Malay, Muslim, Islam

Friday, August 25, 2006

Today, I'm going to talk about something that has always been close to my heart, but seldom speak of.
Let's talk about religion.

I am a Malay. I am a Muslim.
Really? you ask.
Can I prove that?
At one look, it's pretty hard to. (And that's not good. I know.)
I don't cover my head, I laugh loudly, I sometimes wear skirts, I hug some male friends when we meet, I have seen porn, I understand cynical sex jokes, I missed my prayers, I sometimes answer back to my parents.

Sure, I don't do all the major sins. I don't drink, I don't eat pork, I don't rob, rape or kill. I believe in abstinence. I have never doubted the Rukun Islam & Rukun Iman, and I've never felt like leaving Islam for a more 'liberal' religion.
(Note to self: The 'small' dosa counts. Remember.)

I am not a zealous alim person, and I have done things that I am ashamed of. But I strive to be better. Alhamdulillah, Allah still loves me. I feel his compassion everyday. Sometimes I envy those who have seen the ultimate light, the whole picture. We might laugh at their purdahs, their long long janggut , but we have to wonder the level of faith they have. The obedience, the determination, their way of life that never compromises god - I am always in awe. I know that i should try harder. I'm sure that god willing, I'll one day be there. I'll one day fully understand everything.

Despite of all that, I must say that I am a bit sensitive whenever people question my dedication to Islam and Allah. Like, when people question why I don't wear tudung. Or why I fast every Ramadhan witout fail but selalu tinggal sembahyang. Sensitif tak bertempat, says mak. It must be the rebel in me. I haven't completed my transition into adulthood yet, I guess. ( I know, that is soo NOT a valid reason)

Hold on. I'm speaking doublethink. Are you still following me?
(Bagi yang tak tau doublethink, pi carik 1984 tulisan George Orwell.)

Anyway, it seems that I'm not the only one who's sensitive about my creed. On a different P.O.V, though.

The whole world seems to be acting in a sort of frenzy whenever Islam is mentioned. And with the recent murtad cases, things are so hot it's burning. It's like everyone's having wedgies up their ass that they can't park right.

Everyone's getting edgy when it comes to religion, and more and more people are debating and acting crazily on this. At the rate things are going, I'm not surprised if we'd resolve to announcing religious discussions / mentions as a public taboo.

Hey, I'm also saddened by the current apostasy hype. It's a sad, sad thing that more and more muslim's are denouncing Islam and adopting other faiths, but that's nothing to the overbearing responses we're getting from the non-muslims. Dia pulak lebih-lebih. That's not right, innit?

I think that as an individual, each of us has a right to chose our own religion and faith. I was born a Muslim and I choose to stay a Muslim. If someone were to say "I don't believe in Allah anymore, and I've found my way with ________(put in any religion of choice)", then fine. I hope they'll truly find themselves. We can scream and join rallies, burn flags and diss all murtads, it's not going to help. When in threat, people retaliate. And often in a negative way.

One question that has been haunting me : Why is it praised when someone of another faith converts into Islam, but Muslims who converts to other religions are condemned to hell? Prophet Muhammad s.a.w showed compassion and tolerance to the non-Muslims of his time. Even those who were bent on wiping off all Muslims of the world. Why are we not taking heed of this? We grew up with one of the main fundamentals of Islam instilled in our minds and hearts - Tiada paksaan dalam beragama. So why are we forcing people to do so? Allah Subbahana Wata'ala, or Jesus Crist The Lord, or Buddha, or all the gods of our beliefs will surely punish those who have sinned when we're being judged in our afterlife, right?

Saya ni tak cukup pandai untuk bercakap lebih lanjut tentang isu ni. Saya tak cukup intelek. Saya tak ada phd atau masters. Dan saya tak hafaz Al-Quran.
Hish... I just hope that this gets done, if not resolved, soon.

Anyway, I thought the response given by Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, the director-general of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) on the current issue was quite good. I should thank him for saying them out. I've always somehow felt the same, but didn't know howw to put em in words.

Read on.

Ikim DG: Malays are Muslims first
Claudia Theophilus
Aug 24, 06 2:07pm

The Malays in Malaysia are Muslims first, else they won’t be Malay by definition, declared Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, the director-general of the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim).

The Federal Constitution, he said, clearly defines a Malay as, inter alia, “a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay custom”.

“Without being a Muslim, a Malay is not a Malay. The Malay language, which gives the Malays identity, comes from the Quran,” he said in response to whether a Malay has a right to renounce Islam during in a three-hour interview recently.

“The Melayu is defined as first being a Muslim and because he’s a Muslim, he follows the customs and traditions of the Malays which are derived from Islam, followed by the language of the Malays which (also) derives from Islam.”

