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Permissibility of Rotavirus Vaccines
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STOP THE GENOCIDE OF THE ROHINGYAS IN MYANMAR
Civil Society Condemns Death Threats Against Bersih 2.0 Leaders
Response of the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (IMAM) on Issues Surrounding Termination of Pregnancy (Top) of Women Infected with the Zika Virus
BDS Malaysia on planned FIFA Congress 2017
Press Statement on Muslim Scholar, Dr Zakir Naik

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STOP THE GENOCIDE OF THE ROHINGYAS IN MYANMAR

PRESS RELEASE BY MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS FORUM (MPF)

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

STOP THE GENOCIDE OF THE ROHINGYAS IN MYANMAR

 

1 September 2017 / Eidul Adha 1438

 

The current genocide of the Rohingyas by Myanmarese forces has captured world attention. Civil societies around the world are outraged by the daily images of the brutal atrocities flooding mainstream and other media.

In a chilling UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report dated 3 February 2017, mass gang rape, slaughtering of babies and children, torture and inhuman treatment were detailed.

The past week has witnessed yet another wave of military crackdown on the Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Rakhine state killing an estimated 3 thousand civilians. 10 thousand homes and shops were razed to the ground, creating thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Forced to flee their homes for the nearest country, scores are now trapped between two countries and wanted by neither.

The devastating cruelty described by the UN as “very likely commission of crimes against humanity”” follows a long standing and systematic persecution of Rohingyas. Decades of abuses, violations, discriminatory policies, exclusion and marginalization has rendered them the most persecuted people in the world.

The deafening silence of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her government’s repeated refusal to allow the OHCHR unrestricted access to the worst affected areas of Rakhine bring to question her commitment towards human rights.

The Muslim Professionals Forum urges the Malaysian government;

  1. to urgently call upon the ASEAN leaders to step up their efforts to ensure the government of Myanmar immediately stops the massacre and the grave human rights violations against the Rohingyas and safeguard their safety and access to justice and reparations.
  2. and her ASEAN neighbours to lead the call in the UN to pressure the government of Myanmar to fully comply with the recommendations of Kofi Annan’s Commission or face economic sanctions, regional and international isolation.
  3. and the ASEAN community to stop the cycle of violence against the Rohingyas and facilitate a sustainable, just and peaceful resolution to the humanitarian crisis.
  4. in the interim to organize relief missions into the affected Rakhine state to provide urgent medical and humanitarian aid to the victims.
  5. and all Malaysians to extend their solidarity and assistance to the Rohingya refugees either directly or indirectly through the various NGOs who have been supporting them regularly over the years.

Board of Directors

Muslim Professionals Forum

musamn@gmail.com

Permissibility of Rotavirus Vaccines

It looks like the porcine conundrum is making its rounds yet again.

http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/nation/2017/07/24/medical-practitioners-affected-by-halal-debate-over-vaccination/

Suffice to begin the narrative by quoting a verse each from the Quran and the Hadiths which sums up the compassionate and humane nature of Islam.

Allah SWT says in Surah Al-Hajj 22:78: “And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty.”

And an authentic tradition narrated by Aisha (RA): “If given an option between 2 actions, the Prophet (SAW) would surely choose the easier one, as long as it is not sinful.” (Bukhari & Muslim)

And we firmly believe this spirit and approach pervades the corpus of the jurisprudence of facilitation (Fiqh Taysir). And at no point it time does it blemish the belief nor practise of the faithful because the Muslim scholars have anticipated these challenges of modernity and have reiterated, “Allah will bless the believer who recognises and engages with the new world, yet remains true to his religious values.”

History will testify that the Muslim scientists dominated virtually all aspects of knowledge and research from 600 – 1700 AD. Az-Zahrawi (930-1013 AD) the father of modern surgery was pioneering new surgical instrumentations when Europe was restricted by a religious edict in 1163 AD which instructed as follows; “All forms of surgery must be stopped in all medical schools by all surgeons.”

Is it any wonder that Martin Kramer, an American Historian wrote; “Had there been Nobel Prizes in 1000, they would have gone almost exclusively to Muslims.”

Somehow, the Muslims lost it along the way but the following hadith continues to inspire Muslims to catch up on lost ground and rejuvenate their quest for leadership in the sciences; “A word of wisdom is the lost property of a Muslim. He should seize it wherever he finds it.” (Tirmidhi)

It is in this vein that the contemporary Muslim scholar, Syakh Yusuf al-Qaradhawi has said to the effect; “Two areas of human activities (muamalat) which requires cutting edge edicts (fatwa) are economics and medicine.”

