Hornbill Unleashed

December 7, 2013

Banning to resolve issues has never worked and will not!

Filed under: Human rights,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
Tags: , , ,

Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

Jakim, Malaysia’s department of Islamic development, recently called for the censorship of the Internet to ward off attacks on Islam. This is a very futile suggestion. Man is a thinking being and in the current technological era where information is at the snap of your fingers, only those without any thinking power can succumb to illogical persuasions. Muslims have been over protected in Malaysia as if they have no thinking faculties and are very fragile in character.

In Malaysia, Islam as practised by the Malaysian Muslims is of the Sunni sect. Currently, what the Malaysian authorities fear most as being very challenging opponents are the Shias, the second largest denomination in Islam. Thus to talk about Muslim unity, that will mean unity among the Sunnis only and not of any other non-Sunni sect. But the Shias seem not that fearful of the Sunnis.

The Iraqi government is led by the Shias and it has not in any way restricted the activities of the Sunni minority. And it is the same in Iran where the majority are Shias but the Iranian government allows Sunnis to carry on with their practice.

But it is different with Sunni-led governments which are totally against the Shia minorities in their countries. Some will restrict the Shia movements and some like Malaysia will totally ban the sect. The Sunnis fear that the Shias might influence their followers to adopt the Shia concept of Islam. Thus there is no migration between these two sects. Even marriages are not only discouraged but totally banned as the sect has been declared as being deviant and un-Islamic.

In the Muslim world, the majority belongs to the Sunni sect and only about 15% to 20% are Shias. Yet the animosity between these two sects has caused many lives and untold sufferings. Principally, both believe in the main teachings of Islam. What started off as a political conflict evolved into religious differences.

The majority of the Shias can be found in Iraq and Iran and smaller numbers in Syria, Yemen and further east in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Malaysian government fears that the Malay/Muslims will be drawn to the Shias even though the Sunni concept is well established and well disseminated through government media both print and electronic.

Are the Malay/Muslims so weak in their faith that they can be easily swayed to abandon the Sunni beliefs or is the system of dissemination lacking in dynamism to convince the Malay/Muslims to stick to being Sunnis? Something is not right here.

And according to the minister in charge, the ban is to safeguard Muslims in the country. My! Does he think that the Muslims in Malaysia are made of jelly physically, mentally and spiritually?

And then there is this question that keeps popping up again and again — the use of the word Allah in the Malay version of the Bible. No intelligent response has come from the government. The only explanation is that this word is “ours and nobody else can use it”. That the word is being used by Christians in the birth place of Islam, the Middle East, was simply brushed aside.

Some state governments have jumped in on the issue of Allah and the Shias to demonstrate how active they are in trying to preserve Islam as practised in the country.

In Malaysia, apart from the banning of the Shias, their teachings and practices, and the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims, many more in the realm of thinking and ideas are banned. The common area is the banning of Islamic- themed books considered to be detrimental to the security of the nation.

One particular incident was the banning of Irshad Manji’s book, “The Trouble with Islam Today – A Muslim’s Call for the Reform of Her Faith”. Irshad Manji is a Canadian author and journalist educated at the University of British Columbia and was born in Uganda.

Her book is challenging intellectually and the authorities felt it posed a threat to the Malay/Muslims in Malaysia. It was therefore banned so that Malay/Muslims cannot get hold of this book and read its thought-provoking content. Thus to the government it has protected the community and the problem is solved.

But now the ban on this book has been lifted.

In fact anything intellectually challenging and thought provoking that comes out into the market will be reckoned as being unfit for the consumption of Malaysians. Malaysians and especially the Malay/Muslims have been designated as being too immature to face such challenges. Malaysians and especially the Malay/Muslims must still be having “ubun lembek” (the head is still soft like the baby’s cranium).

Sources of getting new ideas and concepts do not only come from books that are available in the bookstores. This is the age of the Internet. Access to new ideas is readily available. It is therefore difficult to prevent the people from getting to know whatever they want to know, be it religion, social concepts, business opportunities, philosophies or whatever else they want.

Banning things as what is happening at the moment resolves nothing.

Not only today but since time immemorial, the battle of the minds has been going on. So long as humans can think there will always be differences, be it religious concept and practices, or any other human aspects of life.

The banning of Al-Arqam gave rise to Ayah Pin and the banning of Ayah Pin led to the emergence of Tuhan Harun. This will go on.

It is impossible to restrict the flow of new ideas and beliefs. The mind simply cannot be shackled. Let me quote this as a reminder to those concerned, “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage”, from the poem by Richard Lovelace, a 17th century English poet who immortalised the piece in “To Athea, From Prison.


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