Syed Ali, 41, who took office last year June, said that changing a language leads to an identity crisis because thoughts and speech are influenced by language and surroundings.

“In the case of the Muslims, when you change the language you invariably change the way they think and similarly, the way they think then will be duly influencing their own language.”

He said the definition of Malay being Muslim first, the customary practices and the language was included in the Federal Constitution by Onn Jaafar, the founder and first president of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

“It was a correct definition. Just that element of defining the Malay itself is a very important thing for Malays. I would think that Umno would be very interested in this,” he said, adding that Umno has not indicated so.

Malay dilemma
He noted that the identity crisis among Malays already existed decades ago.

“But it was not as apparent as (it is) today. In those days, the language was still purer than today. I’m sure there were some simmering undercurrents but in my personal opinion, I don’t think that the situation in those days was worse than today.”

He said Islam’s special place in the constitution was with good reason - to provide an established value system.

“You cannot deny that the ethical moral principles of government come from religion. And because Islam is already complete, it is used as the official religion with which to then derive the system of the constitution.

“Whether or not it is relevant or manifest today is another question altogether but that will be the intention to have a good system, so when you talk about human rights everyone has equal right to water, electricity, schooling. All this is already contained in Islam.”

Presently, Malaysia is saddled with the burden of a rising tension level between Muslims and their fellow non-Muslim Malaysians following social injustices highlighted in the cases of S Shamala (conversion of children) and M Moorthy (religious status).

To a suggestion that prevailing government policies and implementation were part of the problem, accumulated over time, that had led to dissatisfaction among non-Muslims, Syed Ali agreed that it was a recent development.

“A slow decline towards ignorance is causing this. If it is a racial issue, then the responsibility lies with those who have assumed the mantle of authority who are themselves not authorities. They are simply there by virtue of who they know not what they know.”

Unwelcome interference
Noting the recent social tensions, he asked why the non-Muslims were interfering with Islamic affairs.

“What I want to know is why are the non-Muslims involving themselves in this,” he said, noting attempts by non-Muslims to hype-up certain issues and turn them into test cases.

As far as freedom of worship is concerned, he said, there was no problem because non-Muslim Malaysians could worship wherever and whenever they wanted.

“If they start talking about structures... we want to build a temple here, build a church there, then that’s another matter altogether. That’s got nothing to do with freedom of worship.

He said Muslims should not be denied the right to discharge their responsibility to guide their wayward brethren back to the fold.

“If we know something to be true and we see one of our brethren is confused, we have every responsibility to try and convince that person that he or she is confused.”

On apostasy, a very sensitive subject in Malaysia, he said Muslims with proper understanding of Islam could never accept a situation of a fellow believer leaving the religion.

He asked if persons wishing to leave Islam were actually renouncing it because they no longer believed in the religion or because they were disillusioned with fellow Muslims.

“Which is it?” he posed, decrying non-Muslims interferences at the same time.

He also asked if people who intended to renounce Islam had gone through the syariah court procedures first.

Emergency law
Agreeing to a suggestion that the hudud, which he said was unsuitable for a society like Malaysia, was similar to an emergency declaration provided certain elements are present to warrant it.

“(This is) because one of the intentions of the hudud law in the beginning was to prevent the Arabs from going back to the mentality of the pagan tribes people.

“If the danger of Muslims becoming pagans existed today, then I would say apply it but this condition does not exist, so why speculate when there is no precedent.”

Asked on the exact moment that apostasy occurs, Syed Ali said it was dependent on one’s intent and action.

He also disagreed with a suggestion that a bad Muslim was more acceptable to Muslims than an apostate.

“I don’t think in either case, private or public, (it) is fine to leave Islam.”

He said it depended on the actions of a Muslim, on whether the act affects only that person or involved others for whom he or she would then have to bear responsibility as well.

Pending a landmark decision by the Federal Court is the case of Lina Joy, a Malay-Muslim woman seeking to delete the word ‘Islam’ from her national identity card after being baptised as a Christian in 1998.

In a general reference to it, Syed Ali said the court case had turned high-profile due to the sensation it has garnered.

“It (has come to this) because the ones who are supposed to be handling (such matters) in an amicable manner have not done their job properly, resulting in confusion and conflict.”

A series of public forums on freedom of religion by a grouping of women’s and human rights activists (Article 11 coalition) have angered many Muslims and provoked aggressive reaction from Muslim NGOs and opposition political party PAS on grounds that Islam is under threat.

Syed Ali believes that discussions on religious issues were making matters worse.

“This so-called vibrant, dynamic debate going on, I think, is doing more damage than good because the real voice of discernment and reason in these NGOs who are fighting is ignored.”

The voices of the knowledgeable people, he said, were drowned out by “the many who are activistic” and with clear vested interest.

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