Hence, it is not surprising that the many Councils of Jurisprudence, all over the world, eg European Council of Fatwa & Research (ECFR) chaired by Syakh al-Qaradhawi,  has deliberated profusely on the many issues related to medicine and biotechnology. These Councils like the ECFR were kept informed of the latest and best practices in medicine by regular meetings with the likes of the Islamic Organisation of Medical Sciences (IOMS) based in Kuwait.

The issue of the use of substances of porcine origin in food and medicine is an archaic one. Nonetheless, the ECFR has comprehensively dealt with it, when deliberating the permissibility of the use of Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) which is manufactured using porcine based trypsin. This was published in their 11th Session of the ECFR held from 1-7 July 2003, in Stockholm.

The ECFR argued as follows:
a) what God forbids is the partaking of pork, and trypsin has nothing to do with pork

b) even if we admit that trypsin is forbidden, the amount used in preparing the vaccine is negligible, if one applies the rule that “when the amount of water exceed 2 qullah (216 litres)”, impurities no longer affect it”

c) supposing that trypsin is unclean, it is thoroughly filtered, that it leaves no traces whatsoever in the final vaccine

d) in case the three arguments forwarded are still insufficient, the haram (forbidden) is made permissible in cases of necessity.

In their concluding remarks they emphasized, “The Council urges Muslim leaders and officials at Islamic Centers not to be too strict in such matters that are open to considered opinion and that bring considerable benefits to Muslim children, as long as these matters involve no conflict with any definite text.”

Such is the latitude of rationale and magnanimity of our religious scholars (fuqaha) in addressing the bigger picture of child health, child survival strategies and the advocacy of life saving vaccines.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe and fatal diarrhea in infants and young children. Virtually every child in the world would have been infected with the rotavirus  (RV) by the age of five years. Globally, rotavirus gastroenteritis kills 527,000 (475,000-580,000) children under five and is responsible for millions of hospitalizations and clinic visits each year. Ninety-five percent of rotavirus deaths occur in developing countries in Africa and Asia. Muslim majority countries, Pakistan and Nigeria are 2 of 5 countries  which together contribute up to half of the global RV diarrheal deaths in 2008.

 

The manufacturing process of the two oral vaccines (OPV and RV) are similar, involving the use of minute amounts of trypsin which is later removed by ultra-filtration. Therefore, the pivotal judicial edict of the permissibility of OPV, by the European Council for Research & Fatwa can be similarly   applied to the RV vaccine.

 

RVGE  continues to scourge our youngest and most vulnerable, killing more than 1,200 children under five each day. The human tragedy is that RVGE is a vaccine preventable disease (VPD) and many of these deaths can be averted by universal mass vaccination with the RV vaccine. RV vaccination offers the best protection against severe rotavirus diarrhea, and have been shown to save lives in countries which have incorporated RV vaccines in their National Immunization Program (NIP).

 

About 90 countries in the world have introduced RV vaccination in their national  immunization program (NIP). Muslim countries which have included RV vaccination in their NIP include Pakistan, Morocco, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Jordan,

 

The RV vaccine has been in use in Malaysia since 2006. Since it is not part of the Malaysian National Immunization Program (NIP), it is mainly utilized in the private health sector.

 

A study of under-5 mortality in Malaysia in 2006 showed that there were 1,699 deaths. Deaths due to diarrhea was the number 3 cause of deaths, contributing 83 deaths (4.9%), after congenital anomalies (25.1%) and pneumonia deaths (9.2%). This is unacceptably high for a country moving towards a developed nation status. Many of the developed nations in Europe, US, Canada and Australia have included the RV vaccine in their NIP.

 

Discharge records from government hospitals showed that the cumulative risk of RV related disease by 5 years of age was 1 in 61 for hospitalizations and 1 in 37 for out-patient clinic visits. The out of pocket cost associated with RVGE admission was estimated at RM 106-799 in 2009,  which was 26% of the studied household income. The mean parental day work loss associated with RVGE admission was 4.8 days. All of these data suggest that the burden of RV disease is considerable and would be a substantial drain on the nation’s health expenditure.

 

At present there are no other medicines or substances which can act as an alternative to the present two oral RV vaccines. These have been studied in virtually all regions of the world and proved to be effective, safe, cost-effective and are life saving.

It behoves Muslim healthcare providers as well as religious leaders to propagate this information especially its similarity with the polio vaccination program and work to increase the utilization of the RV vaccine generally and specifically its inclusion in the NIP of Malaysia.

