Muslim MPs ask where Malaysia is headed


July 1, 2015

COMMENT: We know the answer. So do these Muslim lawmakers. What is the point of Din and Ly2talking now, since we need urgent and drastic action. Malaysia has become a failed “Islamic state”(Mahathir’s version). Our country is divided along religious and racial lines.

The evidence is for all to see. Fortunately, the maturity of Malaysians in general has prevented our country  from  going into a state of “religious war” under this weak and corrupt leadership of chicken Najib. But then for how long?

It is amazing that the Prime Mnister is not able to discipline his Minister of Religion, Jamil Khir Baharom, a bigot from my home state Kedah, and overzealous officials in JAKIM and JAWI. Just sack all of them.

Have these Muslim lawmakers cared that these institutions have persecuted my good friend, 80-year old public intellectual Kassim Ahmad for expressing a contrarian view on Hadith and Nik Raina of Borders Book for selling Irshad Manji’s book which was not banned at the time when JAWI officials raided her bookstore in Mid-Valley, Kuala Lumpur a few years ago. Both these individuals are innocent and should not have been dragged to the sharia and civil courts.But they were humiliated and made to look like common criminals.

What about those religious policemen, snooping into the private lives of Muslims? Of course, they exempted themselves and our political bigwigs. Our ulamas and conservative Muslim intellectuals insult Muslim women and dictate how they should live their lives and how they should dress. We have a Housewives Club which tells them to be prostitutes to satisfy their husbands’ sexual appetites. What a shame. These developments are giving Malaysia a very bad international image.

Talk is cheap. Truth be told ,they have no conviction and the guts to stand on reason and logic and tell Najib to stop playing religion and race for his politics of survival. Cowards die a thousand times. So, there is only one way left for reasonable and tolerant Malaysians to react, and that is to vote them all out in the next General Elections.Din Merican.

Muslim MPs ask where Malaysia is headed

by Joseph Sipalan

Muslim lawmakers from both sides of the political divide have raised concerns over the seeming trend of Muslims imposing their beliefs on others, questioning if this is reflective of a wider agenda that is backed by Putrajaya to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state.

The federal lawmakers noted that the federal government appeared either unable to stop or even condoning of incidents in which Islamic sensibilities are imposed on the larger society by religious authorities and individuals.

malaysia-women-islam

“This issue bothers me because as our forefathers taught us, religion should be about faith and (is) personal,” UMNO’s Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed told Malay Mail Online via text message.

“I suspect the longer-term objective of these groups is to usurp power through religious means and therefore avoid being legitimately elected. While I respect their motives and intentions, the elected government of the day must control the actions of these groups and act in the interest of all the citizens of the country,” he added.

Chicken Najib 2

On Wednesday, the Malaysian Bar criticised Deputy Education Minister Datuk Mary Yap for reportedly saying that non-Muslims should consume food and drink discreetly and outside the view of fasting Muslims, in response to outrage over a “joke” told by a teacher in Kedah to non-Muslim students about drinking urine.

The Kedah incident is reminiscent of a 2013 incident in which a Sungai Buloh primary school encountered controversy after non-Muslim students were pictured eating in a toilet during Ramadan.

DAP’s Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari argued that such posturing over religion would ultimately lead up to ridiculous rulings that benefit no one.

“Should we ban Ramadan bazaars so Muslims don’t need to look at food? When our Hindu friends fast for Thaipusam, do we go out of our way to accommodate them by not drinking or eating in front of them?” he said when contacted.

Zairil admitted that there is “no quick solution” to the religious polarisation the country is facing, but stressed that the first step to fixing the situation is to take governments and political parties out of the equation.

“It’s not even about tolerance here. The problems are cropping up today because of the incessant politicising of ethno-religious nationalism, so much so that the state flexes hegemony, thus influencing the people.

“Why do we even have JAKIM (Malaysia’s federal Department of Islamic Development) when Islam is a state issue? That’s a fundamental question because the authority of JAKIM appears to go against the 9th schedule of the Federal Constitution.

