Monday, January 15, 2007

Extremism Does Not Define Religion

(Published in the New Sunday Times, 14th January 2007 as "Extremism, Not Religion, Begets Violence")

I HAD not been told that my workshop was potentially the most controversial. At an international conference in Prague last November, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the United Nations' Declaration on the Elimination of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion of Belief, I was co-facilitating a workshop on the relationship between the freedom of religion and the freedom of expression.

My presentation focused on the twin pillars of freedom of religion: The freedom to profess (or not to profess as the case may be) as a personal or internal expression of one's belief; and the freedom to manifest, or externally express that belief through an act of worship or by not worshiping. The experience I had gained, in cases dealing with the denial of the freedom of religion, had led me to understand that while no one could impede another's internal expression, much could be done to restrict the manifestation of that belief.

The nuances of expression in religion must be explored at all levels, from the right of the individual to profess and practice a religion of choice, to a state's justifications for clamping down on free discussion concerning religious practices. My involvement in various efforts has led me to the conclusion that, other than to genuinely preserve public order, free expression on matters of religion is vital if a community is to defend against intolerance and extremism. This is at the heart of the 1981 Declaration.

Out of the 50 participants in our session, more than half were diplomats. And everyone wanted to talk about the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (p.b.h.) and the controversial speech by the Pope. The European diplomats were keen to defend their position on the freedom of expression underlying these events. Representatives of Islamic countries were, on the other hand, driven to point to the insensitivity and the underlying insult. All indicators pointed to a potentially explosive morning.

As my co-facilitator, a senior director from Amnesty International, and I began to navigate through the session, it became apparent that in order to ensure a meaningful dialogue we needed to ensure that the language was kept civil and the concepts objective.

This was to prove challenging as one of the first salvos into the fray was from a British academic. He scathingly made two points. First, that Islam demanded sensitivity and acceptance of its particular idiosyncrasies but was unwilling to reciprocate with tolerance and understanding. Referring to the cartoon episode, he pointed out that the Islamic world had not attempted to understand that in allowing for the publication, the publisher may not have intended to insult Islam but rather uphold a universal freedom of expression. The violence of reactions was proof of the rejection of any other view. In this vein, secondly, he went on to characterize Islam as a religion of violence.

Objectively, one could see why he might have thought so. I do not mean that he was right in his conclusions. The sad truth, however, is that a lot of violence is done in the name of Islam. The violence is not limited to acts of terrorism but includes aggression, abuses of power and insensitivity. I have seen some of that violence first hand. There was, as such, a basis for his skewed perceptions of Islam.

However, not everyone in the room was prepared to consider his position with the necessary objectivity. The outrage was immediate and loud. This was ironic as it served to reinforce the point the academic was making. Where were the objectivity, rationality and broad-mindedness that one associates with Islam, I found myself wondering.

Amidst the protests, I thought it might be useful for the others to hear a clarification of his stance. I believed that he might not be anti-Islamic and that he might sincerely hold the view that he was espousing. I also recognised that there was a possibility that he could not see that he was confusing issues, much as the others were. The premise of his argument was tenuous at best; the same reasoning could be employed against any religion. World events, past and present, reflect that.

There was, however, some value in the academic's point of view. It highlighted the fact that the use of religions, all religions in one form or the other, to justify violence pointed to a single painful truth: Religion is too often misused for political purpose. Such misuse is made possible by a propensity on the part of some towards extremism. In this way, extremism is harnessed not for religious purpose but for political purpose.

Perhaps it was more important then to understand why extremism existed.

Exploring this notion, I asked the academic whether he could agree that it was extremism, as opposed to religion, that led to violence. He was gracious enough to agree, conceding the point immediately. He also agreed to the suggestion that in allowing for diversity, religions were not monolithic. This, he further conceded, disallowed any generalizations about any particular religion.

Muslim participants were quick to agree as well. I believe their willingness lay in recognition of the fact that the violence we have seen done in the name of Islam - from effigy-burning to death threats to killings to terrorism - cannot by any stretch of the imagination be seen as being definitive or characteristic of Islam.

This agreement was echoed by other participants from different backgrounds, some completely secular or atheistic. Discussing the matter further, the workshop very quickly agreed that extremism was largely caused by factors that were independent of religion. Core amongst these are poverty, a lack of education and the denial of social justice. These factors have allowed for the entrenching, and misuse, of extremist thought and the galvanizing of extremist action.

Recognising this, the workshop readily agreed that the fight against extremism was one that had to focus, as a global concern, on eradicating the root causes of extremism.

The workshop ended on a high note, its recommendations a testament to the fact that more often than not, so many of us are shackled by fear and prejudice. Constructive and meaningful dialogue, and the truths it bears, can be achieved where there is the will to do so.

MIS


19 comments:

Tommy Peters said...

Dear Malik, would you name this British academic or relay him this post to enable him to respond? We would love to hear from him.