 

Lessons can be learnt from a precedent, an earlier fatwa issued on the use of OPV which is similarly manufactured using trace amounts of porcine trypsin. The European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR) chaired by Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi and consisting of numerous renowned scholars in the Muslim world, when allowing the use of OPV added that; “the hesitation of some parents to have their children immunized with this vaccine (OPV) poses a risk to Muslim children alone. At the same time, it gives an unfavorable image which portrays Muslims as hindering a process that aims to eradicate, with God’s permission, the existence of this disease on earth once and for all. After all, this eradication cannot be complete while there is even one child on earth carrying the virus.”
We have learnt and read fatwas from religious scholars in Malaysia which unlike the ECFR and IOMS et al are individual-centric, random, ill-researched and anecdotal in nature. Their lack of grasp and understanding of the new science have made them ultra-conservative, restrictive and prohibitive in their religious edicts.

The Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA)  has endeavoured to mainstream evidence based medicine (EBM) of the highest quality and which should henceforth  dictate our best clinical practices. And importantly, it is sanctioned as Shari’ah compliant by the highest authorities of jurisprudential scholarship among Muslim scholars world-wide. This excellent collaboration of the best brains in medicine and jurisprudence has lightened the burden upon the Muslim Ummah (community). It has not only truly embraced the jurisprudence of facilitation (Fiqh Taysir) but also the jurisprudence of realities & priorities (Fiqh Waqi’ah) and the jurisprudence of balance (Fiqh Wasatiyah).

We urge the religious authorities to take cognisance of the invaluable heritage of medical fatwas that is before us and not attempt to reinvent the wheel. They should instead incorporate these shari’ah compliant best clinical practise into the corpus of our nation’s jurisprudence in medicine.

Dato’ Dr Musa Mohd Nordin FRCPCH (UK)
Chairman, Federation of Islamic Medical Associations (FIMA) Advisory Council

musamn@gmail.com

VPM QURBAN 2017 for the poor in Palestine

VPM QURBAN 2017

Ramadhan Workshop 2017

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Adopt a Hafiz in Gaza

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SQH Surprise visit by Sheikh Ibrahim Yahya & Sheikh Omar Suleiman (Video)

Civil Society Condemns Death Threats Against Bersih 2.0 Leaders

24 October 2016
Civil Society Condemns Death Threats Against Bersih 2.0 Leaders

We, the undersigned organizations, are extremely appalled and strongly condemn the death threats against the chairperson of Bersih 2.0, Maria Chin and her three children, former Chair of Bersih 2.0 and current president of National Human Rights Society, Ambiga Sreenevasan and Bersih 2.0 staff, Mandeep Singh. Following these threats on October 18, the car of one of Maria’s sons was splashed with red paint and chicken blood on October 20.

These deplorable death threats were received by Maria Chin via whatsapp messages in which the faces of all those named above were superimposed next to a person holding a knife over their heads.

Since the organizers launched the nationwide convoys to mobilize support for Bersih 5 rally on November 19, threats and attacks have been escalating. These came immediately after a series of attacks by red shirted thugs led by UMNO’s Sungai Besar division chief Jamal Md Yunus after he failed to stop the Bersih convoys. The sequence of events suggests a systematic and coordinated plan to stop Bersih 2.0 through physical violence culminating in death threats to instill fear in Bersih leaders and staff and the general public.

More alarming is the feeble response from the Inspector General of Police on the declaration of “all-out war against Bersih 2.0” by Jamal Md Yunus on October 20. His description of Jamal Md Yunus’s declaration as merely “war of words” is totally unprofessional in the absence of any form of investigation. The fact that Jamal Md Yunus made his war cry to stop Bersih 2.0 soon after his remand demonstrates his arrogance and little respect of the law and is enough evidence to implicate him and his red shirt thugs.

The undersigned organizations:

  1. Demand the Inspector General of Police immediately investigate these death threats and violent incidents and swiftly apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
  2. Demand the police investigate and apprehend the master mind behind the planned anti-Bersih attacks.
  3. Urge Prime Minister Najib Razak to strongly condemn these threats. His deafening silence and the IGP’s inaction is encouraging the red shirted thugs to be more hostile and violent.

We and the rakyat hold the Prime Minister and IGP accountable should any untoward incident befall any Bersih 2.0 leaders and supporters.

The rakyat is closely watching.