“I am suggesting that matters of faith should belong in the realm of civil society and not the state,” he said.

Nur Jazlan insisted that there is no place in Malaysia for state-sanctioned enforcement of Islam, claiming that the “collapse” of Islamist party PAS ― which is facing a split after delegates elected a new leadership made up entirely of the ulama or clergy class at their recent Muktamar – is proof that the public wants moderation over religious orthodoxy.

“The best way to develop Islam is to teach and encourage personal observations, and not enforce it to the whims of others, especially unelected ones,” he said, without referring to any group or individuals.

The Kedah school incident cropped up amid growing concerns of creeping Islamisation in Malaysia, in which the norms of the increasingly conservative Muslim majority are gradually being imposed on the rest of the country both directly and covertly.

Incidents that support the view include Muslim protests against Oktoberfest-themed events open only to non-Muslims, uproar over a gold-medallist Muslim gymnast over her leotard, and at least four reported cases of arbitrary dress codes at government departments and agencies that denied entry to non-Muslims over their dressing that was deemed indecent.

http://www.themalaymailonline.com

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying


June 30, 2015

Najib, UMNO Baru and 1MDB keep lying till the end of time

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that anyone who slanders Najib Abdul Razak and the government over 1MDB would be punished. This demonstrates two things: that Umno Baru promotes ministers to their level of incompetence, and that spending taxpayers’ money is easy, because it does not appear to belong to anyone in particular.

The irony is that it took former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, with his severely blemished past, to show that the only way UMNO Baru politicians assuage temptation (spending public funds) is by yielding.

Ismail, who is UMNO Baru supreme council member, reminded the rakyat to be wary of unsubstantiated sources such as Sarawak Report and The Edge, with their evil agendas. He said that those who discussed Najib’s involvement in the 1MDB scandal could be relying upon inaccurate information about the dealings between 1MDB and PetroSaudi.

Warning that stern action would be taken against Sarawak Report and The Edge for harming national interests, he said, “When the 1MDB issue erupted, many people believed in The Edge, which frequently reported biased news and was criticised for sabotaging the economy.”

Ismail, who is also the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister, pleaded with Malaysians to have faith in the government, and said, “We should trust the government and the minister’s explanation…”. He urged the rakyat to ignore information garnered from social media or from bloggers and refer instead to the authorities for verification.

Asking the authorities to verify information is an impossibility and shows how naïve Ismail is to think he can fool the rakyat. Najib has dodged answering questions about 1MDB and helped extend the 1MDB scandal.

Integrity flies out the window, where party politics are concerned. Everyone has a price and Najib knows that UMNO Baru divisional heads are demanding, and expensive. Would Ismail like to verify the allegations about UMNO Baru heads receiving substantial contracts and fiscal rewards for showing their loyalty to Najib?

Veteran UMNO Baru politician Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said, “These days UMNO Baru divisional leaders as well as parliamentary members earn up to RM50,000 a month, some even earn hundreds of thousands”.

He said that on March 8, over 160 UMNO Baru divisional leaders, including those who support Mahathir, had attended a meeting with Najib to show their allegiance to him.

‘No lah. Everything is above board!’

The typical response from the authorities, on whether this meeting took place, or that loyalty is accompanied by a price tag is this; “No! UMNO Baru politicians are clean and law-abiding. No one is above the law. We love Najib.”

The opposition MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, Tony Pua, claimed that the purchase of property by Mara in Melbourne is a covert attempt to save 1MDB. Do similar property purchases, by government-linked companies (GLCs), both in Malaysia and abroad, constitute a form of illegal kickback for corrupt officials?

We can predict the response; “No lah. Everything is above board! Mara is not corrupt.” Ahmad Maslan, the UMNO Baru Information Chief, announced that his party’s elections would be postponed till after the 14th general election (GE14), to strengthen the party and focus on the needs of the people. UMNO Baru secretary-general Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor admitted that the postponement was because of an internal political crisis.