He made some points which are albeit privately, popular sentiments about Islam but then again anyone, Muslim or otherwise, with little or no scholarship in the subject would be trashing and offering solutions at lower registers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Imtiaz,
Excellent article. Thank you for being OUR voice.
Mz. Karamsingh.

Pro-rights said...

nothing to do with religion b'cos all religions teach goodness but certain extreme groups will use religion and indoctrination as vehicle to futher their cause.Btw, ever wonder why almost all muslim countries have fundamentalist problem at their backyard,the fact is, whether what the degree of extent of seriousness they are talking about only.

Taufiq Khalid said...

Terrible crimes have been committed for all sorts of Causes. Religion gets the bum rap, but as the past century have shown, mankind can be pretty convincing ogres in the name of secular ideologies too, like Apartheid, Communism, Fascism and Capitalism.
Doesn’t extremism wear many hats?

Pro-rights mentioned that 'almost all muslim countries have fundamentalist problem'. I presume he/she is referring to those intolerant bigoted narrow-minded merciless "defenders of Islam". I say that they are no fundamentalists of Islam. How can they be "muslim fundamentalists" when each of their revolting traits is poison to the faith that they profess to defend?

As for the righteous anger expressed against the Danish Cartoons? I can only shake my head. For I know that the character depicted is not my Prophet nor a true depiction of my faith. The funny thing is I feel the same thing when a self-declared Jihadi makes some grand pronouncement (you know the soundbites.. western infidels, evil-female temptress, decadent liberals, innovators, etc). For he too does not speak for my faith or for my Prophet.

But between the two, it is the so-called Jihadi who is a greater problem. After all, the Danish cartoonist doesn't assume to speak on behalf of Islam. In fact, he has made it patently clear that he is the opposite.

In all their misguided, intolerant and vile actions, my saber-rattling brothers draw their energy from an ego oppressed by a persecution complex. Yet they claim to be Jihadis and inspired by my Prophet. I know not of this Prophet they are referring to. Same name, but utterly different.

Real Enemy said...

Fundamentalist/Extremist/Conservative/Wahhabi 'Islam', or by whatever name called, we should peel away not just these prefixes to 'Islam', but also the label of 'Islam' itself. Underneath, they are nothing but TOTALITARIANISM + FASCISM + THEOCRATIC DICTATORSHIP.

I agree with Taufiq, that secular ideologies have done much damage to modern civilization in the past century, but that's history, and TODAY, the same is being carried out by TOTALITARIANISM + FASCISM + THEOCRATIC DICTATORSHIP, organised in the name of 'Islam'.

So, if right-thinking Muslims like Taufiq n MIS would have condemned these secular venomous ideologies in the past, they should also adopt the same attitude towards these perverted versions of 'Islam' - ie. confront and fight them like REAL ENEMIES, just like how y/our forefathers had fought communism, not merely as 'sesat FELLOW Muslims'.

AND MORE - for in our present case, it's equivalent to Communism + Theocracy, combining the METHOD of Communism with the MORAL LEGITIMACY of religion. This is far more deadly than Communism of the past century.

Also don't forget that they now could have, at their disposal, HIGH-TECH techniques, equipment of control and weapons of mass destruction thanks to advancement in science and proliferation of weapons.

COMMUNIST MEANS + THEOCRACY LEGITIMIZED IN THE NAME OF ISLAM + SCIENCE. It's the most deadly the world has seen so far.


So, to defeat them, muslims MUST NOT let them hide behind the protection and respect all civilized people usually give to religion. The clever part about them is that unlike Communism, they have managed to infiltrate into the mainstream of society and even occupied the seats of power.

Their critics are quickly branded as 'Islam-phobia', 'Crusaders' (for Non-Muslims) or 'Infidels', 'Liberal', 'Heretic', 'Israeli/Jewish/American agents' (for Muslims like MIS).

The wider society are weary about uprooting them (people like Perak Mufti, who have consistently argued that the apostates should be killed and so on - see Jan 2007 Al-Islam interview, for the latest example only), because these people have so successfully hijacked the special place our society gives to the freedom to practise religion, and - they have turned OFFENSIVE now, not just defensive - used it as a sword.

Put it other way, the current politically correct climate (both in the West and Malaysia) is only providing them with the ideal environment to fight an effective guerilla war. We are blinded as to who are our enemies, who are harmless, and who are our allies.

Compare that to the treatment we give to Communism, Fascism and Apartheid - these were OUTCAST. A clear line has been drawn, unambiguously. Especially in Malaysia, any follower of Communism will be banished FROM society, either detained under ISA or forced to retreat to the Thai borders. They were NEVER allowed to hold high office, like Mufti of Perak!! But that's not the case here for 'whatever-Islam'!!!

So, perhaps the only effective way to fight these people is, to put it bluntly, a 'civil war' among Muslims. 'Liberal/Traditionalist/Progressive' Muslims like MIS, Taufiq, Zainah Anwar, Marina M, SIS: Don't just write, don't just maintain your 'elegant silence', don't just be the good-natured, pacifist, bookish 'moderate majority'.

