September 25, 2008
We read the statement issued by the Home Minister concerning the detention of Raja Petra Kamaruddin under the dreaded and inhumane Internal Security Act (ISA) with skepticism. According to the Home Minister, Raja Petra was detained because his articles ridiculed Islam. One is now left to wonder whether Islam itself allows such detention without trial in order to protect its sanctity from being ridiculed by people, the likes of Raja Petra.
We would like to stress the fact that there is ample evidence in the Qur’an which guarantees freedom of expression (hurriyat ar-ra’iy) that is generally accepted as a subset of freedom of speech (hurriyat al-qaul). Individuals should be able to accept or reject a particular faith or dogma on the basis of personal conviction, and that no amount of external pressure or compulsion should be permitted. The cardinal Qur’anic doctrine is that: “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith” [2:256]
Every single person has the right, guaranteed by the Qur’an, to freely follow and express his convictions, irrespective of whether he is right or wrong. By emphasizing people’s right to follow their conviction, the Qur’an reiterates a long standing position, which it traces back to one of the earliest known Prophets, Noah: “Said [Noah]: O my people! What do you think? If [it be true that] I am taking my stand on a clear evidence from my Sustainer, who has vouched safe unto me grace from himself – [a revelation] to which you have remained blind-: [if this be true] can we force it on you even though it be hateful to you?”[11:28]
The message of freedom of belief and conviction, and the call to religious tolerance is reiterated time and again through various Prophets,as it is quite apparent in the message of Prophet Shu’ayb to his people: “And if there be some among you who have come to believe in the message which I bear, while the others do not believe, then have patience in adversity till God shall judge between us [and them]: for He is the best of all judges!” [7:87]
Not only does the Qur’an recognise the individual’s right to freedom of conviction, but it also recognises his/her moral freedom to act on the basis of their conviction: “Say: O my [truth-denying] people! Do ye all that may be within your power, [whereas] I, behold, shall labour [in God’s way]: in time you will come to know who it is that shall be visited [in this world] by suffering which will cover him with ignominy, and upon whom long-lasting suffering shall alight [in the life to come]!” [39: 39-40].
Indeed, one cannot find in the Qur’an any support for the internment or incarceration for those who opted to follow their conscience, even though their convictions might be contrary to the mainstream idea, or even up to the level of “heretical” in nature. Using Islam as a “tool” to justify detention without trial is anathema to the basic principles of “adl” (just) and “ihsan” (benevolence) that formed the foundation of Islamic jurisprudence. Such cowardly act of invoking ISA every time when there were dissenting views against the authoritarian government and their despotic ulama’ will not augur well for the future of free and democratic Malaysia.
One is then left to speculate whether such actions were in reality meant to maintain the political hegemony of the ruling elite and that we are actually gravitating towards the creation of a police state instead.
If one were to look back into history,the reason the Islamic world flourished during the earlier period was an early emphasis on “freedom of speech”, as summarized by al-Hasyimi (a cousin of Caliph al-Ma’mun) in the following letter to one of the religious opponents he was attempting to convert through reason:
“Bring forward all the arguments you wish and say whatever you please and speak your mind freely. Now that you are safe and free to say whatever you please, appoint some arbitrator who will impartially judge between us and lean only towards the truth and be free from the slyness of passion and that arbitrator shall be Reason, whereby God makes us responsible for our own rewards and punishments. Herein I have dealt justly with you and have given you full security and am ready to accept whatever decision Reason may give for me or against me. For “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith” [2: 256] and I have only invited you to accept our faith willingly and of your own accord and have pointed out the hideousness of your present belief. Peace be with you and the blessings of God!”
We, from Muslim Professionals Forum, believe that this is the recourse that should be taken by the government in handling issues pertaining to Raja Petra in particular. By resorting to intellectual discourse, any differences in opinions or interpretations could be ironed out in a civilized manner. We therefore call upon the Prime Minister of Malaysia, to release Raja Petra unconditionally, and all the other ISA detainees for that matter. We also call upon the Prime Minister to abolish this draconian Act that clearly violates the basic human rights that were enshrined in the Qur’an ever since.
Dr Farouk Musa
Dr Sheik Johari Bux
Dr Jeffrey Hassan
Dr Musa Nordin
Dr Mazeni Alwi
Haji Ali Ghazali
Muslim Professionals Forum(MPF)