Critics claim otherwise and say that the delay is due to Najib needing more time to resolve the 1MDB crisis. Additionally, UMNO Baru has to resolve its in-fighting, and more importantly, Dr Mahathir’s relentless attacks on Najib. The authorities’ verification? “No. The postponement has nothing to do with 1MDB or Mahathir’s criticisms.”

PAS’ Pokok Sena MP, Mahfuz Omar wants Muslims to reject Najib’s ploy, to use RM20 million from Yayasan 1MDB to pay for the redevelopment of a mosque in Kampung Baru and turn it into a “national landmark”. Mahfuz accused Najib of using Muslims to “forgive 1MDB”, and that Najib wanted to “sanitise” 1MDB’s controversies by giving money to build mosques and helping to fund the pilgrimages of religious scholars to Mecca.

We can predict the response of the authorities to Mahfuz’s assertions, “No. It is not true that 1MDB’s funding for mosques is used to appeal to the Muslims. UMNO Baru is merely helping to protect Islam and promote the Malays.”

Ismail knows, and his knowledge is confirmed by the preceding examples, that trying to verify any facts with the authorities is a pointless exercise.

He may be interested to know that the rakyat’s list of queries is much longer and includes questions on who killed Altantuya Shaariibuu, the purchase of the Scorpene submarines, the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC), the cargo manifest of MH370, the RM24 million ring, the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on trumped-up charges, human trafficking, Taib Mahmud, Batang Kali, Memali, Kampung Medan, Mahathir and May 13.

UMNO Baru treats information, in one of the following ways – denial, pay-out, violence, threats of jail, lawsuits and silence. UMNO Baru politicians have spun so many webs of deceit, that they now believe their own lies. Naturally, they think that Najib and UMNO Baru can do no wrong.

Islam, violence and the West


June 29, 2015

Islam, violence and the West

First, do no harm

by Erasmus, Religion and Public Policy

http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus

SHOULD the United States and its Western partners delve inside the ideological, and theological, debates going on within the world of Islam, in the hope of influencing the results?

David Cameron seemed to answer that question in the affirmative in his first reaction to the ghastly terrorist incidents of June 26: a mass shooting on a beach in Tunisia and a beheading in France. The British Prime Minister said:

The people who do these things, they sometimes claim that they do it in the name of Islam. They don’t. Islam is a religion of peace. They do it in the name of a twisted and perverted ideology that we have to confront with everything we have.

That was an understandable thing to say, in the immediate aftermath of a terrible horror, even though many people may counter-argue (as they have done every time Barack Obama has said similar things) that it is not really the business of a Western political leader to say what Islam is or is not. In the end only the practitioners of a faith, under the guidance of its most trusted interpreters, can decide what that creed really implies…or so the argument goes. It might be added that although outsiders certainly have a strong interest in the final outcome of a great religion’s internal debates, it is hardly their place to interfere in the process.

But a different and more elaborate claim for the legitimacy of deep Western (and specifically, American) involvement in Islam’s deliberations is laid out in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, the journal of America’s Council on Foreign Relations, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Currently a fellow of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, she has become one of the leading (sceptical) commentators on Islam in her adopted homeland.

She finds fault with President Obama for saying that the terrorists of Islamic State are “not Islamic”.  The real situation, as she sees it, is that both the IS terrorists and more peaceful adherents of Islam are acting out of strongly and sincerely held readings of that religion, whose billion-plus adherents are in the grip of some agonising internal wranglings over what their faith signifies. And in her view, the American government should be weighing on the side of the liberal and reformist camp.

She suggests that today’s American administration should be copying the example of the CIA, which as she approvingly recalls, funded magazines, conferences and influential individuals as part of its ideological battle against communism. The beneficiaries of this American largesse should be those who “oppose the literal application of sharia to apostates and women or who argue that calls to holy war have no place in the 21st century.” She also proposes certain favourites on more narrowly theological grounds, such as an Iraqi Shia cleric whom she commends for questioning the uncreated (in other words, divine) nature of the Koran.

