July 26, 2012
Malaysia’s Multi-Religious Society threatened by “Politics of Emotion and of Identity”, says Scholar and Islamic Philosopher Tariq Ramadan
by Harakah Daily
European Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, penning some observations of his recent Malaysian tour, has warned that Malaysia’s multi-religious society and huge potential to play a significant role globally were being threatened by “politics of emotion and of identity”.
“The fault-lines are visible, especially on the eve of anticipated elections,” said the Swiss academic, writing in his column in Dubai-based English daily Gulf News.
Tariq (right) opined that Malaysia, alongside Indonesia, has the potential to play significant role at the world economic stage, adding that the two countries had often been overlooked because attention was focused on China and India.
But he cautioned that despite Malaysia’s multi-cultural heritage as well as a “first-rate” economic and geo-strategic potential, a cacophony of political tensions and slogans, many of which referred to Islam, posed obstacles.
Tariq, who spoke at several events in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, highlighted a prevalent view among the non-Muslim minority that they are being marginalised in the wake of Islam becoming a “permanent reference in political debate”, comparing similar debates among Muslim minorities in the West.
“Like the mirror image of many Muslim citizens in the West, they may be perfectly respectful of the constitution, of the laws and prerogatives of the civil state, but it is as if they are slightly excluded from the shared narrative upon which the Malaysian nation is founded. It has proved difficult for them to achieve the fully equal status that would establish their sense of belonging to a pluralist society,” he said.
He noted how the presence of large number of Indonesian immigrants had fed into the existing political rhetoric, lamenting frequently hostile policy “towards the very immigrants the country needs”.
The grandson of the founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Hasan al-Banna, Tariq, who teaches at the Faculty of Oriental Studies in Oxford, also commented on what he described was a penchant for “Islamising” modernism, capitalism and consumerism, “a strange mixture indeed”.
Impressed with Perlis Mosque-Majid Al-Hussain
Tariq said it was a far cry from the “American-style modernism” which according to him characterised Kuala Lumpur’s buildings.
“The contrast between the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and other cities is striking. Here, looming skyscrapers surround the celebrated twin towers that challenge America’s tallest…
“There, a superb structure built on supporting piers, known as the ‘floating mosque’, reflects the extraordinary maritime landscape. Fifty per cent of its electricity consumption is generated by wind turbines and, when completed, solar panels will account for its remaining energy needs: A ‘green’ mosque beneath whose dome Islamic scriptural references are inscribed in the five national languages, to signify that Islam is not the property of one language and one culture,” he wrote.
Tariq further hailed the mosque as possibly the “symbol of Muslims’ greatest contribution to an era in search of meaning: To express its specificity in universal terms, in full respect of pluralism and to respond in full awareness and with all necessary expertise, to the challenges of our time,” said Tariq, whose recent works include the book The Quest for Meaning.
He is believed to be referring to the Al-Hussain Mosque in Kuala Perlis (above). Facing the Straits of Malacca near the Kuala Perlis jetty, the construction of the mosque was financed by entrepreneur Ta Sri Mohd. Ariffin Yusuf to fulfill the dying wish of his brother Dr Mohd. Hussain after whom the mosque was named.
“This mosque is ultimately far more ‘modern’ than all the blind mimicry of American models,” added Tariq. “What a pleasure to pray in such a mosque: one senses the encounter of intelligence and creative imagination.”