Category Archives: Letters

Response to Clive Kessler’s Article

Response to Clive Kessler’s Article
by Dr. Mazeni Alwi and SL Pang @ Farah Abdullah

The Editor
ALIRAN MONTHLY

Dear Sir

We read with interest Clive Kessler’s “The struggle between “gentle Islam” and “ungentle Islam” within Malaysia may have more than local significance” in your recent issue of Aliran Monthly (Volume 25 2005) Issue 9). It is unfortunate that he has stooped to use labels “backward” and “regressive” on those whom he disagrees with. That an emeritus professor of sociology is not above employing such infantile rhetoric is all the more regrettable.

One of the Muslim Professionals Forum’s (MPF) objectives is to contribute to current discourse that concerns Islam and Muslims in our society. We endeavour to present the view points of traditional mainstream Islam in matters that are increasingly being contested, such as the interpretation of Islam (in the area of praxis) in the modern world.

Liberal Islam is slowly but surely encroaching into the public debate. Its ideas of how Islam is to be interpreted in certain areas of praxis are in contradiction to what is regarded as consensus teachings by traditional mainstream Islamic scholars.

Our seminar on “Liberal Islam – A Clear and Present Danger” attempted to dissect these issues in a scholarly manner. The three major presentations have been written as full papers and are available online at www.mpf.org.my. All 3 papers are also available in our conference proceedings. Anyone is at liberty to critique the ideas presented therein. At all times we have been careful to maintain our professional decorum by refraining from labeling any organization or personalities in our country as proponents of Liberal Islam.

We are not averse to any individual or organization wanting to re-interpret Islam for the modern world. Anyone is welcome to present what he/she feels is the correct interpretation. Muslims have their own dynamics in evaluating interpretational claims based on scholarship of the sacred texts and the corpus of knowledge on kalam (theology), ibadah (worship), fiqh (jurisprudence) and akhlaq (excellence of conduct).

Professor Kessler seems to think that the Muslim women NGO whom he describes as “less protected”, “courageous” and “principled” are victims of persecution and onslaughts of slander. On the contrary, the said NGO has been enjoying undreamt of access to the major English press in Malaysia. Their statements, letters and views do not seem to have any problem getting published while the same cannot be said for those with more traditional “backward” or “regressive”, i.e. mainstream view points. Nevertheless we commend the said NGO for its efforts in highlighting the weaknesses in the administration of Islam, especially those that concern the plight of disadvantaged Muslim women.

The Prime Minister’s vision of Islam Hadhari in multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysia is encapsulated in the following mission statement:

“Islam Hadhari is an approach that emphasises development, consistent with the tenets of Islam and focused on enhancing the quality of life. It aims to achieve this via the mastery of knowledge and the development of the individual and the nation; the implementation of a dynamic economic, trading and financial system; an integrated and balanced development that creates a knowledgeable and pious people who hold to noble values and are honest, trustworthy, and prepared to take on global challenges”, http://www.islam.gov.my/islamhadhari/concept.html http://www.islam.gov.my/islamhadhari/concept.html).

Provided that it is implemented in a sincere, honest and transparent manner; rising above partisan politics and parochial racial sentiments, it would be readily supported by our Muslim professional community.

Those who take the effort of objectively evaluating the papers presented at our Liberal Islam seminar will easily recognize Professor Kessler’s malicious slander, “…. the Muslim Professionals Form held an all-day event to give unbridled rein to such criticism of the Prime Minister’s religious orientation and supporters under the banner “Liberal Islam: A Clear and Present Danger”. To equate Liberal Islam with Islam Hadhari is most preposterous and highly irresponsible. Suffice for us to highlight one simple fact which escaped Professor Kessler – the keynote address at our seminar was delivered by respected scholar Muhammad Uthman El-Muhammady, distinguished fellow at ISTAC, formerly a fellow at IKIM and the government’s most recognizable spokesperson for Islam Hadhari. It is plain obvious that he had not read the conference papers. His is a mere gut reaction based on a blind support for a particular interpretation of Islam which has little acceptance among Muslims.

Dr. Mazeni Alwi and SL Pang @ Farah Abdullah
Founding directors
Muslim Professionals Forum

Religious Pluralism

Religious Pluralism
by Dr Musa Mohd. Nordin

The Editor
Malaysiakini

Dear Sir,

I enjoyed reading Chia’s rebuttal of my expose of pluralism (Religious pluralism – My daddy’s cool; 21 Oct 2005 ). It adds further colour to the spectrum of the theological discourse.

Despite our differing understanding and interpretation of religious pluralism, we nonetheless concur that John Hick remains the “guru” of the pluralist theology.

Amongst the modern scholars of theology, Hick is probably the foremost in paying meticulous attention to the issues of religious diversity and theorizing religious pluralism in such a profound manner. He has extensively elaborated his hypothesis of religious pluralism in virtually all of his scholarly works.

I must admit my disappointment at not being able to reference any of Hicks or for that matter other pluralist theologian’s writings or thoughts in my reading of Chia’s piece to substantiate his personalized inferences of the pluralist theology.