In the same issue, a State Department veteran who introduces himself as a former “senior adviser for countering violent extremism”, makes a powerful and convincing counter-argument. For the American government to get involved in the internal debates of world religions is illegal (it violates the constitutional separation of church and state) and almost certainly counter-productive, he reckons. As the diplomat, William McCants, puts it: “Imagine the US government managed to navigate a thicket of laws and find its Muslim Martin Luther. His or her cause is going to suffer greatly in the arena of Muslim public opinion if it is revealed that the wildly unpopular United States is bankrolling it.”

A Hirsi AliIt might be added that for any reformer labouring inside the Islamic heart-land, the open support of secularist American-based intellectuals such as Ms Hirsi Ali, especially those like her who were born into Islam but later renounced it, could also be a kiss of death.

Perhaps a more modest argument should be made. The awkward fact is that America and its allies did quite a lot, in the late 20th century, to foster the most militant factions within Islam. Islamism gained ground in Pakistan under President Zia ul-Haq, an American strategic partner. During the battle to oust Soviet forces from Afghanistan, some of the most extreme factions of mujahideen benefited from Western assistance, only to morph later into al-Qaeda. In several Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, pro-Western governments cautiously encouraged Islamism, when it first raised its head, as a counter-weight to Marxist or secular-nationalist rivals.

In the present situation, Western governments probably can’t do much to help liberalising theological tendencies within the world of Islam, although they are certainly entitled to stand up for their own ideals of human rights and the rule of law. (For example, they can protest over the flogging and imprisonment of Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger, without pronouncing on whether his liberal reading of Islam is correct or not.) But first and foremost, they should avoid repeating past mistakes and stop nurturing the most illiberal and violent factions.

Tun Hussein Onn: Where is the Original UMNO (1946)?


June 29, 2015

Tun Hussein Onn: Where is the Original UMNO (1946) ?

by Tajuddin Rosli@themalaymailonline.com

Tunku Razak and HusseinMy question is, where is this original UMNO now? The UMNO loved by all Malays, which had united the Malays with other races, which had brought prosperity and tranquility to this nation and its people and which had successfully fought for Independence — that UMNO is no more in existence. It was declared illegal and dissolved by Dr. Mahathir and his friends and replaced by another party named UMNO Baru. If we were to compare UMNO Baru’s form and structure to that of original UMNO, whether from the angle of its constitution or principles, where do we find any similarities between the two? The formation of UMNO Baru is an act of treachery and cannot be forgiven either by the members of the original UMNO or new UMNO. Despite the deterioration in my health including a heart attack, I responded by declaring that I would fight the traitors till the bitter end” — Tun Hussein Onn’s speech to voters in Parit Raja during a by-election in 1988.

Tun Hussein Onn, Malaysia’s third Prime Minister led the country from 1976-1981. Hussein Onn shed tears both on resuming the premier’s office after the demise of Tun Abdul Razak and before leaving the helm for Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. While officially, Hussein left for Mahathir citing ill health as his reason, it was later alleged that Mahathir backstabbed Hussein Onn and used his jedi powers to force the latter out.

While we all know that UMNO was founded by Tun Hussein Onn’s father, Dato’  Onn Jaafar and how Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein collectively increased the strengths of UMNO, we forget than Hussein Onn himself opposed Mahathir’s UMNO Baru from the outside. When he was asked why isn’t he a member of UMNO Baru and continuously opposed Mahathir, Tun Hussein replied by saying, “Firstly we are denied membership in UMNO Baru. Secondly, even if we were to be accorded membership, we disagree with its constitution and style of leadership. Thus we have no choice but to stay out and oppose UMNO Baru.”

logo-umno-baru-lama1logo-umno baruUMNO Baru

The 3rd Prime Minister on numerous occasions also expressed despair and heartache at disunity that Mahathir brewed. He once said, “We all want unity. But what is happening now is the worsening of disunity. We want to compromise. We want to reconcile. We want to forget all the differences. We want to return to the right path. But as you all know, all efforts towards unity have failed. Those in power don’t pay much attention to our suggestions. They have turned a deaf ear to our advice. We can all see how anyone who advises or disagrees with those in power will be condemned, suspended or sacked from their position. All efforts from within have failed. That is why we now have to act from outside, as Independents.”

