December 25, 2013
Farouk Musa:Image of Moderate Islam in Malaysia tarnished
by Hazlan Zakaria@http://http://www.theantdaily.com
The hardline stance that religious authorities and the Barisan Nasional government in particular are taking has tarnished the image of moderate Islam in the country and is causing others to view Muslims and Islam with apprehension.
“The way we think made Islam here not attractive anymore, unlike in the west where Islam is attractive to non-Muslims because of the freedom and fairness in Islam,” Islamic Renaissance Front chairman Dr Farouk Musa told theantdaily.
For one, he said, the principle of “no compulsion in religion” was what made non-Muslims comfortable with the religion as practised in the West.
“(But here) now we see the government interfering in personal faith; you must be sunni and ahli sunnah wal jamaah, how can it be like that? Faith is between you and God. It is an individual thing.”
He warned that this was what happened to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, flushed from their electoral victory, had no respect for the rakyat as a whole and ignored non-Muslims and failed to stop religious persecution.
Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, Farouk said, did not show that he was a ruler for all of Egypt when he became President, but his actions show that he was only a ruler for the Muslim Brotherhood, ignoring others and leading to his downfall.
Farouk noted that as of now, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was also showing the same symptoms as he appeared to be only a PM for UMNO Malays and presides over religious intolerance.
The Islamic thinker stressed that the important thing in Islam was to be just, and to be just not only to Muslims but non-Muslims and Muslims of other schools of thought.
“Like Syiah followers being persecuted, for them it is worse than being non-Muslims. We do not show the face of Islam that is moderate.Neither do we exhibit other qualities that Muslims should,” Farouk said, zooming in on cleanliness which is supposed to be an Islamic trait.
“Islam values cleanliness, but we Muslims here are not the cleanest. Why? It is because we do not embody the teachings of Islam but only observe the rituals blindly without understanding.”
The same, he said, was true of the “implementation of our so-called Islamic economy.”To us Islamic economy is only that there is no usury,” he added.
But this, argued the scholar, was not true as there were other principles of Islamic economy like attaining fairness and social justice.
However, he lamented that ulama and religious authorities failed to see the big picture of social justice leading to zakat or tithe funds which were meant to help the poor being used to buy various assets.
Islamic tithe or zakat is supposed to be finished in the year it was collected and for aid to the poor and those in need, not accumulated annually or used for management expenses like buying buildings and assets.
“Red tape is also making it more difficult for the poor to apply for aid. Then they get angry if the poor go to the church for assistance,” Farouk lamented.The same, he argued, was true for the understanding of Malaysian Muslims towards hudud or Islamic criminal law.
“The focus is only on the mechanics of the punishments like cutting off of a thief’s hand but not understanding the underlying principles of fairness and justice behind it,” he said.
What is more important than the mechanics, he believes, is setting the framework to achieve justice and fairness first. The hardline stance and uncompromising way that Islam seems to be practised in Malaysia, he argued, was because Muslims here paid too much attention to rituals and literal readings of the teachings of Islam.
And sadly, as the rituals are observed, most did not understand the reasoning and message behind the rituals but followed blindly, much as many recite the Al-Qur’an by rote without really understanding what it means.
The teachings of Islam as well as the hadith and sunnah are taken literally without looking for the context and explanations.Such literal and ritual-focused practice, Farouk said, led to the rigid version of Islam that we have in Malaysia today.
All in all, a recipe for disaster, as it may lead us down the path to extremism.