Endorsed by:

  1. Akademi Belia
  2. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  3. Anak Malaysia Sarawak (AMS)
  4. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN)
  5. Baramkini
  6. Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism(C4)
  7. Community Development Center (CDC)
  8. ENGAGE
  9. Greenfrieds Sabah
  10. Institute for development of alternative living (IDEAL)
  11. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
  12. Japan Graduates Association, Malaysia (JAGAM)
  13. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
  14. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  15. Jawatankuasa bertindak kuala lumpur tak nak insinerator
  16. JIHAD for JUSTICE (J4J)
  17. Kesatuan Mahasiswa Malaysia (KESATUAN)
  18. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
  19. Kuen Cheng Alumni Association
  20. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
  21. Malaysians Against Death Penalty & Torture (MADPET)
  22. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (MIPAS)
  23. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA)
  24. Malaysia 4 Malaysians
  25. Muslims Professionals Forum (MPF)
  26. National Indian Rights Action Team (NIAT)
  27. Partners in Community Organising (Pacos Trust)
  28. Penang Tamil Muslim Development Association (PELITA)
  29. Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM)
  30. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (Aliran)
  31. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor (EMPOWER)
  32. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
  33. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (RAPAT)
  34. Projek Dialog
  35. Pusat Komas
  36. ONE RACE-HUMAN RACE
  37. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)
  38. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
  39. Sabah Women’s Action Resource Group (SAWO)
  40. Sarawak Women for Sarawak
  41. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  42. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  43. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia (Proham)
  44. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  45. Tenaganita
  46. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  47. Tindak Malaysia
  48. The Federation & Alumni Associations Taiwan University, Malaysia (FAATUM)
  49. We Are Malaysians
  50. Women’s Aid Organisations (WAO)
  51. Womens Centre for Change, Penang (WCC)
  52. Women Development of Malaysia PJ
  53. Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
  54.  Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)

Response of the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (Imam)* on Issues Surrounding Termination of Pregnancy (Top) of Women Infected with the Zika Virus

9 September 2016
 
PRESS STATEMENT
RESPONSE OF THE ISLAMIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION OF MALAYSIA (IMAM)* ON ISSUES SURROUNDING TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY (TOP) OF WOMEN INFECTED WITH THE ZIKA VIRUS
1.     IMAM takes serious cognizance of the aforementioned issues as deliberated by both the Mufti of the Federal Territories (http://www.muftiwp.gov.my/index.php/perkhidmatan-s/bl/1165-bayan-linnas-siri-68-hukum-hukum-berkaitan-virus-zika) and the Minister of Health (http://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2016/09/06/subra-on-abortions-for-those-with-zika/).
2.     The obstetrician & gynaecologist is often in a dilemma when presented with circumstances involving TOP because it involves the professional code of ethics, whereby one promises to save and protect lives throughout one’s professional career.
3.     TOP is a major issue not only within medical circles but also within the context of bio-ethics and religion. In Islam, two higher objectives of the Islamic jurisprudence (Maqasid Shari’ah), is the preservation and protection of life (Hifz an-Nafs) and progeny (Hifz an-Nasl).
4.     IMAM urges that any recommendations or decisions about TOP in Zika infected pregnant women is managed with extreme care and sensitivity to avoid any misunderstandings and injustice to the patient and the foetus.
5.     The presence of legal statutes and clinical recommendations on TOP from the relevant authorities provides a general guideline to the medical doctor. The implementation of TOP must be individualized within the ambit of the law.
6.     To achieve the abovementioned objectives, IMAM recommends the establishment of a medical bio-ethics advisory board at the Ministry of Health, comprising of expert authorities in obstetrics (foetal medicine specialists), infectious diseases, bioethics, religion (in Islam from the mufti’s office or academia) and psychiatry whom the hospitals and doctors can refer to.
7.     The medical bio-ethics advisory board should meet regularly to set the best practice guidelines through  collective decision-making (ijtihad jama’ei) and thus acknowledges the role of both experts (ahluz zikr) in the domain of medicine and religion, which in Islam is enjoined as per surah al-Anbiya’ verse 7; “And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not?”
8.     This process of decision-making would be more safe and just to the mother and foetus, and would avoid unilateral decision-making which may cause conflicts between the practice of medicine and the tenets of the Shari’ah.
9.     IMAM also suggests a policy of contraception or pregnancy planning in Zika positive parents or those who live in highly endemic Zika zones. This is in keeping with the concept of planning of progeny (Tanzim an –Nasl) which is permissible (harus) in Islam. This is more natural and parenting friendly and obviates the need for unnecessary TOP, since the association between Zika in early pregnancy and neurological complications, namely microcephaly is mainly anecdotal and medically unproven as yet.
10. Since the knowledge of short and long-term risks and complications of Zika infections is still limited and being investigated by global health authorities, the public is advised not to be gullible to the rumours in social media about treatment options for Zika infections. Please do not forward these ill-evidenced messages and avoid being part of  these rumour mongering machinery.
11. IMAM urges the public to fully abide by the recommendations, prevention and treatment strategies of the Ministry of Health.
12. IMAM urges every Malaysian to be civic conscious, act promptly and cooperate with local and state authorities, by keeping our home compounds and neighbourhoods free from the breeding sites of the Aedes mosquito, the vector of the Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses. The management committees of villages, housing estates, the local surau and mosque etc should be proactive by initiating gotong-royong activities to clean the environment. It is a Fardu Kifayah obligation on all Muslims to undertake this communal task since cleanliness is a major part of the Islamic faith.
13. IMAM will continue to organize seminars and dialogue sessions by our various public health, obstetric and religious experts to further inform the public on the Zika virus and its health implications.
Sincerely,
Dr Jamali bin Wagiman
Deputy President
Islamic Medical Association Malaysia (IMAM)
* Islamic Medical Association Malaysia (IMAM) is a professional medical NGO founded in 1990 and comprises of 4,000 Muslim medical specialists, doctors and health professionals.