Smoke out the proponents of 'whatever-Islam', ostracize them, DECLARE THEM infidel/sesat/murtad (instead of allowing them to monopolize that pleasure/privilege)!! Tell the whole world that you are NOT SILENT or SOFT, but are drawing a CLEAR LINE between you and them, and - above all - declare that THEY ARE NOT MUSLIMS. They are, instead, the ENEMIES of Islam, who must be fought and defeated for the sake of Islam.

Only then, could we identify who the real enemies really are, and fight them effectively. Right now, the lines are too ambiguous, rendering us like the American soldiers in Baghdad - impotent to fight a guerrilla war because we don't even make the honest and serious effort of identifying WHO are our enemies in the first place.

Tommy Peters said...

I’m inclined to Pro-Rights who appears to refer to common ethical foundations emanating from religions. Historically the concept of good and evil were imbued in man long before religions came into existence and thereafter, man himself introduced religions to emphasize and arbiter these concepts.

Folks, I'm Linux - an open source. I do not harbour a pre-conceived frame of analysis on any subject but I am certain that the key to understanding Islam, as it is misunderstood now, is to first perform an objective reading of the Sunnah – the life conduct of the Prophet - and to go even further, the Prophet’s pre-Islamic life. Once that's out of the way, scriptures in the Qur’an parried with the ahadith are more easily understood.

I would not suggest taking in wholly the opinion of trained clerics. They are human after all. I would hold my own after making an objective reading of it.

The way I see it, the Prophet evolved Islam at an age of recordable history thus providing ample opportunity for such scholarship which every one should make a vocation.

Meanwhile Malik, to follow up on my earlier thread, I’m anxiously waiting for the academic to come on board for some traction.

Taufiq Khalid said...

While I understand real enemy's view and indeed, one might argue that it is the inevitable conclusion of my own views, I am unable to agree with the proposed methodology.

I must confess that nay a day goes by that I do not question the sincerity of my own faith. In this position, how shall I ever judge on the apostasy of others?

As you will note, I only wish not to be defined by the actions of others. How they themselves are defined, especially under the laws, are (happily) not my job to judge. And to use the weapon of apostasy, brings me too uncomfortably close to their tendencies.

I do not think that the Lord has left the world and muslims to their own devices. I trust that there are individuals still around who are attending to the problems that we are discussing, even as we speak.

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said...

Thanks for the input Tommy Peters, glad to have you in the loop. I have forwarded the material and am awaiting a response.

Real Enemy said...

Taufiq,

I guess one of the main reasons why these 'whatever-Muslims' were ALLOWED to prosper and hijack Islam and grow into a formidable force in our society is precisely because of this kind of 'laid-back' (to put it in the best light) attitude by the right-thinking Muslims:

"I trust that there are individuals still around who are attending to the problems that we are discussing, even as we speak."

While I have no doubt that people like MIS is precisely one of them, not just putting his name forward by writing but also devote himself to taking real, legal actions to make a concrete impact in our society, most of the other right-thinking Muslims just sat back, relax and watch.

Alright, if you don't want to 'kafir-mengkafirkan' each other like them, never mind, how about DRAWING A CLEAR LINE from them? If not also declaring them the ENEMIES of TRUE ISLAM?

When was the last time we heard any Malay Muslim public figure CONDEMN, say, the Perak Mufti or leaders of ABIM for branding people like MIS, SIS and so on as 'heretic' and 'American agents'??

That's including MIS himself - but I could understand if he doesn't want to jeapardise his credibility in fighting his legal battles, I respect that; but what about the rest of the 'Progressives'?

Famous writers like Farish Noor, Marina M and Zainah Anwar wrote a lot of critical stuff about these 'whatever-Muslims', but they never went so far as to draw a LINE between them and these people, and declare these people as propagating the WRONG Islam.

Don't want to call them 'kafir' or 'murtad' out of civility is fine, but let me see you draw a LINE, ANY LINE, just to show that you have the will and moral courage to WRESTLE BACK the leadership of the ummah's public opinion from these 'whatever-Muslims'. Get organised, and corner them.

Unless and until that happens, Muslims will FOREVER be lamenting about how extremism has hijacked the 'true Islam' - while they sit back, relaxed, popcorn in their hands and watching these 'whatever-Muslims' aggressively POISON generations after generations of their children.

Stanford Law said...

i think before being able to 'declare them enemies' like Real Enemy suggested, muslims need to find that confidence in themselves in the first place.

