious pluralism.

Intrigued, I tried to work out what “fahaman pluralisme” is, and as far as I can tell, this belief stems from the idea that Islam is no more and no less equal to other religions.

Obviously this is nonsense as far as our country is concerned. After all, Islam is the official religion and to help us Muslims behave in exemplary fashion there is a plethora of religious bodies funded by the government which is not the case for any other religion.

So dangerous is “fahaman pluralisme” that the Mufti of Perak was reported in Utusan Malaysia as saying that it needs to be rejected by all Muslims in our country as it could destroy one’s faith, and that those who believed in it are as good as being apostate.

Phew. I’m glad he clarified that. You see, as a Muslim I do sincerely believe that Islam is the complete and best religion. But equally I’m happy to accept that a Catholic or Jew would believe the same thing about their religion and it really doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. Does this mean I’m flirting with pluralisme, and therefore courting kafir-hood?

However, as the injunction against “fahaman pluralisme” only applies to Muslims in Malaysia then I guess I don’t have to worry! (Thank god we Malaysian Muslims have ulamas like Dr Juanda Jaya and Dr Mohd Asri to provide an alternative view.)

But let’s go back to the Jakim recommendation. How extraordinary! Do we really want Jakim, an Islamic body, to explain to Muslims the significance of Deepavali? Would Jakim be equipped to explain why Christians celebrate Easter?

When I was younger we learnt about stuff like this at school. I was lucky too – because I went to a mixed-race school in KL, I even got to help my non-Muslim friends celebrate their festivals. Over the years I have done various things with non-Muslims: attended the Buddhist funeral of a classmate’s mother; attended the christening of a friend’s son; attended the (very) Catholic wedding of another friend; attended my Catholic father-in-law’s funeral.

What’s more, I have walked inside and around many, many churches and cathedrals, read parts of the Bible, visited the infamous Murtad Malaysia website and even seen parts of the Torah. Does this mean that my aqidah is now terpesong?

So, for the record: despite venturing into churches, reading about apostates, delving into the books of other religions (and the anti-religious) and helping others celebrate various non-Muslim festivals (religious and cultural), my aqidah is fine (and please allow me to thank in advance anyone who wishes to remind me to “mengucap banyak-banyak”). I don’t claim to be a good Muslim, but I am and remain, despite all of the above, a Muslim.

That being the case, I don’t see why Jakim should define other people’s festivals. Wouldn’t it be better to get Hindus to explain the significance of Deepavali and Thaipusam? And Buddhists the significance of Wesak Day, and so on? Then we can decide for ourselves what we should or shouldn’t do. Honestly, why aren’t we Muslims credited with enough intelligence to work out for ourselves what is right and what is wrong?

Then I read a report about the arrest of about 200 Shia Muslims in Gombak. I remind you once again that I am not a Muslim scholar and I have no wish to start a debate about the rights and wrongs of the Shia belief.

However, to arrest people for simply believing in a different branch of Islam? As Dr Mohd Asri states, we are going down the Taliban route if we start persecuting other Muslims (never mind non-Muslims!) because we don’t subscribe to their brand of Islam. Are these people actually harming the country? If not, then we appear to be going down the road of persecuting people because of how they think rather than what they do.

It strikes me that – given the way our officialdom want us to practise Islam – the great Islamic thinkers from generations past like Imam Hanbali and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) would probably have been persecuted too had they had the misfortune to live in present-day Malaysia. What a woeful reflection of Islam we are!

Surely there are plenty of other things for our ulamas to take issue with?

Take the case of the former Perak Syariah judge Hassan Basrie Shapiee who was found guilty of corruption. What are IKIM’s and Jakim’s views on this matter? Here is a person sworn to uphold Islamic law who has made a complete mockery of the Syariah court.

Try as I might, I can’t find a single pronouncement from any of our religious bodies about this case. It’s bad enough if we Muslims can’t even trust in the integrity of the Syariah courts, but what is worse is what appears to be the complete silence from our religious bodies on the matter.

Then there is the practice of videoing those caught in khalwat raids. That’s bad enough, but what is infinitely worse is how some of these videos have made it on to the Internet. You may think those who are caught deserve everything they get, but this is just not right.

The purpose of these videos, as far as I can see, is humiliation and to a certain degree, tittillation. If our religious authorities can explain how making such videos public serve Islam, then explain away. If not, then shouldn’t they be condemning the people who make these videos public?

Aren’t these sorts of cases more detrimental to Muslims and Islam in general, than worrying about Muslims who celebrate non-Muslim festivals with their non-Muslim friends or “fahaman pluralisme”?

