September 12, 2016
Waiting in Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam
by Cmdr (rtd) S Thayaparan
“To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.”
– Raymond Williams
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wants to tell people that the Islamic State (IS) threat is real. All I can say is that I have been trying to tell people the same for the past couple of years. The UMNO Number Two also reassured the rakyat that the IS threat “was not a manipulation, publicity stunt or fiction,” which is just goes to show you the level of cynicism of most Malaysians right-thinking folks when it comes to official statements from Putrajaya.
But hang on a minute. The DPM made two extremely cynical statements that only justifies the level of cynicism thrown UMNO’s way. The first statement, “…the people in the country who joined the militant group did not have strong religious or educational background” and the second “They are people who are frustrated over something which only they know. So this disappointment is translated into a form of escapism.”
With regard to the first statement, while it may be true that youths signing up for jihad with IS are disenfranchised in terms of education, nobody could argue that their religious sympathies were anathema to the ideology of IS.
In my piece ‘The Merchants of Hate’, I wrote, “For years, the Biro Tatanegara (BTN) courses told Malays that they were under siege. This is not a defensive posture. In reality, this is exactly what extremist groups like IS need. They need young, foolish men filled with a sense of superiority fueled by unearned self-righteousness to carry out barbaric acts in the name of promulgating their scared religious beliefs. This, coupled with the rampant corruption and all-consuming hypocrisy, is fertile ground for groups like IS.”
Furthermore, when it comes to Islamic terrorism, Malaysia has produced its fair share of “educated” Muslim psychopaths who have blazed a trail of destruction and waged war against their fellow Muslims in South-East Asia. The BBC obituary for Noordin Mohammad Top for instance reminds us: “Officials believe the Malaysian-born former accountant orchestrated a series of attacks across Indonesia. Noordin was thought to be a key recruiter and financier for the regional Islamist militant group, Jemaah Islamiah, but analysts say he formed his own more hard-line splinter group.”
Therefore, I will say it again. With UMNO and the opposition funding Islamic entities who moral police the Muslim polity, with federal and state apparatus used to define Islam as monolithic for political purposes and lastly but definitely not least, the inclusion of an Islamic cult – PAS – into mainstream Malaysian politics – and both UMNO and the opposition are to be blamed here – can anyone seriously argue that Malaysia is not fertile ground for idiots wanting to join IS?
As for the second statement, does Zahid really expect us to believe that he, and by extension the government, does not understand the motivations for people joining IS?
Forget the sex slaves – it sure beats dating – that is promised to repressed young men who join the jihad (was that the escapism that the UMNO Deputy President was alluding to?), the reality is that when the state-endorsed Islam rejects diversity, when the state-endorsed Islam encourages Muslims to reject other forms of Islam, when the state-endorsed Islam cannot account for the class divisions and the resulting inequalities, you are going to get young men – educated or otherwise – joining movements that promise an Islamic paradise here on earth.
Why do you think that PAS’ Islamic propaganda is extremely effective in rural populations who see the decadence in UMNO? Why do you think a religious leader like the late tok guru Nik Aziz Nik Mat and his austere Islam was attractive to a voting demographic who rejected the materialism and corruption of UMNO?
In study after study of failed or failing Islamic governments, the recurring theme is how secular governments are unable to address systemic inequalities and corruption, which allowed the Islamists to gain the moral high ground.
In one of my answers to questions raised by PSM’s Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, I said, “I recognise (as do many other Malaysians, including Muslims) that Islam in this country is affected by the petrodollars of the Saudi regime, as evidenced by the so-called donation to our current Prime Minister for defending Islam. I recognise that there is a deliberate effort by the House of Saud and its tributaries to silence the diversity in Islam. I recognise that the religious schisms within Islam affect minority Islamic brethren the world over and that, being true to their faiths, they are being hampered by the stratagems from palaces in Saudi Arabia.”
This, of course, brings us back to the question of the meddling Middle Eastern influence that plagues Islam in this country. We do not have to look far to understand why Indonesia has movements that reject this interference. Last year the BBC ran an article titled ‘Is Indonesia winning its fight against Islamic extremism?’
The article was interesting in many ways, especially in its description of Archipelago Islam (AI) or Islam Nusantara, but what should be acknowledged is the overt manner in which Indonesian political and social bodies reject the influence from the House of Saud.
Consider what Yenny Wahid, daughter of the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) and activist, said, “We’re not just coming up with a counter narrative, we are coming up with a counter identity, and that’s what AI is all about. We believe we’re good Muslims but to be a good Muslim we don’t have to accept the recipes that are handed out by some radicals from the Middle East.”
In a 2004 piece, titled ‘The religious sources of Islamic terrorism’, Shmuel makes the argument that the West and Muslims have to tackle the problem in tandem. While some readers, especially Western ones, take exception to some of his arguments about reassessing certain sacred ideological cows, Malaysian readers should take note of the section titled ‘The dilemma of the moderate Muslim’.
Malaysians would understand where Shmuel is coming from when he writes, “Facing the radical Weltanschauung, the moderate but orthodox Muslim has to grapple with two main dilemmas: the difficulty of refuting the legal-religious arguments of the radical interpretation and the aversion to – or even prohibition of – inciting an Islamic Kulturkampf which would split the ranks of the ummah.”
Shmuel outlines the argument that many Malaysians can relate to in the section titled ‘Fighting hellfire with hellfire’, where he writes, in essence, the radical narrative, which promises paradise to those who perpetrate acts of terrorism, must be met by an equally legitimate religious force which guarantees hellfire for the same acts. Some elements of such rulings should be, inter alia:
- A call for renewal of ijtihad as the basis to reform Islamic dogmas and to relegate old dogmas to historic contexts.
- That there exists no state of jihad between Islam and the rest of the world (hence, jihad is not a personal duty).
- That the violation of the physical safety of a non-Muslim in a Muslim country is prohibited (haram).
- That suicide bombings are clear acts of suicide, and therefore, their perpetrators are condemned to eternal hellfire.
- That moral or financial support of acts of terrorism is also haram.
- That a legal ruling claiming jihad is a duty derived from the roots of Islam is a falsification of the roots of Islam, and therefore, those who make such statements have performed acts of heresy.
Somehow, I doubt we will ever see these types of fatwas coming from either the opposition or UMNO.
Writer’s note 1: Dar al-Islam means House of Islam as opposed to Dar al-Harb, which translates, to House of War.
Writer’s note 2: Anonymous_1388826428, is correct. House of War is Dar al-Harb. It was an editorial mistake made by me – the author – when transcribing from my notes. I thank Anonymous_1388826428 for pointing out this mistake.