Taufik said, "I must confess that nay a day goes by that I do not question the sincerity of my own faith."

this is deeper than not being able to identify who is your enemy - i think people like Taufik, right-thinking person though he is, suffer from, for want of a better description, 'INFERIORITY' COMPLEX vis-a-vis their 'enemies'.

i wonder if Taufik ever asked himself, why should he ever DOUBT that he, being a much more decent and fair person than his 'enemies' r, is not a 'good enough' muslim?????

many intelligent and 'modern-thinking' muslims, when being asked about even simple questions of faith (such as whether wearing tudung is compulsory), would somehow 'snap' - their minds stop functioning, unwilling to question the doctrines, n just reply, "u have to ask THE IMAMS, THEY KNOW BETTER."

we r talking about uni-educated muslims here, including those coming back from overseas. deep down inside, no matter how confident they r in their profession/career matters, they seem to have accepted the fact that their 'akidah' is not strong 'enough' compared to the 'real' or 'proper' muslims - ie. those who grow beard, wear like taliban n throw arabic phrases around like native speakers.

my question is - WHY?
y have they accepted the fact that these conservative ulamas n their imams, r BETTER QUALIFIED than them to call themselves muslims n speak up FOR islam??

is it bcos they r illiterate?? the english version of the qur’an 'not accurate enough' n u must read it in arabic?
is it bcos the holy qur'an is too difficult for mere mortals to comprehend, n u must have a phd from al-azhar or any of the ultra-conservative religious schools in pakistan before u r qualified to attempt to interpret?

ALL these r PRECIESELY the CRAP that the conservative muslim ulamas have tried to INSTIL in the minds of 'ordinary muslims', so as to contrast with their own 'superior' knowledge.

what 'ordinary muslims' do not realize is that by accepting DEFEAT in that way, they have indirectly been guilty of permitting these ulamas to turn islam into an ELITIST religion.

when the nabi was alive, all muslims r by n large equal in the eyes of god, but 1400 years later, u have only a TINY MINORITY of ulamas who r confident enough to call themselves 'true muslims', while the rest happily surrender their GOD-GIVEN right to an EGALITARIAN faith n accepted that they - no matter how decent, kind n fair they r in daily lives - r inferior compared to 'those who r LEARNED'.

this is quite similar to what is happening to other religions today, like christianity. 'ordinary christians' would refrain from telling u what the 'correct' theological answer to a question is n would advise u to 'consult our pastor' - INCLUDING those christians who r PREACHING on the streets (n supposedly calling the 'pagans' to the lord's gospels) for christ’s sake!!!

one might b tempted to condemn all these 'half-baked' muslims/christians about their 'shallow' knowledge in their respective faiths, but i think BEFORE that, we should ask – y should depth of knowledge of DOGMAS be even RELEVANT to determine whether someone is ‘qualified enough’ to call themselves a muslim/christian in the first place??

WHY SHOULD RELIGION BECOME AN ELITE SPORT, like polo???
WHY should there b such a distinction of ‘fully-baked’ n ‘half-baked’ muslims/christians??
even if we must have this distinction, why should we allow the DOGMATIC camps to MONOPOLISE the discourse of religion, accept the fact that knowledge of DOGMAS is a ‘better’ measure of someone’s akidah, than the person’s moral character??? don’t tell me that’s bcos on the judgment day, allah swt/jehova would prefer to sit down n have a discourse of religious DOGMAS with us n to test how good we know the TECHNICAL rules, than looking at how we had behaved towards other children of god while we were alive IRRESPECTIVE of whether we knew a jack shit about DOGMAS!!!???

have not 'ordinary' muslims/christians FAILED in their DUTY TO GOD by ALLOWING/FAILING TO STOP such a MONOPOLISATION of religious discourse by the 'selected few'????
since when is being kind, fair, just, decent, honest NOT GOOD ENOUGH in the eyes of god???
y should we have to worry about the APPROVAL of our imams/priests, what they say about our ATTIRE, or whether we should have held the hands of the opposite sex at all???
whenever they r being DOGMATIC, y have we allowed ourselves to become so SUBMISSIVE as to not only accept the NONSENSE they have uttered as 'golden rules', but also regard OURSELVES - in not measuring up to their 'gold standard' - as INFERIOR/BAD muslim/christian???

i think if these moderate muslims r unable to assert themselves n b confident about their own 'religious credentials' (if not totally get rid of the idea that such 'credentials' is required before one could talk about one's own religion in the first place), they could forget about organising themselves n fight their 'real enemies'.

bcos u can't fight a war if u have already INTERNALIZED the fact that u r INFERIOR to your enemies.

- i hope i have 'misinterpreted' Taufik's meaning... i really hope so.

Pro-rights said...

AP sydney- Sheik Feiz mohammad,head of the Global islamic youth centre,spark condemnation over video lectures urging children to become 'soldiers defending islam' and sacrifice their lives for Allah. "teach them this:there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a holy warrior" sheik said in video.

Questions!-he is no ordinary muslim but ulama that provide guidance,should the islamic community/muslim leaders be accountable for his 'comments' or called to account??

multidimid said...

There’s nothing that we should take on faith without consideration or proof. We need to prove everything, even spiritually because it’s a science. It’s the highest science, but it’s still a science.
How can we unentangled our minds with mass of knowledge or habits that we call "I and to look beyond it to see at the real thing? To be enlightened and observe and understand things so easily. The majority of people of other religious faiths with their expressed beliefs will hold on to their beliefs as truths unbending and unyielding. The only way to change is to change the beliefs.