 

Musa Mohd Nordin

MPF Merdeka Call

31 August 2016

A Merdeka Call for Muslim religious scholarship and stewardship to righteously and effectively manage contemporary national challenges

Maszlee Malik PhD

Musa Mohd Nordin FRCPCH

Muslim Professionals Forum

 

  1. Introduction

 

The recent past has seen a plethora of incidents, which threatens to fracture the religious harmony that this nation has thus far enjoyed. The infamous “cow-head protest”, in Shah Alam in August 2009, against a proposed Hindu temple, displayed unveiled disrespect towards our Hindu citizens. More recently, cases involving shari’ah courts, consequent upon conversion of either spouse to Islam, battling for custody of their children has soured the relationship between Muslims and believers of other faiths.

 

Public statements and actions by national Muslim leaders and state religious authorities have further exacerbated the fragile religious situation. Unfortunately, the counter reaction by some quarters against these individuals and by extrapolation the religious institutions which  they represent has bordered on Islamophobia.

The emergence of these issues may be piecemeal and coincidental, but the pattern and trending is threatening the very fabric of our mutli-ethnic and multi-religious make-up. Never before has our nation witnessed such an excess of religious and racial strife since the bloody days of 13 May 1969. Many, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, has raised concerns over the apparent trend of majority Muslim Malaysia imposing their religious beliefs on the minority citizens.  There is also serious concerns that this is a purposive “divide and rule” agenda of the current leaders to create fear amongst the Muslim population (siege mentality) of the threat of the “others” and thus its  lackadaisical attitude and action towards these racial and religious incidents, which in some intances even demonstrates its condoning of the situation. Unless this malicious abuse of political and religious authority is checked with an effective and just political and societal governance we are surely on the slippery slope of anarchy.

Performance of the Muslim religious authorities

Constitutionally, religious affair is the purview of the respective states headed by the nine state rulers and the YDP Agong in the other four states  and the Federal Territories. State governments through their religious authorities (Majlis Agama Islam Negeri) oversee Islamic religious activities, and the shari’ah courts.

 

The religious awakening among Muslims in the 1990s has raised their expectations of the state religious authorities and their  management of Muslim affairs. Of late, there has been much discontent among Muslims  of the performance of the state religious authorities in their dispensation of justice and equity as mandated by the shari’ah.

 

The conservatives have chosen to support the religious authorities despite their flaws, which they do as an act of religiosity. Whilst, the liberals have called for the  total abolishment of the religious authorities, including  at the federal level, and rendering religion to the personal domain.

 

We would postulate that the majority of Muslims in  Malaysia are moderate in their views and would thread the middle ground (wasatiyah) in their acceptance of the presence of the religious authorities but are more open to the divergent religious opinions. The Selangor religious authority’s appointment of female shari’ah court judges was overwhelmingly welcomed by many who generally consider the religious authorities as being gender biased. Criticisms of the management of the khalwat issue, child custodianship and  the ineffectiveness of zakat distribution has rhymed very well with these critical Muslim individuals and NGOs who demand transparency, accountability and competency of the religious authorities at both the federal and state levels.

 

The over-institutionalisation and abuses of “Official Islam”

 

The current discourse on  Islam and Islamic law in the public and private spaces is highly inflammatory. We are witnessing  reactions and counter reactions; rivalries and hostilities between the conservative and liberal factions  whch is creating a lot of conflicts within the Muslim community in Malaysia, let alone the inter-faith exchanges.

 

This chronic intra-faith clash of theology and sociology,  would only confer benefit to the ruling establishment. Faced with the onslaught of the liberal Muslims and islamophobia in general, the state and federal governments would  appease the Malay Muslim majority by actively sponsoring activities and programs aimed at defending the religion and fronting themselves as the protectors and champions of the religion of Islam.

