‘Racism and fanaticism’ exploited in Malaysia for politics, Asri tells WSJ

By Clara Chooi
The Malaysian Insider
Aug 23, 2011

Asri: Islam must be described as a religion of love for others, with a respect for rights, respect for knowledge, rejecting superstition and basing all practices on real arguments.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — Muslim scholar Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin took a swipe at Malaysia’s religious authorities in a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) interview, claiming that “racism and extreme religious fanaticism” are often used to protect certain political interests.

The former Perlis Mufti, who was recently placed on a terror watch list for Wahhabism, told the influential newspaper that the authorities here needed to be more open-minded, adding that the term “Wahhabi” was recklessly used in Malaysia as a derogatory term to slander others.

“Religious authorities in Malaysia should be more open-minded. Their attitude is to force others to think in only one way, and that is not the attitude of a civilised people,” he said, according to an excerpt of the interview found on WSJ’s website yesterday.

He lamented that Malaysia’s more progressive Muslims were “marginalised” by the conservatives who controlled the religious institutions in government, and accused the administration of fearing criticism from the former group.

While Asri insisted that he was not a follower of Wahhabism, he noted that the teaching had its own distinctive contribution for Muslim societies across the globe.

“If ‘Wahhabi’ means inviting people to be fanatical, rigid, stern, uncompromising, and the like, I oppose it. (But) There are also a lot of sound and relevant opinions among them. However, even if we disagree with their views, that doesn’t mean we can accuse them of terrorism,” he said.

Asri was first linked to Wahhabism and the terrorists group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) early last year, along with PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, former Perlis mentri besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim dan Perlis Mufti Juanda Jaya.

Last month, the National Security Council (NSC) ordered religious authorities to monitor Wahhabism in the country, placing influential former Asri, Juanda and over 40 young Umno ulamas. Putrajaya, however, later agreed that Wahhabism is not a threat to national security.

“In Malaysia, the word ‘Wahhabi’ is quite a mysterious term. Many use the term or slander others by it, without a clue about its meaning.

“In some places, a person is accused of being a Wahhabi for disagreeing with superstitious rituals and beliefs…. When people begin to criticise the practices, they simply say, ‘you are Wahhabi’,” Asri told WSJ.

He defended his position on Islam, pointing out that the religion blesses everyone regardless of race or religion and that any other interpretation that leads to “injustice, oppression, hostility to other people, ignorance, caste systems in society, racism and fanaticism that doesn’t respect the rights of others” should be rejected.

“Islam must be described as a religion of love for others, with a respect for rights, respect for knowledge, rejecting superstition and basing all practices on real arguments,” he said, when pointed out that his interpretation of Islam has often been linked to Wahhabism.

Asri said Malaysia’s Muslim society needs “tajdid”, which he defined as the restoration of Islam’s original look and the innovation of certain elements to fulfil “contemporary needs”.

“A lot of the contemporary issues we are encountering these days were not known in the past. To ensure a continuous survival of society, various new opinions are required.

“The opinions of preceding theologians may not be wrong, but may have expired due to changes in time and circumstance,” he said.

  1. #1 by cemerlang on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 - 10:44 am

    As good as dead. Kesian you all fighters.

  2. #2 by cto on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 - 12:21 pm

    Please allow my indulgence here and share Jack Layton’s last letter to Canadian with you. Jack Layton is the leader of the opposition party in Canada. From what I understand, he wrote this letter 2 days ago and he passed away due to cancer today. He was still working until last month when his illness took a turn for the worst.


    August 20, 2011

    Toronto, Ontario

    Dear Friends,

    Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

    Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

    I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

    I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

    A few additional thoughts:

    To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

    To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

    To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

    To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

    To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

    And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

    My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

    All my very best,

    Jack Layton

  3. #3 by dagen on Tuesday, 23 August 2011 - 2:24 pm

    A typical letter from a dying umnoputra:

    “Ahmad: mana wang RM3b saya? Pulangkan secepat mungkin.”

    “Baabii: buat persiapan utk anak saya sambung kedudukan saya dlm parti.”

    “Anak: Ahmad masih hutang RM3b. Tentukan bayaran di akaun luar negeri. Akaun yg biasa saya gunakan tu.”

    “Bini2 sekalian: Bini 1 – ni cincin berlian 50juta US. Bini 2 – kapalterbang jet sendirian. Bini 3 – ladang kelapa sawit 100,000 acre. Bini 4 – Bgn 100 tingkat di NY.”

    etc etc

  4. #4 by Loh on Wednesday, 24 August 2011 - 1:17 am

    //He defended his position on Islam, pointing out that the religion blesses everyone regardless of race or religion and that any other interpretation that leads to “injustice, oppression, hostility to other people, ignorance, caste systems in society, racism and fanaticism that doesn’t respect the rights of others” should be rejected.///

    UMNO leaders who formulated policies based on race, such as the NEP in which race is the deciding criterion cannot be acceptable to the Islamic religion. So Islam rejects Kaka-Mamak for his unending call for Malays to be united, for the purpose of fighting non-Malays. His call is not Islamic. The government policies which discriminate against a fraction of the citizens based on race and religion are against Islam, and yet the government leaders call themselves Muslim. Thus UMNO leaders never forget to claim that they are Muslims but they do not practise the teaching of the religion.

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