At the Heart of All Religions is the Same Truth: That's why many of us cannot understand that one religion is no different than the next, it’s because of the mind. Perhaps, we are not that enlightened to go beyond the mind. Then we see differently, and truly understand that there’s no difference, ever. It's such a simple thing we shake our heads and can’t believe that we couldn’t understand it before.

It's alright if each of us can pursue what he or she wants to study and believe, whether false or true. But the problem comes when we start to ARGUE and FIGHT among each other because of philosophical differences. Then we truly disgrace ourselves and our ascended Teachers because they always preached peace, integrity and love.
More details at:
http://powerpresent.blogspot.com/2006/12/more-pics-pope-benedict-how-many-would.html

Taufiq Khalid said...

I would like to render my appreciation to the Real Enemy and Stanford Law for their response.

I am unable to 'draw the line' between the Muslims and so-called Muslims because I am simply not qualified nor authorised to do so. My only crude measurement refers to a moral and sincere meter that transcends all religion. Those basic tenets of love, mercy and kindness that is rooted in all major religions, as Multidimid noted in his comment.

In respect of Stanford Law's analysis of my inferiority complex, I am glad to confirm that I do have inferiority complexes and 'issues' that still remain to be resolved. But i have no inferiority complex towards the extremists, of whatever religious or secular beliefs.

The fact of the matter is that a lot of information is lost in the transmission. Especially in a public blog where discretion has to be exercised.

Please forgive me for being coy and less than forthcoming in my comments. If you gentlemen wish to continue this discussion vide email, I would be pleased to reply. I am at tk1970@gmail.com.

Stanford Law said...

Taufiq,

thanks for the invitation but there's no need to have a 'private' discussion on this matter. the fact that u didn't see it fit to STAND UP IN PUBLIC AND BE COUNTED is enough proof of what is fundamentally wrong with all these so-called 'progressive muslims'.

i mean, even a successful muslim professional would think that way, what's the hope for all those 'moderate but silent majority' to speak up?

"because I am simply not qualified nor authorised to do so."

need i say more?
good day.

Berny Barber (Jr) said...

Wow what a topic of discussion. This would no doubt be a base of debate amongst people, states, nations and of course there are wars in the name of our religions.

What a thing that in the name of our beliefs we can wage war or assert our opinion by blowing ourselves up and others to somehow gain an entry to a better place. In fiction and non fiction books there are references to ascending to better places weather through deeds and valour in battle. (Val Hala, Sorry unsure of spelling) or to Heaven if you are a christian believer.

Then to come to such a difference of state of belief that to die in the name of your god, it will give you a direct entry to their Heave, Val Hala is unfathomable to a lot of other people.

It puts me in mind of the Hitler's, Stalin, Sudam Husain's and now Bin Laden's of the worlds history. These are days where history is changing and all I can see is a pattern of violence increasing around the world.

I am living in a country where the general polulation have lived in harmony for many years with some trivial racial tensions and some immigration tensions. Though unheard of Violence and crimes has in the last few years raged in our streets and in schools, places of worship and even over our airwaves on TV/ Internet posts/ you tube video's, etc.

The world is becoming a less safe place due mainly to the insited violence and hatred created behind a word - jihad.

I will not pretend to be educated on the Muslim belief sturcture or the Hierarchy of their belief system. I do know that from the little life experience I have there is no other "Faith" or type of worship that leads followers to believe that this type of violence and taking of life can result in anything good.

I signed off last time with me personal opinion and I will do that again.

All I can reconcile in my mind is that there must be several missguided souls that have been placed here in our lifetimes that are able to sway the minds of others to follow their cause for distruction.

Where the answer lies to these issues of todays society I am at a loss though I know it is at the forefront of my mind daily from the news and I consistently think, What kind of world is being created for my children to inherit?

Anyone on this post may recognise my name and realise who I am and that my father spent over 15 Years living in KL and working with the local community and loved Malaysia. It is one of the worlds larger Muslim communities and in all the trips I have been there I have loved the people and the place. I sit back here and see the news and the reviews from around the world and hope that all our homes & communities can withstand the onslaught of this insighed violence.

Peace friends,

Tommy Peters said...

Hi Berny, we miss him as much as you and your family and as much as he loved Malaysia, he was indeed loved for being ‘borderless’ and the one little thing outside his profession that rooted him to the ground – his passion for friendship. He would have made an excellent ambassador for Australia on this blog.

Taufiq Khalid said...

Relax, SL. Let's not get hasty about this. We should be playing the long game. Absolutes is only with God, us mortals are just buggering about with relative concepts. After all, if we cannot have a healthy disagreement, how fare the future for our children?

Berny Barber (Jr) said...

Thanks Tommy,

Your words are kindly received, and to anyone reading here I also committ to being constructive and giving an open and honest opinion in the hope I can contribute something positive.

