Hornbill Unleashed

November 14, 2012

Apostasy, compulsion, and Nurul’s point

Anisah Shukry

The PKR vice-president said last week that religious freedom is for everyone, even Muslims and Malays. Well, here are the facts to prove she has a point.

Yet again, Umno as well as the likes of Ibrahim Ali and Nasharudin Mat Isa have resorted to misusing Islam to discredit a member of the opposition bloc.

According to a transcript provided by Malaysiakini, Nurul Izzah Anwar said at a forum last weekend that “…there is no compulsion in religion… How can anyone really say, ‘sorry, this only applies to non-Malays.’ It has to apply equally.”

Hishammuddin Hussein, the home minister, described Nurul’s statements as insensitive and causing public anger.

Nasharudin, the former PAS vice-president, said that she must repent and what she said goes against Islam.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the former prime minister, said her statement was stupid.

Now, putting aside the fact that nearly every time good ol’ Hisham, Nasha and Mahathir open their mouths, they say something stupid and insensitive that anger the public, Nurul, on the other hand, did not say anything “radical”, “liberal”, “dangerous to the faith” or even new.

On the contrary, what she said has been discussed among Islamic scholars across the globe for years.

It’s just that no one seems to have clued the Powers That Be on this.

A blanket rule for all

Nurul said that there is no compulsion in religion, whether for Muslims or non-Muslims.

And she has a point.

Islam is all about an individual’s own voluntary submission to Allah; there can be no coercion because faith cannot be forced upon anyone, even on those Malays who are born Muslims.

I mean, if I asked you, at gunpoint, to believe in Islam, would you? Unless you’re already a believer, then of course not. You’d probably blubber a bit about how being at the brink of death has opened your eyes to Islam, but your convictions would remain the same.

So compulsion is not the answer – education is, just as Nurul mentioned in a later statement.

In fact, even in the Quran, Surah Al-Nahl, verse 126 states:

“Invite [all] to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance.” (16:126 – translated by Yusuf Ali)

Now, for those of you who are going to say that I’m no scholar and should just keep my mouth shut and let the experts talk it out, allow me to produce a quote from the former Chief Judge of Pakistan, SA Rahman.

“Man is free to choose between truth and falsehood and the Prophet’s function is to convey the message, exemplify it in his own life and to leave the rest to God – he is no warder over men to compel them to adopt particular beliefs,” he wrote.

This is further fortified in several Islamic verses, including Surah Ali Imran, verse 20 and Al-Ma’idah, verse 92, which state if individuals turn away from the message of Islam, then the Prophet Muhammad’s duty is only to educate – not force nor coerce.

Freedom to choose still exists

Unfortunately, we still have the likes of Nasharudin who argue that the “no compulsion in religion” verse (2:256) only applies to non-Muslims in the issue of converting to Islam.

In other words, once one becomes Muslim, let the coercion begin!

Now, I challenge him and other like-minded individuals to point out any verse in the Quran which states that that sort of double standard exists.

Nasharudin did mention Surah al-Ahzab verse 36 as “proof” that there is no freedom in religion for Muslims.

“It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path.” (33:36 – translation by Yusuf Ali)

But, as you can see, this verse just states that when Allah has commanded something, it is not fitting for a believer to have any choice in their matter – the freedom to choose still exists, as mentioned several times in the Quran.

But while freedom exists, the Quran still states what is right and wrong.

And if one chooses what has been forbidden, then one will face the consequences of that decision, whether in this life or the hereafter.

Islam and apostasy

Now, by virtue of the fact that freedom of religion exists in Islam, does that mean Muslims, and Malays, have the freedom to renounce their religion and should not be coerced or punished into remaining as Muslims?

Since I’d rather not have 15 policemen raid FMT’s office over this article, I’ll refrain from stating my stand, but just share the views of several revered scholars in Islam who are not Malaysians, not Malays, and do not have any vested political interest in the issue.

The former chief judge of Pakistan, SA Rahman, wrote in his book “Punishment of apostasy in Islam” that:

“There is absolutely no mention in the Quran of mundane punishment for defection from the faith by a believer, except in the shape of deprivation of the spiritual benefits of Islam or of the civil status and advantages that accrue to an individual as a member of the well-knit fraternity of Muslims.

“He should, however, be free to profess and propagate the faith of his choice, so long as he keeps within the bounds of law and morality, and to enjoy all other rights as a peaceful citizen of the State, in common with his Muslim co-citizens.”

He also added that apostasy is an offence in the realm of the rights of God, rather than the rights of mankind, thus there would be no pressing necessity to punish a peaceful change of faith.

Meanwhile, Dr Ahmad Ar-Raysouni, a professor of principles of Islamic jurisprudence, wrote:

“…if Allah did not coerce His creation towards belief in Him, nor did He permit his Prophet [pbuh] to do so instructing him, then how could He allow, or order, the leaders of the Muslims to force one to remain as a Muslim or return to it under the threat of death?”

