At a crossroads
Lack of morals – the real crises in Malaysia and money MONEY money Islam. Mufti have gone to jail While in terms of profit and loss “phony Islam theology”more important issue plaguing the nation is lack of moral Mufti and theological correctness an issue in a political campaign
the hallowed interpretive UMNO tradition Now, many of us notice that this “dominion” is an expression of humanity being created in “the image of God.” That framing seems to imply that human beings should show the same care for creation that the Creator does—respecting and conserving God-given balances and systems. As image-bearers of God, we should, for example, show foresight to conserve God-given resources to benefit future generations rather than grasping for the most profit in the least amount of time to benefit today’s one-percenters. (One might even argue that this approach is more truly and deeply conservative.)
Islam forbids a “jihad (struggle)” predicated on race, prominent Muslim scholar Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has said amid controversy over yesterday’s call by the Perak Mufti for Malays to defend their race and rights to the land.
“Jihad against others in the name of race, is not Islam’s teaching,” the former Perlis Mufti said today in a statement in Bahasa Malaysia.
“No race can consider themselves ‘superior’ in the meaning of racial supremacy,” he stressed in an article titled, “Does Islam encourage racial fighting?”
Guess where in the world candidates for political office are pandering to religious conservatives, using religious imagery in political advertisement and participating in political forums in houses of worship? Where some voters are unwilling to support candidates because they do not belong to the majority faith, dismissing a candidate because they are women, and using religious purity as a litmus test for eligibility? If you said Iowa, USA you will be correct. Cairo, Egypt also qualifies as the correct answer.
The nexus between politics and religion has been on the rise globally for quite some time now. It is an irony that it is the religious right in each country that often expresses the most misgivings about the rise of the religious right in other countries. In America, Republican presidential candidates, with support from the religious right, are the most vocal in their criticism of Islamist politics. On the other hand, Islamists are quick to conflate American hegemony in their region with a war against Islam. The mutual paranoia is palpable.
Elections are underway in Egypt for a new parliament. Openly vying for seats are political parties from the puritanical Salafis, to the conservative Ikhwanis (Muslim Brotherhood) and a plethora of smaller secular groups. After the first round of voting it appears that the religious right, Salafis and the Brotherhood together, will have majority control of the parliament. Similar Islamist victories in Tunisia and Morocco portend an unmistakable trend of increased intertwining of religion and politics in the region.
A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that while a majority of Muslims prefer a significant role for Islam in their politics, substantive differences persist across regions. Majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria favor changing current laws to allow religiously sanctioned capital punishment for adultery, stealing and apostasy. In contrast, Muslims living under secular democracies in Turkey or Lebanon overwhelmingly reject fundamentalism and self-identify themselves as modernists, even when actively practicing their faith.
As politics face a rightward religious tug across the globe, it will be hasty to stereotype the trend. In the US, although the Christian right exerts an enormous influence in politics but the state remains neutral towards religion, the occasional display of Christmas trees in government buildings notwithstanding. Such institutional separation between state and religion is lacking across the Middle East, most disconcertingly in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Will the wave of popular opinions that favor a greater role for Islam in politics inevitably lead to a theocratization of the nascent Middle Eastern democracies? Chances are good that the new democracies in Tunisia or Egypt are unlikely to resemble Saudi Arabia or Iran, but neither will they be Jeffersonian.
Reformist scholars of Islam have asserted that Sharia ought not to be codified as state law. The reasons are tantalizingly simple. A state is a political institution, not a religious authority. A state has to be neutral and beneficial towards all its citizens, not just those who belong to the majority. The Muslim belief in the divineness of Sharia is obviously not shared by people of other faiths. Moreover, the interpretation of Sharia is a fallible human endeavor, often leading to conflicting juristic opinions, which then leaves unanswered the question of whose Islam should the state endorse.
While public policy may reflect the values of the citizenry, it should not be promulgated in the name of any one religion. Even when religious values inform a certain policy, the primary reason for enacting public policy must be secular. A wall separating religion from statecraft is good for both religion and state. Once a state begins to enforce the laws of any religion then the coercive power of the state becomes the primary factor in the determining how religion gets practiced. The state loses credibility and faith loses spirituality. The Quran unequivocally states that there is no compulsion in matters related to religion.
Even in the rough and tumble world of Middle Eastern politics there are faint signs of hope. The Islamist leaders in Tunisia have spoken about the secular democracy of Turkey as their aspiring model. A New York Times report quoted a conservative party leader in Egypt saying, “We don’t accept tyranny in the name of religion any more than we accept tyranny in the name of the military.” The yearning for freedom may ultimately overcome parochial religiosity in politics. From Iowa to Cairo, the world watches with trepidation.
While Asri did not name anyone in particular, his response today appears to dispute Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria message to Malay Muslims yesterday, urging them to defend their race and rights to the land, by saying the Prophet Muhammad also spoke about his race.
The Perak Mufti had said at the launch of former Selangor PAS chief Datuk Hasan Ali’s new Muslim organisation, Jati, that “it is compulsory for Malays to speak about this as this is a Malay country.”
“Some people say we should not talk about Malays. They call us nationalists. But even the Prophet spoke about his race and tribe,” Harussani said in his speech.
“This land is the right of Malays but today we have lost it. I’m not sure but probably less than 40 per cent belongs to Malays now. We are supposed to have 30 per cent of the economy but only have 17 per cent. Still we are silent,” he had said yesterday before breaking into tears.
But Asri pointed out that, in Islam, the principle is to help those who are poor and in trouble without considering whether the person was a kinsman or based on the person’s race.
He added that the same principles have been mentioned by Prophet Muhammad in the Quran.
“The fight to defend one’s race, if it goes against the principles of Islam as mentioned earlier, is forbidden,” the vocal Islamic scholar said.
“But the effort to dignify one’s race, if it does not go against the principles of Islam such as kinship, justice to all and does not insult other races, it is allowed and is even considered noble,” he added.
Asri pointed out that passages from the Quran should not be taken in isolation and used to argue the supremacy of a certain race. He gave as examples Prophet Muhammad’s hadith about the leaders from Quraish.
“This hadith is not about supremacy but about ability and political influence that is to be taken into account when selecting a leader. Because the Quraish tribe had influence and political ability among the Arabs then, they were deemed the most qualified. But at the same time, the Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘Even though you are called to rule, you are a slave if he leads you with Allah’s kitab, therefore listen and obey.”
Asri said the passage, from Riwayat Muslim, was actually a denial of racial supremacy.
A popular speaker at public rallies on Islam, the 40-year-old said that “asabiyyah” (social solidarity based on a group consciousness) could result in tribalism that led to oppression of others and, when taken too far, could turn into a fanatical attitude in the form of racism or extreme political or other group views that reject the concerns of others.
“Whatever stand a person wants to uphold, it must be evaluated based on the person’s character and not his ancestry. Justice in Islam is colour-blind, race-blind and even faith-blind,” Asri said