A quick background as an FYI, My history with Malaysia is of only about 6 Visits over the past 15 Years. The true link and source of my passion for Malaysia is the constant communication I have had with Dad who some of you I believe know. Dr Bernard Barber (KL and Ipoh mainly.) Though he travelled extensively through out the region.
Anyway back to the point. I have spent many, many hours with him talking about Malaysia. The good and the bad. (We all have that.)
The passion that I have for Malaysia is the PEOPLE.

How I think it relates to the blogg here is that at the end of the day it will be the people who make or break the country.

The issues we are discussing here seem to run straight from this phgillosophy. There are so many good people in the world and indeed Malaysia as a country. The more of these good people that we can have contribute online and the blogg itself can become and awesome "think tank".

I will enjoy continuing to contribute and note that I will also reflect a lot of Dr Bernard, (Dad's) thoughts and passion for the country. (he lived in KL and Ipoh from approx 1991 and passed away in KL September 2004.)

Draw the Line said...

MIS,

This is an exchange I have with a Muslim friend, which I think touches upon the debate on this page. I hope to share with your readers, and I've already gotten permission from this friend.

First is an opinion piece, who my friend adopted as his position. Next is my email response. Thank you.

-----------------------------

I - Opinion of a Muslim Intellectual


I hope that your articles on Islamophobia would jolt the dissipated Muslim community into honest self-reflection. As Mr. Nazim commented, perhaps the test of Islamophobia and other ills plaguing Muslims everywhere can only be exorcised by means of contemplating one's own faults and removing them. I have attempted to do so and this is my diagnosis.



Firstly, are Muslims guilty of moral myopia? While we are quick to condemn the removal of Saddam as an act of unprovoked aggression, yet we sat on our hands when this tyrant was killing his own countrymen with chemical agents. So it is okay for Muslims to massacre other Muslims, but wrong if non-Muslims do it to Muslims?



Secondly, while we were enraged by mass killings in Bosnia and the terrible 'collateral' damage reaped by hamfisted use of heavy weaponry in Iraq, why were our voices mute when such genocide, on an even bigger scale, was occurring in Rwanda and Burundi? Perhaps we did not care, because they were, after all, not Muslims. Despite this, we insist on the world standing up and taking notice when Muslims are the lambs being led to the slaughter.



The third observation concerns perception. Despite the western media and governments' emphasis on ' Islamic terrorists who are hell-bent to attack and overthrow western values, culture and way of life', the simpler truth is this; At this stage of our decline, decent Muslims don't care how non-Muslims choose to lead their lives or organize their society. We are simply too busy trying to sort out our own problems. For no child, whether Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Christian or Buddhist is born hating anyone. But alas, in time, babies grow up and become young, angry and bigoted men, moulded by economic prospects, political integrity, moral guidance and standards of living, or lack thereof. There are always reasons behind acts of madness, which although can never be justified, should be addressed to remove the causes from the effect. Unfortunately, the media and governments prefer to focus on the effects, i.e., the actual and apprehended acts of terror themselves, rather than the root socio-political and economic cause of all this hatred. Why? Simply because it sell papers and is a unifying force, profiting the press barons and allowing incumbent governments to ride on the momentum of moral outrage and crude nationalism.



The irony is that this is the same persuasive instrument used by all mad mullahs and conservative hawks to motivate their followers. It's the same, really; just replace the term 'American/Western ideals' with 'Islamic heritage', and substitute the pin-striped suit of a Washington lobbyist with an imam's robe. And of course, all of them insist they are fighting for God, freedom and justice.



Fourthly, if we ask non-Muslims to account for unlawful actions by a member of their community committed against any part of the ummah, I think it is only fair that we are required to answer for unlawful actions by any member of the ummah perpetrated against non-Muslims. Fence-sitting is not an option anymore for anyone, regardless of faith. The problem for the Muslims though is that there is no single voice that can be said to represent the ummah. If you have paid attention to history, you would realize that the ummah is in fact in the midst of an ideological civil war. And this has been going on since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate, an event brought to fruit through conspiracy by Western interests and the connivance of some Muslims themselves.



In conclusion, why cannot we start on this firm footing? Bigots, megalomaniacs, carpetbaggers and murderers are generally the same, whatever their creed, geopolitical alignments or nationalities. Easy generalizations like 'Islamic terrorists' and 'Western infidels' is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face. Because the simple truth is this; there is no 'us' and 'them'. There is only one sun shining on our planet. There is only one moon orbiting the earth. And there is only one humanity sheltering under their sorrowful gaze.



*****************************

II - Critique

(At the outset, readers should understand that this is an attack on MUSLIMS, NOT ISLAM.)

Let's be brutally honest - what was said in that article was nothing new.

It called for the ummah's 'honest self-reflection', but so far no Muslim public figure has been genuinely 'honest' in doing that.


"Are Muslims guilty of moral myopia?" This was an honest question, and the author made an honest point here.