Malaysia’s most loved Prince, Tunku Abdul Rahman walked hand-in-hand with Hussein Onn to oppose Mahathir. While Mahathir only recognizes contributions from the Malays for independence, the man who actually brought independence to Malaya spoke differently. Tunku openly criticised Mahathir for being power crazy.

rMahathir Mohamad-2014The Greedy Man, said Tunku Abdul Rahman

We should be wary of the greedy man who wants to grab everything in this country to satisfy his lust for power. He says it is for the Malays, but in actual fact it is for himself. We must bear in mind that the Malays had never lived in affluence and never had a place in the administration of this country. When this country achieved Independence, we gained power with the cooperation of other communities. We were able to rule our own country. We should therefore, never be arrogant and break our promise to our friends in the other communities who had helped us to achieve independence,” uttered Tunku.

Back then, Tunku kept pleading with the people to reject Mahathir. He constantly reminded, “All power is in the hands of the people, provided the people use the power wisely. Solidarity can only be achieved through UMNO, the original UMNO, not UMNO Baru, which is Dr.  Mahathir’s UMNO.”

Portraying the image of a fragile old man, Mahathir today  quivers and says he is a nobody today and he can only voice his concern against Dato’ Seri Najib as a normal citizen of this country. If memory serves him right, he should be getting flashbacks of what he did to Tunku and Hussein Onn on every occasion Najib snubs him. Mahathir is certainly getting back what he gave others before him. As they say, the globe is round. You are treated the exact same way you treat others.

If you want love, give love; If you want honesty, give honesty; If you want respect, give respect. You get in return, what you give!

Remembering 1963, the Rulers, and the Constitution


June 28, 2015

Remembering 1963, the Rulers, and the Constitution

by Rama Ramanathan@www.themalaysianinsider.com

Malaysia 1963Malaysia is a miracle nation. When the Union Jack came down in 1957 and Malaya became a member of the British Commonwealth, many thought we would soon fail.

We had one of the oddest constitutions in the commonwealth. We defined “Malays” and granted them a special position. We entrenched nine Rulers and at the same time stripped them of powers. We “barred judicial review of some breaches by Parliament of the fundamental rights of citizens” (Shad S Faruqi).

We were beset by internal and external strife. There was massive poverty. Economic activity was race-based. A communist insurgency was on. Many institutions – including the Police Force – continued to be helmed by the British, who also owned vast plantations and most large corporations. Indonesia sought to subjugate us.

Yet despite predictions of failure, unlike many other nations in the commonwealth, we did not tear up our constitution. We merely made over 650 amendments to it.

Some amendments were good. For instance, a special court was established to prosecute the Rulers. Some amendments were awful. For instance, numerical limits on the sizes of electoral constituencies were removed. As a result of this our Election Commission can pretend that one is approximately equal to four. (In the 13th general election, Sabak Bernam had about 37,000 voters while Kapar had about 144,000 voters.)

TIME  Tunku Abdul RahmanOur Constitution has kept us from crashing as a nation over the past 58 years. Due to the role given to the Rulers, governing Malaysia requires more internal diplomacy than governing any other nation. The modus operandi of PERKASA, Malaysia’s crude Malay superiority group, is to interpret everything they oppose as a threat to the Rulers. That is also the politics of the two Malay political parties, UMNO and PAS. They compete to present themselves as defenders of the honour of the Rulers.

TM Tunku Ismail of JohorMalaysian Indians have caught on: a deliberate decision to adopt the modus operandi of the Malay parties is the only tenable explanation for the Police report which 46 “Indian NGOs” made last week against Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz for his “we will whack you” rejoinder to the Crown Prince of Johor when the latter criticised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. The NGOs wished to be seen as supporters of the Prince who may one day rule Johor.