 

This would further heighten the angst of the liberal Muslims who would counter more ferociously with their push  for de-Islamization of the state and federal religious insitutions. Threatened by this anti-religious fervour  of the liberal Muslims, the conservatives conclude that the liberals are songsang (deviant) or a greater evil relative to the ruling government, because their uncompromising demands is synonymous with waging war against Islam and Muslims. Even though there is a prevailing perception that the current leaders are corrupt, the “conservative discourse” potrays the ruling government as the lesser evil and who protect the “ketuanan Melayu” and “kesucian Islam”. Thus, the Malay Muslims  must accept the status quo despite the perceived weaknesses of the ruling government.

 

The fine manipulation of race and religion for pragmatic political ends by the political establishment is the major stumbling block for genuine reforms of the religious mindset of Malay Muslims and the relevant religious institutions in Malaysia. This gerrymandering of the religious mindset and institutions was further engineered after 2008 when the BN government  was denied  its two thirds majority in  parliament, and lost five major states to the opposition coalition. The BN government clearly understood the emotions of Islam in the hearts of the majority Malay Muslims. Many Malays, whether a practising Muslim or otherwise,  would die to defend the ‘sanctity of Islam’ if anybody threatened to ‘belittle’ or ‘undermine’ Islam, This perennial fear-mongering of the threat of deviant liberal Muslim and the “infidels”  to dismantle our Islamic religious instituions has succesfully embedded the  ‘siege-mentality’ in most Malay Muslims. The present government’s support of the preferential tabling of the “Hudud Bill” is one such smart politico-religious move to continually nurture trust from the conservatives and protract intentionally the archaic and counter-productive debate surrounding hudud which is virtually impossible to be implemented within the current constitutional framework.

 

Embracing universal values for our common god

 

Despite the exclusiveness of each and every religion, there are nonetheless many parallel and common values which are universal in character.

 

One such principle is the equality  of all mankind, which was highlighted in Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) final sermon during his farewell pilgrimage (khutbah al-wida’):

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.” (Narrated by Ahmad)

 

Another is the spirit of ‘ukhuwwah’, which philosophically connotes and implies a much wider meaning than captured by the term ‘brotherhood’. The concept of ukhuwwah is not exclusive but is both inclusive and universal. It encompasses comprehensive solidarity not only amongst Muslims, but also towards other fellow human beings which Islam considers as brethrens in humanity.

In this context, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was reported as saying that: “You will not enter Paradise until you have faith, and you will not have faith until you love each other. Shall I direct you to something, which if you fulfill it you will love one another? Spread peace among yourselves”. (Narrated by Muslim)

This inclusive Islamic discourse which embraces and mainstreams universal  values and good decorum and ethics should be assimilitated within the Malay Muslim mindset, among followers and leaders alike. The call of Islam is not towards the homogenisation of society into one culture, identity or faith but the observation and practice of good conduct and civility so as to ensure that diversity will nurture peace and the common good. The Qur’ān proclaims that differences among human beings will remain (see al-Quran: 11:118–19). Hence, it is neither possible, nor commanded, to make everyone believe in one faith (see al-Quran: 10:99). Peaceful co-existence with the other and mutual respect has always been the fundamental teaching of Islam. This is manifested through Islam’s commands to respect other faiths, to avoid interfering in matters concerning other religions (see al-Quran: 109:1–6), prohibitions against any form of compulsion and coercion in faith (see al-Quran: 2:256, 272; 10:99) and rebuking or insulting other faiths (see al-Quran: 6:108).

 

Religious hegemony and intolerance in a pluralistic society will invariably result in conflict and will only frustrate the claim that Islam is a religion of compassion, peace and freedom. Peaceful co-existence and harmonious cohesion with other religious communities has been well documented in Islamic history since the Prophet began his call to Islam in Makkah and unfolded one of the greatest political documents in human history. Sahifah al-Madinah or the constitution of Madinah (622 AD) embraced 20 major principles which included a treatise on Unity, Diversity, Conduct, Fighting Injustice, Search or Striving for Peace, Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law. Another illustrious model was the La Convivencia in Andalusia during Islamic rule in Spain. The spirit of mutual respect and recognition did not only flourish   the Islamic civilisation, but also enhanced the Christian and Jewish intellectual and cultural traditions. Therefore, mutual respect and recognition of other believers and their beliefs are sacred and sine qua non to ensure a harmonious and peaceful co-existence.