  1. #1 by k1980 on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 11:47 am

    //the arrest of about 200 Shia Muslims in Gombak//

    When the Iranians have acquired their nuclear bombs, they are going to drop a few on unmo for persecuting their religious brethren

  2. #2 by k1980 on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 12:30 pm

    Season’s greetings for umno, sung to the tune of “we wish you a merry Christmas”

    We wish you a thrashing defeat;
    We wish you a thrashing defeat;
    We wish you a thrashing defeat and a bleak future.
    Bad tidings we bring you and your kind;
    Bad tidings for the 13GE and a bleak future!

  3. #3 by Jeffrey on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 12:38 pm

    We lost the Moderate Position long ago when ‘Secularism has been rejected as a bad word, antithetical to Islam.

    The surrender of the Moderate Position was formalized when Tun Dr Mahathir’s declared ours being an ‘Islamic nation” and have been affirmed by 2 subsequent prime ministers since. We ignored the 1988 Federal Court’s decision of Che Omar bin Che Soh vs PP in which then Lord President (Salleh Abbas) ruled that ours a secular constitution in spite of Islam being constitutionally the official religion.

    Today Secularism is rejected. On PR’s side PAS rejects it. If one ask Anwar what is PKR’s stand, he probably ducks the issue.

    Secularism implies the government being neutral and does not promote actively the Official Religion whether in bureaucracy or education. This is obviously not the case here.

    The consideration by Islamic conservatives of Pluralism being “dangerous” is a natural probably and inevitable progression from the rejection of the idea that the country, its government and constitution is secular. Make no mistake about the inter-connections between Secularism and Pluralism!

    Yet it is good that more moderate voices like that of Farah Fahmy’s speak up.atuk
    In many parts of the Islamic world this battle between the Conservative Fundamentalist and the Liberal Moderate is being fought out.

    Turkey is the Front line – with strong tradition of Secular Nationalism established by its founding father Kamal Atatürk and defended by its ruling and military elites since then.

    Even then in the most exemplary ‘secular’ state of 90% muslim population the Moderates are now losing out to the Conservative Fundamentalist.

    For the first time the Islamic party AKP of Tayyip Erdogan (Anwar’s good friend who gave him protection in Turkish Embassy) won power and today creeping Islamisation proceeds with extreme voices drowning out the moderates’.

    That even a state like Turkey would go that way does not augur at all for whats going to happen in Malaysia.

    This is just a personal view. I could be wrong. I hope I am.

  4. #4 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 12:38 pm

    umno is a dangerous religion
    utusan is their holy book and katak ibrahim is their preacher.

    more dangerous than taliban bcos they would sleep with their “enemies” in the dark to confuse the rakyat in the daytime.

  5. #5 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 12:42 pm

    umno is a dangerous religion
    utusan is their message and katak ibrahim is their preacher.

    more dangerous than t@lib@n bcos they would sleep with their “enemies” in the dark to confuse the rakyat in the daytime.

  6. #6 by yhsiew on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 1:29 pm

    I could sense errant politicians are trying to capitalize on religions to gain political mileage.

    It is ever so easy for our politicians to play the religion card to gain public recognition in multi-racial Malaysia.

  7. #7 by monsterball on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 2:39 pm

    It started with a good intention to control weak minds of Malays..being influenced by all things bad by insisting all Malays must be Muslims….and that was seen as such a good and noble government to help his own race.
    But politics creep into that idea and now we know…Malays freedom and minds are being controlled for an evil agenda..and all know what that is.
    Under Mahathir with his new UMNO B..race and religion dirty politics grew into such heights…with their twisted ideas and explanations to keep fooling their own race.
    Not only proclaiming there is one true God…but use that to force others to accept their one god laws…while outwardly accepts all religions equals.
    Mahathir is the teacher of all things bad
    He is no Muslim nor true Malaysian.
    He is a racist and uses money like drugs to poison his own race….for 22 years and now copied by Najib…out of desperation and selfishness….never for his race at all.
    We all know what is UMNO B and one that dares to fool his own race and steal billions……you want to talk Islamic religion with them?
    When one is so greedy for money…and uses that to tempt his own race….and simultaneously promote Islamic values…these are con men/women……thieves and robbers…fooling his own race.
    The sad part is…still… Muslims voted UMNO B to govern in 12th GE…but without two third majority for the first time and by a very slim majority.
    Out come new ways to fool Malaysians..”1Malaysia” taught by the Jews…and since then…all new ideas of Najib are being advised by the Jews.
    Will that succeed to increase Malays being fooled by them?
    The Jewish Govt. have done that successfully for decades to fool their own race too.
    The day Jews and Palestinians stop fighting will be the end of the Jewish occupation of Jerusalem.
    Similarly…the day Muslims vote for change in government will be the day to end corrupted racists UMNO B occupying PutraJaya.
    Why can’t Muslims truly understand Allah treat all humans as equal…and mind you…there are 71 million Muslims in China…that makes our UMNO B champions of Muslim faith in Malaysia totally nonsense.
    It is dirty religion politics…no more.. no less ..by the evil party….UMNO B….encouraged by Mahathir.
    Am glad..this post shows…Farah cannot be easily fooled.