The fact is, we see Muslims demonstrating and speaking out aggressively when Iraq is invaded, but when it comes to terrorist bombings in Bali,etc carried out by terrorists acting in the name of Islam, all you hear is 'regret and sorrow', or at most the PHRASE (NOT action!!) 'strongly condemned' being used, in soft whispers by some INDIVIDUAL Muslim Heads of State/political leaders who ARE SUPPOSED TO appear sympathetic and friendly to the kafir anyway - as part of the diplomatic RITUALS.

On the other hand, you NEVER see any genuinely sympathetic reactions from the Muslim grass-roots, on the GROUND. Not only that - many ulamas would be quick to 'caution' the West not to blame Muslims/Islam and make them scapegoats. Worse, they will always say it could be part of the 'American-Israel conspiracy' to smear the name of Islam. Some might even call this 'cold-blooded', because they don't really feel or think like how other HUMAN beings do. When the whole world weeps, they could, strangely, forget about the fact that PEOPLE HAVE DIED, and just concentrating on talking politics and making wild allegations and theories. It's really amazing. For argument's sake, let's call this 'cold-bloodedness' (doesn't mean 'cold-blooded' in the sense of killing people without mercy, etc. Used mainly to denote insensitivity here.)

Compare that with the reactions of some 'detached, third party' countries like Japan and Sweden. These people would express genuine, spontaneous sorrow publicly, even though they are not directly attacked and the victims are so far, far away from them. They would also bring their little kids to place flowers at the relevant memorial spots, to teach their children, since young, to feel for a human being just for the fact that the victim IS a human (and for animals too), not because the victim is 'also a Japanese/Christian'...

Maybe they are just really good actors who have nothing better to do than to weep for total strangers just to get on tv, but if you allow me 10 chances to choose between rescuing a Muslim or 10 Japanese from drowning, I'll pick the Japanese 10 out of 10. (If I have the 11th time, I'll rescue the Muslim, of course; but I really really doubt that the typical ulama would do the same if the 11th person is a Jew or Christian American. This is my personal impression, maybe others don't see Muslims that way.)

That's what it means to be 'compassionate' - you feel what OTHERS feel, as if you ARE them. You put yourself really into the shoes of others, you apply the GOLDEN RULE - "Don't do to others what you don't want to be done to you."

This ethics is shared by ALL religions, INCLUDING Islam.

SHARED BELIEF IN THE "GOLDEN RULE"
Ethics of Reciprocity
http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm

But when you look at the actions, thoughts and behaviours of 'the ummah' (as a whole) today (such as when they force people like Lina Joy to remain a Muslim, compulsory marital conversion to Islam or 'postmortem' conversion), you really wonder whether 'Islam' teaches that ethics to Muslims, hence provoking insults like this:
http://www.answering-islam.org/Index/G/golden_rule.html


The ironic thing is, while the Muslims only maintain ELEGANT SILENCE when some tragedies occur to the kafirs, you would see Muslims coming out in THOUSANDS to aggressivley protest and demonstrate when somebody drew some stupid cartoons or wrote some stupid books which ARE INTENDED TO PROVOKE Muslims into losing their cool anyway. (When do you think Muslims will wise up, and tell themselves that to take the bait EVERYTIME it's offered is, I'm sorry, just dumb and stupid??!)

So my friend, it's not just moral myopia - it's DOUBLE STANDARD!!

Sadly, based on my personal experience with 'the ummah' and Muslims in general, both while in Malaysia and living overseas, I have to say that Muslims in general DO NOT HAVE genuine compassion. To be fair, MANY Muslims ARE compassionate and can really make you want to be their friends, but that is ONLY when they are acting AS INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEINGS. When they are acting AS MUSLIM, AS the follower of the 'ISLAMIC' FAITH, they would be acting or talking in a 'cold-blooded' way (as defined above, in the circumstances mentioned above) more often than not.

Perhaps Muslims could try to change this by organising a spontaneous trip for all your fellow Muslims to - bring their young children along - go present flowers at the Thai and Indonesian Embassies during the Tsunami and Bali Bombing Anniversaries?
Better still, encourage your local imam to encourage their Friday congregations to go together - even by cutting short the Friday prayer by 1/2 hour or totally forgo that for a week and let's just pray at the memorial site for 1 Friday??
Wouldn't that be a very nice gesture to show that Muslims are not self-centered or 'cold-blooded', and don't always see the world as WE Muslims first, (and if WE have time left) then only the kafirs??


Next, what the author says here is total cliche.

"prefer to focus on the effects, i.e., the actual and apprehended acts of terror themselves, rather than the root socio-political and economic cause of all this hatred."

This is amazing. It's as if it has been programmed into every Muslim's mind that this must be the closing line for every debate on Islamic terrorism. The more I hear it, the more it - not just bores me to death, but - CONVINCES me that Muslims are only trying to DIVERT ATTENTION, because they simply don't have the conviction, moral courage or will to address this problem, because they fantasize that "someone else, as we speak, is attending to this problem."