 

Proposals for transformation

 

  1. The call for reform must not be derivedfrom a liberal and secular world view, but rather from within Islam itself. The attempt to reform the religious authorities should be seen as an Islamic transformation program which is both  important and urgent. The Muslim public should be informed that the status-quo needs to be transformed into a more Islamic institution which promotes and protects the universal values of human dignity (karamah insaniyah), justice, brotherhood of man, equality, professional competency, accountability, transparency and peaceful pluralistic co-existence
  2. Although many Muslims are unhappy with the performance religious authorities, both at the federal and state level, they do not however call for its total dissolution. That would be perceived as an act of blasphemy, and a declaration of war on Islam. The call to abolish JAKIM was  counter-productive  towards attempts to reform the religious authorities. It only reinforced the  conservatives’ discourse of the anti-Islamic agenda of the liberal Muslim in cahoots with the “infidels”. Thus, reforms of the religious authorities and the manner Islam is being administered at both the state and federal level must avoid any calls for the abolishment of any religious institutions.
  3. It is most unfortunate that one too many public statements of Muslim religious leaders have exposed their naivety of the decorum and demands of a pluralistic co-existence. And when their proclamations are criticised, the conservatives will blindly defend them instead of defending the values of truth, justice and ethics. To prevent or mitigate these incidents, one should consider reformation of the process of credentialialing of Islamic scholarship.  Evidence has shown that a holistic religious and academic apprenticeship (tarbiyah) would nurture a religious leader who is more thoughtful, wiser and scholarly in his public engagements and pronouncements. It has also been demonstrated empirically that  religious leaders who underwent the rigors of formal academic scholarship were more open-minded, receptive of   new ideas, and were more willing to engage in inter-faith dialogues. Furthermore, a better grasp and understanding of the lingua franca, and international exposure, would enhance one’s perspectives of the contemporary and problematic  issues of a pluralistic society.
  4. Moderate Muslim NGOs should step up their game, be more vocal and visual and claim the middle ground which has thus far been hijacked by racist Muslim NGOs who claim to be the legitimate representation of the Muslim voice. They ought to engage actively with other faith and non-faith organizations and hustle for more presence in the media. This would empower them to shape public opinion and debunk the false notions of race and religion, the parochial understanding of equality and ukhuwwah and their blatant impingement on other religions. The viewpoints of the moderate Muslim NGOs is important to bring some sense of mutual respect and decorum to the radical rhetoric and the racist nuances of a few Muslim NGOs.
  5. Individuals, organisations, corporate and business entities who envisage a better and harmonious future for Malaysia should engage with these moderate Muslim organizations. Multi-faith and multi-cultural activities of these organisations should be supported and funded to enhance the harmonious relations between the multi religious and multi ethnic communities in Malaysia. Proliferations of these truly Malaysian activities would nurture an atmosphere of muhibbah, engender trust and mutual respect and foster authentic religious scholarship and inter-faith exchanges.
  6. A neutral, non-governmental, and non-political platform is required to coalesce Muslim scholars, intellectuals and like-minded academics to embrace this inclusive discourse. This healthy conversation is currently being orchestrated by a few progressive Muslim organizations, but there should be a concerted effort to bring them together. And once this platform has been consolidated, it should initiate coalitions with other faith and non-faith organizations as part of a collective effort of the community towards combating radicalism and extremism.
  7. Unfortunately, the religious discourse in the public space has been monopolized by the establishment and its wide network of official and non-official apparatus. The purity of the Islamic discourse has been politicized to serve the political end points of the government in office. There are many moderate, open-minded Islamic scholars, intellectuals and academics who embrace the inclusive discourse of Islam and challenge the current paradigm of exclusivity, intolerance and rigid thoughts (jumud). There is an increasing presence of these asatizah (religious scholars) on alternative religious forums either on social media or conventional platforms who possess and demonstrate expertise in various areas of Islamic scholarship eg maqasid shari’ah (higher objectives of Islamic jurisprudence), usul fiqh (the principles of jurisprudence), ulumul quran (sciences of quran) and ulumul hadith (sciences of hadith). The young, middle class and educated Muslims and the other faith believers are warming up to this authentic Islamic scholarship which is based on sound evidences from the quran and hadiths, understood within the right context and ideas derived appropriately to meet the demands of the changing times.
  8. Nurturing the culture of mutual respect and mutual learning from an early age is crucial in nation building. Ignorance or lack of exposure of our young to the multi-faith and multi-racial make-up of our communities will lead to misconceptions, prejudices and distrust which is a sure recipe for racial and religious conflict.A muhibbah curriculum of “race, religion and culture in Malaysia” as a core subject in schools and campuses would help to nurture young minds who are schooled of the plural nature of our communities and are taught to be sensitive and respectful of the other. It wasn’t too long ago in the 60s and 70s when the multi-ethnic composition of our classrooms facilitated the spirit of togetherness and muhibbah despite our different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. However, this educational legacy has been eroded by the choices of parents to send their children to private Islamic schools and Tahfiz (Quranic memorization seminaries), national ethnic schools, private and international schools. Major educational interventions needs to be considered to reverse this unhealthy schooling trend for the future of our national unity and harmonious co-existence.