Another Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, wrote:

“…all of the moral teachings of the Quran are based on the notion of moral responsibility, which entails the freedom of choice. Therefore, to state that one must be put to death for choosing to disbelieve would only undermine the entire moral edifice of the Quran.”

Controversy over nothing

In the end, it’s clear that what Nurul said on that fateful day has its basis – both in the Quran and in the viewpoints of certain scholars.

And while some people, including Siti Kassim, may view her later statement as a “retraction”, I don’t – just because Nurul doesn’t condone nor support apostasy, doesn’t mean she is denying that freedom in religion exists. She is just not supportive of fellow Muslims making the wrong decision.

So, really, the fact that Umno is latching onto this issue and fanning the flames of religious sentiments is just another sign of its desperation to stay in power.

But in this case, Umno is signing its own death warrant because misusing religion for political mileage does not go down well with (thinking) Malays and Muslims.

As for Nurul? Kudos to you for answering Siti Kassim’s question honestly and risking your own political standing to do so. A Muslim should never hide the truth from another just to save his/her own ass.

So I suggest the best thing for you to do from here on out is to stick to your stand, and the facts that support it. Because we Muslims are behind you all the way on this.

7 Comments »

  1. If Nurul Izzah said this as an emancipated intellect but not for politics to me she deserves praise. She is a politician, nonetheless. And perhaps she is the first YB of the Muhammedan faith in Malaysia with the guts to say it. Kudos to her – indeed she is the real proponent of 1 Malaysia – no compulsion in faith, no law compelling you to believe what you believe or don’t believe, people first – do what you think is best for you , not the law, the ministers, the religious bodies and people who have questionable credentials. People decide, people like or dislike – the very virtue of 1 malaysia.

    Comment by professor dee — November 14, 2012 @ 11:50 AM | Reply

  2. WHICH DO YOU CHOOSE- A PEOPLE’S CONSTITUTION OR UMNO SUPREMACIST CONSTITUTION (USC)?

    What Nurul has sparked off is the long overdue debate on our basic human rights denied under the UMNO supremacist constitution and the many “internal security” laws.

    We should take this bull by the horns and not waffle about this or that alleged speech. It also does not matter who says it as the subject should be publicly and vigourously debated.

    It is not just about lack of religious freedom but the lack of all other freedoms restricted by the USC.

    No one can fault a People’s Constitution if it promotes a fair just and equal society where all citizens enjoy basic human rights and freedoms.

    The UMNO SC is first and foremost an instrument which is discriminatory and grossly unjust in nature on many levels and favours one race/religion over all others. It is fundamentally undemocratic in nature and offends the UN Charter for Human Rghts. But the blame falls on the British who drafted it. UMNO does not take all the credit.

    The existing constitution legitimises UMNO’s power and enable it to defend its domination over Malaya and its people in particular the Malays themselves by giving them the false sense of security and superiority over non-Malays. UMNO frequently uses its USC to frighten both the Malays and non-Malays.

    They are constantly harping about how non-Malays are taking away their rights and even their “country”. This is what they are whipping up at the very moment.

    If the Malays stop and think they will realise that they are numerically in control of the situation and how would the minority part of the population (called pendatangs) possibly take away their rights and country? UMNO is blatantly playing on their fears. It is for the enlightened Malay leaders to point this out.

    Furthermore their “country” is shared by so many others like so many other multi-cultural countries are doing in the world. This is part what the People’s Constitution should mean- a country shared by many peoples and cultures. No one monopolises a country.

    Fear alone is not sufficient to keep the Malay masses in line.

    UMNO has to keep the Malay masses happy with all sorts of bribes from money extracted from taxpaying non-Malays and from pillaging the economy particularly Sabah and Sarawak resources.

    For 49 years we have seen Sabah Sarawak taxes and wealth being channelled to finance the many subsidies (education, mosques, location of public services) grand projects and infrastructures in Malaya often to benefit Malay voters. UMNO members and cronies also fattened themselves from this plunder of the 2 colonies.

    It is now acknowledged by the vast enlightened Malay intellectuals that this spoon feeding under the NEP and discriminatory policies has actually held back the economic advancement of the Malays themselves. The policies at the same time spurred the non-Malays to fend for themselves and pushed them to make greater achievements in business and education. Malays have lagged behind because the official education system has been constantly mangled by UMNO’s chopping and changing leading to a poor quality education system. The rich and privilege Malay class no longer trust this system.

    The USC ostensibly written to protect the privileges and “special rights” of the Malays have long since expired with the development of a more modern Malayan society despite the restrictions of the past. This has burst forth with the advent of the internet which has opened up the avenue for free exchange of views- a basic right of a democratic society denied by UMNO for 55 years.

    Lastly, the USC is an instrument which confirms the colonisation of Sabah and Sarawak. Readers should firstly note that it is the 1957 Malayan Constitution drafted by the British which has been amended to include clauses mentioning the special rights of Sabah and Sarawak.

    So UMNO Malayans had clear intention to impose on the Sabah Sarawak people the USC – like it or lump it. Does anyone in Sabah Sarawak remember any debate about the USC being amended to be “our constitution”?