I’ve been thinking about our constitution because Malaysia’s Islamist party, PAS, is trying to get Parliament to give the state government of Kelantan the right to legislate on matters which are currently the sole prerogative of the federal government.

Our government has responded to PAS by offering to support Kelantan’s desire if PAS agrees to get into bed with UMNO, Malaysia’s hegemonic Malay-Muslim party.

Four citizens have responded to our government by filing an injunction in court to prevent the tabling of Kelantan’s desire in Parliament. The four citizens have caused the parliamentary tabling of Kelantan’s desire to be put on hold until the court hears and rules on their argument that a fundamental change cannot be proposed without first obtaining the consent of the people.

The citizens’ injunction reminded me of another injunction, filed 52 years ago. In 1963 the state government of Kelantan filed an injunction to stop the federal government from forming the Federation of Malaysia by bringing in Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak as new members.

The basis of Kelantan’s argument was that fundamental changes were being proposed without first obtaining the consent of Kelantan. (The term “basic structure” was not used at that time.) The changes did seem fundamental. The three “new members” would not be equal partners with the prior members. Sabah and Sarawak would have disproportionately large representation in Parliament, would have the right to impose domestic immigration controls and would have the right to impose taxes beyond what the prior members had.

Islam would not have ceremonial pre-eminence in Sabah and Sarawak. (In the interest of brevity I omit Singapore’s privileges.) PAS/Kelantan raised the issue before the court as a challenge of state power by the Federal government. One of their five arguments was, “Constitutional convention dictates that consultation with Rulers of individual states was required before substantial changes can be made to the Constitution” (Johan S Sabaruddin).

The court had to act rapidly, as Kelantan began the action on September 10, 1963, a mere six days before Malaysia day. The court ruled against Kelantan. Malaysia was not aborted. The decision was clear. The Rulers need not be consulted. The people were sovereign, through Parliament. The constitution triumphed. The miracle continued.

The 1963 constitution should be the lens through which we look at the challenges of governing Malaysia, exploitation of patronage and attempts to thwart federalism.

Islamic Pluralists Must Show Their Face


June 28, 2015

Islamic Pluralists Must Show Their Face

by Ramin Jahanbegloo

The legacy of tolerant Muslims like Abdul Ghaffar Khan may be of help to all of us today in the task of overcoming clashes of ignorance and intolerance between Islam and the West.

http://www.resetdoc.org/story/00000022487

Gandhi and ghaffar_KhanGandhi and Abdul Ghaffar Khan

The outrageous murder of innocent citizens in France by militant Muslims left everyone around the world, including the vast majority of followers of Islam, with a number of questions. Among these, the most fundamental coming from the non-Muslims: Is Islam incompatible with free thinking?

Let us not hide behind the conveniently general opinion that Islam is a religion of violence and the only way to save the West is to put an extreme pressure on Muslims living in Europe and North America. This path does not lead to any solution and is perceived only as a new form of intolerance and barbarity.

Frankly, Islam is like Janus: it has two faces. There is the tolerant, peaceful face, and there is the intolerant, violent face. The two Janus faces of Islam are unavoidable, (as in any other religion), especially at a time when huge transformations are occurring on an unprecedented global scale. There was a time when Muslim philosophers and theologians felt that if Muslims were eager to solve problems they should return to the Koran and Sunnah. This approach is no doubt something good, but it does have its problems.

Returning to the Koran and Sunnah is not easy and does not guarantee that all radical Islamists would put an end to their violence and to their monolithic interpretation of religious texts.The central question addressed to Islamists in particular, and to the Muslim world in general, is to know the ways in which they can come to terms with their own civilizing process because being a Muslim is more and more a lived experience in today’s world. Islamic terrorism, or Islamism, is meant to express a radical mode of de-civilization even though its actors have claimed to be the closest to Islamic civilization.