 

Conclusions

 

Allah has created all human beings with honour and dignity, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and has elevated their status above His other creations. Almighty Allah says in the Quran (17:70);

“We gave honour and dignity (karamah) to the children of Adam”

 

As much as we would like to be honored and shown dignity, we have to recognize the dignity and honour of others. We need to understand and respect other’s religious beliefs and cultures. There is a pressing need for the citizens of multi-religious Malaysia to know and respect other’s religious beliefs and to work together. Authentic understanding and mutual respect of the other helps to evolve a sustainable religious harmony in our national quest to rebuild a “Better Malaysia” founded on the universal values of justice, equality, brotherhood, mutual benefit (masalih mushtarakah) and the dignity of humanity.

 

And as the vicegerent (khalifah) of Allah on earth and inheriting the vast treasures of peaceful initiatives of our predecessors, we Muslims need to do much better and should be exemplary in our actions and deeds towards the adherents of other faiths. Unfortunately, the Muslim leadership and its institutional apparatus in multi-religious Malaysia has fallen short of its vicegerency role to administer the communal quest for adl wa ihsan (justice with fairness and mercy) and the preservation of public interest (maslahah amah) towards all the racial and religious communities in this country.

 

The various initiatives for transformation suggested are not an exhaustive list of critical success factors. They are however pivotal issues which needs to be urgently and carefully addressed in order to nurture trust and mutual respect of the other, to harness the potential of the various faith (and non-faith) communities, to inspire a common national goal and to achieve a harmonious co-existence which would enhance national growth and prosperity for all communities in this country.

BDS Malaysia on planned FIFA Congress 2017

BDS Malaysia salutes the decision of the Malaysian government to maintain its stance of not allowing representatives of Israel to attend any meeting in Malaysia including the planned FIFA congress in May 2017. This is in line and in the spirit of BDS Israel, an international call by civil societies across the globe to boycott and isolate Israel for its continued oppression of the Palestinians.
(http://www.nst.com.my/news/2016/08/165129/better-malaysia-not-host-fifa-congress-says-zahid)

BDA Malaysia wishes to remind everyone that Israel has kept Palestinians under a brutal military occupation and they have been subjected to countless atrocities for decades, including genocide and ethnic cleansing. Israel has also flouted international law on many occasions and continues to maintain an apartheid policy despite repeated condemnations by the international community.

The sacrifice of not being able to host the FIFA congress is minuscule compared to the sufferings of millions of Palestinians living in Israel, under occupation in the West bank and under siege in Gaza. Then there are those in diaspora unable to return to their land and homes despite being granted that right under international law.

Palestinian athletes, as with all other Palestinians, are subject to Israel’s injustice. Palestinian national footballer Mahmoud Sarsak was detained for 3 years without trial or charge. Zakaria Issa, a national striker was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment in 2003. Muhammad Nimr, a striker in the Palestinian youth football team was detained from 2007 to 2009. https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/adri-nieuwhof/how-israel-derails-promising-careers-palestinian-football-stars

Additionally the Palestinians are denied their right to free travel, needing Israeli permission to enter or leave. Their daily lives are a web of checkpoints, ID cards and permits. Commuting is time-consuming, and very difficult, due to often arbitrary decisions by individual Israeli soldiers. Daily training is an extreme challenge for Palestinian athletes and training facilities are severely compromised. For example, Mary Al-Atrash, who is representing Palestine in the 2016 Rio Olympics, is only able to train in a 25 meter pool, instead of a standard-sized 50 meter pool, due to restrictions on her movement. It has been estimated that Palestinians lose 3 million working hours per day to travel (American Anthropological Association Task Force Israel Palestine, 2015).

In 1970 South Africa was formally ejected from the International Olympic Committee and banned from virtually all international sports till the end of its apartheid policies in 1990s. Advocates for Boycott South Africa argued, “no normal sport in an abnormal society”, that is, as long as the regime prevented everyone from participating equally in society, it should be excluded from participating equally in the international arena.

Sports, especially football, widely accepted as a global sport, is closely tied to national identity, thus making sporting isolation a bitter pill to swallow, as shown with South Africa. Therefore, the international community must stand firm and show Israel that Israelis do not deserve to have a place among the civilized people of the world, as long as their government continues their current policies and practice.

Israel must honor its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully comply with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194

Prof Dr. Mohd Nazari Ismail
Chairman
BDS Malaysia