I've got news for you, my Muslim friends - MANY KAFIRS in the world suffer MORE injustices and oppression, and have to endure these "socio-political and economic causes", BUT THEY DON'T KILL PEOPLE!!!!

GET IT???!!!

Vietnamese, Chinese, Eastern Europeans, Africans and other kafir immigrants ARE MARGINALIZED by European societies like France, UK and Germany, but they work hard to FIT IN, to CHANGE THEIR OWN lifestyles and priorities, to ADJUST, and finally you see a lot of their 2nd generation becoming successful professionals and so on - without totally losing their identity. They understand that one needs to compromise in life. So, you never heard France, UK or Germany faced with RIOTS by these 'disenchanted youths'.

But Muslims??? Many of them know the host language, but still they want their HOST country to ADJUST and CATER FOR THEM, even though they came to these host countries as a result of the compassion and grace of these host countries.

Those who do not know the language or don't have the skills simply refuse to learn them, to adapt, preferring to hole up in the ghettos living among their own kind, spending MOST of their time (SOME of their time yes, but not most) 'studying' things that do not make them useful members of the host economy - such as 'religion'. And 1 fine day, they wake up and miraculously reached the conclusion that it's all the kafirs' fault, for not 'making' all the Qur'an-experts/'hafiz' EMPLOYABLE in the capitalist society. And for that, the kafirs should all DIE - instead of the Muslims should adapt or leave.

"socio-political and economic causes"????? How about looking yourselves into the mirrors FIRST?


And to blame the media and public opinion is just pathetic. It's like a murderer blaming the media for reporting about his gruelsome crime 'just to sell newspapers', forgetting that THERE'S NO SMOKE WITHOUT FIRE - you got to be a COLD-BLOODED MURDERER/LAZY BUM before the readers would BELIEVE what the newspapers are saying. Readers are NOT stupid, in case you are wondering - especially those in non-Muslim countries, I'm sorry, but I must say it.

I fully agree with this:

"Fourthly, if we ask non-Muslims to account for unlawful actions by a member of their community committed against any part of the ummah, I think it is only fair that we are required to answer for unlawful actions by any member of the ummah perpetrated against non-Muslims. Fence-sitting is not an option anymore for anyone, regardless of faith."

Yes, no more fence-sitting. You MUST take sides. But, unfortunately, here we go again - the author managed to find an EXCUSE for not fighting the REAL ENEMIES of Islam as well as civilization. Yes, we should all wait until we have all the PERFECT conditions, weapons, ummah unity, etc etc before we take any action:

"The problem for the Muslims though is that there is no single voice that can be said to represent the ummah."

I don't see how is that even necessary, or relevant. There is no one voice in the Christian world, for example, but they have all come to the common view that atrocities such as Spanish Inquisition, massacres of American Indians, Slavery, Colonialism are morally wrong. In fact, the Reformation started with Martin Luther - ONE PERSON, TAKE NOTE - and that rescued the whole Christian civilization and ushered in the Renaissance - the rest is history.

Unless you are telling me that Muslims have PERVERTED the great Islamic civilization to the CORE, such that they are individually no longer capable of telling right from wrong (or to READ the Qur'an in the way it is written, for that matter) unless there's a 'single voice' which tells them so???

That's right - wait until the world is perfect before you take any action. That's the 'Progressive Muslim Way', aye?? In case you didn't realize, by then, there's no need for any action anymore.

The author, along with all the Muslim 'progressives', are just finding EXCUSES for your lack of action, for the moral BANKRUPTCY of the Muslim ummah.


The author added:

"If you have paid attention to history, you would realize that the ummah is in fact in the midst of an ideological civil war. And this has been going on since the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate, an event brought to fruit through conspiracy by Western interests and the connivance of some Muslims themselves."

Yes, 'CONSPIRACY' again. By the way, I think the author would agree with me when I say that in all of Islamic history, there has NEVER been any 'conspiracy' by people WEAKER than the Muslim ummah, like, "conspiracy by Eskimo interests" or "Sub-Saharan desert interests" or "Orang Asli interests." It's always the STRONGER ENEMIES who use 'conspiracy' against the ummah, don't you think? How strange. Must be pure coincidence.

Although, I always wonder, with all the high-tech, sophisticated weapons at their disposal, as well as their much more advanced science, technology and civilization, why on earth would the kafir, Western interests have to resort to using 'conspiracy' also??

Or is it because the Muslims have run out of excuses????


I - whether Muslim or not - can only lament that the true Islam no longer exists. This is NOT Islam we are talking about here, but a group of people living in perpetual decline and in-denial, refusing to look at themselves but are experts in blaming others, while fantasizing that they ARE practising the Islamic faith.

This is NOT Islam. You people are NOT Muslims.

ISLAM TELAH HILANG DARI DUNIA - to me, that would explain it all.


"Because the simple truth is this; there is no 'us' and 'them'."

I'll have to disagree on that. It's either you DENOUNCE and draw a LINE from them, or you are against civilization. It's THAT SIMPLE for me.