However, the radical actors of the Muslim world, in destroying the troublesome symbols of free thinking, are destroying their own cultural vitality and dynamism. In truth, their Islamist culture of death has resulted in a death of Islamic culture. Radical Muslims have intensified the unresolved tension between Islamism and Islamic civilization.

gamal-al-banna-L-1Gamal Al-Banna

However, the radical actors of the Muslim world, in destroying the troublesome symbols of free thinking, are destroying their own cultural vitality and dynamism. In truth, their Islamist culture of death has resulted in a death of Islamic culture. Radical Muslims have intensified the unresolved tension between Islamism and Islamic civilization.

As a result of this, Muslims who argue for a civilizational Islam as opposed to an ideological Islam seem to be expelled from the arena on the charge that they are not “Muslim enough.” Voices within the Muslim community, which insist that Islam should have nothing to do with hatred, terrorism and mass murder find themselves marginalized. The representatives of a civilizational Islam are not seen to be confident enough to raise their voices or step out of the comfort of their ivory towers and into the Muslim public spheres.

Today, the vulnerabilities of the Muslims around the world are such that radical and violent slogans are far more evocative than the moderate and nonviolent ones. If Muslims want to continue to turn to Islam as a source of personal and communal identity as well as moral guidance they need to move beyond the constant blame game. They must instead seek to revitalize elements of Islamic philosophy, science and art in a new dialogical partnership with members of other spiritual traditions — and with the actual conditions that surround us in today’s world.

Winning Hearts and Minds

The language of hatred and violence in the Muslim community needs to be replaced by a “heart and mind” engagement and cooperation among Muslims and with the other cultures. Therefore, the urgent task for Islamic pluralists is to lift the shadow of violence from the Islamic culture and recall Muslims to their traditions as an empathetic civilization that feels another’s sorrow and does not need an enemy for its sustenance.

By doing so, they would be able not only to strengthen cross-cultural goodwill against the dangerous rise of Islamophobia in Europe and North America, but also to shape the awareness of the Muslim community in the direction of the historical figures of nonviolence in Islam. That is not to say that Islamist extremism is not an issue for peace and dialogue among cultures in today’s world. But most of the cruelties in the world, including those against Muslims, are sustained in the name of a reductionist view of humanity.

This process of degradation and reduction is notably founded on the presumption that to be a Tariq Ramadanhuman being means to belong to a religious division like Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism or Buddhism. However, the unquestioning acceptance of religious or cultural identities as the unique modes of representation of the concepts of humanity and civilization can, of course, be not only a source of belligerent distortion, but also a negation of the essential features of human commonality.

For human solidarity to be able to fulfill its potential, it must indeed take root in a world, all of whose members — or at least a great majority– share the same values. Certainly, there is no human solidarity without mutual respect and mutual commitment among human beings. It is often the search for negotiation, where each side makes concessions to the other, which paves the way to managing social, political and cultural tensions in our world. However, neither Islamist extremism nor Islamophobia are modes of negotiation and acceptance of the other. Empathy and negotiation, unlike revenge and resentment, are not only forms of living next to the other but also renouncing violence against the other.

This is why cultures of intolerance grant virtually no room for dialogue because it implies two partners who are equally free to claim what they think to be true and right. The relevant question does not concern what we should believe, but what we should do about our beliefs. This was the task accomplished by great historical figures such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abdul Ghaffar Khan. Abdul Ghaffar Khan’s profound belief in the truth and effectiveness of non-violence came from the depths of personal experience of his Muslim faith.

He said: “You see that the world is going toward destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in non-violence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until non-violence is practiced, because non-violence is love and it stirs courage in people.”

The legacy of tolerant Muslims like Abdul Ghaffar Khan may be of help to all of us today in the task of overcoming clashes of ignorance and intolerance between Islam and the West.

The original article was published on The Huffington Post, on January 20, 2015

Photo: Mahatma Gandhi and Abdul Ghaffar Khan