  8. #8 by tak tahan on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 2:42 pm

    If those loony fanatics think god is great,merciful,fair,loving,highest in regards and create all human beings equally;than stop acting being stupid and disregard other faiths.This hypocrites will want people to believe god will not favour other than their faiths and use this as their political card to gain power.Nothing self religiously gained other than downplayed own’s faith.This world doesn’t give the damm if you are staunch religious,atheist,agnostic or what not.Does god help anyway after thousand years of this religious conflicts.It’s your right principal that propel you to move forward.

  9. #9 by k1980 on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 2:59 pm


    30,863 candidates scored straight As in this year’s PMR. Plus the millions more from past years, this country should be having the most number of geniuses….enough to build our own spacecraft and space station? But how come our space tourist still has to buy a seat in a Russian spacecraft? Buat malu saja…Or it is due to the fact that 70/100 is enough to ensure aa ‘A’?

  10. #10 by Loh on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 3:17 pm

    ///You see, as a Muslim I do sincerely believe that Islam is the complete and best religion. But equally I’m happy to accept that a Catholic or Jew would believe the same thing about their religion and it really doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. Does this mean I’m flirting with pluralisme, and therefore courting kafir-hood?///-

    Islam is the official religion, and the PM is a Muslim. Yet the PM does not practise what Islam preaches, particularly that no persons are unequal based on race or religion; Najib said that NEP which is anti-Islamic belief has to be continued. PM Najib wants NEP to continue out of desire rather than out of need. If it was to meet the need, then he should have justified the need with relevant and genuine statistics. In fact, there is no provision in the Islamic religion to go against its teaching out of need. For example, during fasting month, a smoker will have to stop smoking though his body needs nicotine. It is not a necessity that person of Islamic faith should attain certain level of wealth before he would stop feeling jealous about other’s wealth or well being; the 30% share capital envisaged in NEP is not satisfying a need. If need is attached to NEP, it would be the excuse it provides for corrupt practices among UMNO members in government.

    Jakim as a government department should examine the actions of government whether they conform to the teaching of the Islamic religion in terms of outcome rather than the ritual. Unfortunately Jakim has been used to polarise the population so that Muslims would not vote for certain political parties.

    ///Then I read a report about the arrest of about 200 Shia Muslims in Gombak. I remind you once again that I am not a Muslim scholar and I have no wish to start a debate about the rights and wrongs of the Shia belief.///

    It proves that Malaysians are not free to practise religion of their choice as provided in the Federal Constitution. When the Muslim leaders think that religion are not equal, they would at least think that Muslims practising a different sect are first Muslims and are thus closer to them in religious practise. The arrest of these 200 persons shows that there were treated worse than had they been non-Muslims. They are persecuted because they are an obstacle to Jakim’s effort to ‘unite Muslims to vote for UMNO’. This comfirm that Jakim serves UMNO’s political interest.

  11. #11 by Taxidriver on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 6:22 pm

    Now it is “Fahaman Pluralisme” is bad. The Malay muslims faith will be diluted. Such adulteration will cause them to embrace other religions because praying 5x daily and Friday prayers is not enough. Must increase to 7x daily and attending spiritual discouse at masjid every sunday and wednesday. Later, can also demolish all non-muslim places of worship because they are a bad influence to the umat Islam.

    Sheer stupidity!

  12. #12 by Taxidriver on Thursday, 23 December 2010 - 6:47 pm

    Man is God’s creation. Hence, all human beings are brothers….are equal. Now there are people who have fallen to satan’s tricks, blaming God for creating human equal. To taunt God, satan put it into their minds to believe they are the superior race; not realising that all the modern inventions they are enjoying now…. not one was invented by them. How superior?

    Either the non-Malays are satan’s creation and those UMNOB religious scholars, God’s or vice versa. Tell us please, oh learned ones.

    • #13 by ChinNA on Friday, 24 December 2010 - 6:49 am

      I liked that. All man are created equal.

      .. .. .. so maybe along the way, the evilution process changed the Malaysian man and now they are percieved to be unequal.


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