    By the way Sarawak has a superior and more democratic constitution promulgated in 1941. Read it and compare/

    It also discriminates against them by not given them equal treatment as they have not right to appoint the candidate for the kingship position. It also contravenes the 18/20 Points Agreement about religious freedom as it clearly says only the Head of State can head of the State Islam. Sabah and Sarawak are supposed to be “equal partners” (Tunku Abdul Rahman confirmed) – independent countries who agreed with Malaya to form Malaysia.

    Readers will be interested to go to these links to read comments on related topics of the USC and 18/20 Pooints Agreement – http://sabahsarawakmerdeka.blogspot.com.au/2012/10/blog-post_19.html
    http://sabahsarawakmerdeka.blogspot.com.au/p/original-agreement-of-malaysia-1963.html
    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/sabah-sarawak-rights.html
    http://sarawaknews.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/sarawakians-are-unhappy-about-forgotten-1820-point-agreement/

    The debate should be an opportunity to now open up full public discussions of Sabah Sarawak independence rights which Malaya has abused and abrogated over 49 years.

    For those who want to read further – Alex Cuthbert Castles (dcd) wrote this article “The Constitutional and Legal History of Sarawak: Peoples’ law making and Brooke rule” published 2003 Malaysia Historical Society (Sarawak Branch)

    Comment by UNDANG2 — November 14, 2012 @ 5:46 AM | Reply

  3. http://mole.my/content/nurul-izzahs-statement-was-political-gimmick-law-experts

    The push for Malays to be given freedom to practise religions other than Islam is indirectly seen as an effort to rejuvenate the People’s Constitution which was rejected back in 1940s, say law experts.

    Associate Professor Dr Mohd Noor Mad Yazid, a lecturer in international relations at the School of Social Sciences at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), said that the push for equality is a hidden strategy to expand non-Malay rights and to narrow down Malays’ dominance in this country.

    “The People’s Constitution was drafted to nurture the concept of liberalism, but it was rejected because their philosophy wasn’t based on what the people really want (during that time),” Mohd Noor said when contacted by The Mole.

    “(And) the statement of Nurul Izzah is seemingly seen as trying to bring back the concept of that never-used version of the constitution,” he said, referring to Nurul Izzah Anwar, who allegedly uttered words perceived as advocating religious freedom for Muslims, as reported by pro-opposition news portal Malaysiakini.

    Commenting further, Mohd Noor said that the ideology couldn’t apply in this country since it is against the Federal Constitution.

    Echoing Mohd Noor’s sentiment, a law expert from the International Islamic University of Malaysia said that any effort to undermine the Federal Constitution is like breaching the trust of Raja-raja Melayu (the Malay Rulers), Parti Perikatan and the British Crown.

    Assoc Prof Dr Shamrahayu Abdul Aziz claimed that the People’s Constitution was influenced by several left-wing ideologies including communism and liberalism.

    “Federal Constitutional was established after a number of serious meetings between our former Raja-raja Melayu, Parti Perikatan and the British administration. People should always be reminded of that,” she said.

    Shamrahayu added that the People’s Constitution was irrelevant because it was proposed under the name of minority.

    She also reiterated that no one should try to breach the Federal Constitution just because they are trying to be deemed as fighting for the concept of total democracy.

    Meanwhile, Wan Zamzuri Wan Hasenan, who blogs for WZWH, said that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) is desperately trying to fish for non-Muslims and the young Malay generation’s support even if they have to put aside the Federal Constitution and Islam.

    Comment by shina — November 14, 2012 @ 12:34 AM | Reply

    • Tell that to the Muslims in Indonesia and the Arab world and the narrow views of bigots from UMNO will be an insult to the good name of Islam.

      Comment by Irene Kana — November 14, 2012 @ 6:20 AM | Reply

    • “…Echoing Mohd Noor’s sentiment, a law expert from the International Islamic University of Malaysia said that any effort to undermine the Federal Constitution is like breaching the trust of Raja-raja Melayu (the Malay Rulers), Parti Perikatan and the British Crown….”.

      For one who cares a shit for the bloody Brits or their buddies???

      Comment by Mohammad Salleh — November 14, 2012 @ 12:47 PM | Reply

    • This Shina should come up with her own take on this if she want to be taken seriously. Reproducing or copy and paste some so called expert views shows that she is paid to defend BN and BN views. She is one of those ketuanan people who think they and their religion own the world. But the majority 6,000,000,000 people in this world are not adherent of their religion. Can these 6 billion people out of a total world population of 7 billion people be wrong in their choice of religion? I don’t think so and thats why i agree with what Nurul said…. there is no compulsion in religion!

      Comment by brian — November 16, 2012 @ 12:59 PM | Reply

      • The true and strong Muslims never ever felt compelled to embrace the Islamic faith. Only the pseudo and corrupted Muslims felt compelled to hide behind Islam in Malaysia.

        Comment by Mata Kuching — November 16, 2012 @ 6:43 PM | Reply


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