I can only benchmark my grasp of the pluralist theology against the writings of renowned scholars of religious pluralism , the likes of Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923), William E. Hocking (Re-thinking Mission 1932), Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975), Wilfred Cantwell Smith (Towards a World Theology 1981) and John Harwood Hick et al. Chia’s would be his own variant, personal flavour or mutation of the pluralist model.

Hick wrote “Other religions are equally valid ways to the same truth”. Paul Knitter contends “All religions are relative – that is limited, partial and incomplete, one way of looking at something… Deep down, all religions are the same”.

In his contribution to the The Encyclopedia of Religion, Hick defined religious pluralism as “…the term refers to a particular theory of the relation between these traditions, with their different and competing claims. This is the theory that the great world religions constitute variant conceptions and perceptions of, and responses to, the one ultimate, mysterious divine reality…the view that the great world faiths embody different perceptions and conceptions of, and correspondingly different responses to, the Real or the Ultimate, and that within each of them independently the transformation of human existence from self-centeredness to reality-centeredness is taking place.” [Hick, John, ‘Religious Pluralism,’ in Eliade, Mircea (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987), Vol. 12, p. 331].

Chia instead suggest that “If anything, pluralist theologians insist that the many religions are so radically different that we can never reduce them to some common denominator …”

He further posits that “it is not necessary that all religions have a similar goal. There could be different religious ends. There could be many summits or even many mountains, not necessarily only one.”

The pluralist truth claim asserts that all religions, theistic or non-theistic, can be considered as ways through which man can attain salvation, liberation and enlightenment. They all represent authentic responses to the same transcendent “Real” and are thus valid manifestations of the “Real”.

Herein lies the hidden yet clear danger of the pluralist truth claim. It is absolutist in the sense that it is all too eager to relativise all of the existing absolute religious truth claims. Epistemologically, relativising the truth claims implies (though rarely recognized by the pluralists) denying or at the very least degrading the absolute truth claims.

And as well exemplified by Chia, the pluralist daddy is the only and truly cool dude. The pluralist truth claim transcends the conflicting and relative truth claims among religions, claims a fa?ade of democracy and world peace and is the “absolute messiah” to the phenomenon of religious diversity. That is, the other religions daddies are not cool!

Chia’s historical analysis of the genesis of religious pluralism is na?ve and not evidence based. The religious pluralism discourse revealed itself as a purely Protestant phenomenon. It evolved within the Protestant reform movement, although the doctrine extra Christos nulla salus (no salvation outside Christianity) had remained etched in the Protestant theology till the end of the 19th century.

And according to Prof. Legenhausen, the idea of religious pluralism was an attempt to provide a theoretical foundation within Christian theology for tolerance of non-Christian religions. It evolved as a reform movement of religious thought, a liberalization of religion led by Friedrich Scleiermacher’s “Liberal Protestantism” in the 19th century.

It was developed further within the discourse of western philosophy and theology by Ernst Troeltsch, a liberal Christian theologian. The pluralist model was further shaped by the Canadian theologian, Wilfred Cantwell Smith who in his work Towards a World Theology, proposed a desperate need to breed a concept of universal or global theology that can best serve as a common ground for religions of the world to co-exist with each other in society peacefully and harmoniously.

John Hick reconstructed the theoretical basis of the pluralist theology, theorized and popularized it to such an extent that it has now become synonymous with his name.

The notion of religious pluralism is alien to Islamic ideological or theological framework. It began to encroach into Islamic thought after the second World War when Muslims were exposed to education in western traditions and hence the overt or covert onslaught of western cultural hegemony.

And the spread of this idea within the Islamic discourse has been partly encouraged by the works of Western Muslim mystics. Isa Nuruddin Ahmad better known as Frithjof Schuon emphasized in his book The Transcendent Unity of Religions, that deep down all religions are the same (esoterically they are the same); though their rules , morals and ritual may differ (exoterically different). He called this the Perennial Religion (Religio Perennis)

Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas argues that the transcendent unity of religion is not found even at the esoteric level because each religion has exclusive or differing concepts of god. He adds, such transcendent unity cannot be deemed “religion” only religious experiences.

The schism within the pluralist tradition can be classified into 2 major planes of thought. Cantwell Smith, Hick et al mainstreamed the sociological concept of a pluralist global theology, whereby cultural identities and religious beliefs must evolve with the passage of time and within the context of post-modernism and globalisation.

Other pluralist theologians suggest otherwise. Their traditional religious philosophical nuances maintained that the many religions should not sacrifice their esoteric and sacral identities. Instead, these ought to flourish and each should not claim superiority over another. They embrace the “all paths lead to the same summit” theology. They include among others Rene Guenon, T.S. Eliot, Titus Burckhardt, Fritjhof Schuon, Ananda K. Coomarasamy, Seyyed Hossein Nasr et al.

Islam’s concept of al-Hanifiyah as elucidated in Pluralism “disguised enmity” of Religions, is the divine prescription towards all other non-Islamic religions. It allows “all the other religions” to be fully “others” without any reduction, deconstruction or relativisation. It acknowledges the plurality of religions and allows the adherents of all religions the plurality of laws to govern their lives within the aegis of their religious beliefs and principles. This is the gift of al-Hanifiyah to humanity.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin
musa@mpf.org.my

Board Member, Muslims Professionals Forum
c/o Damansara Specialist Hospital
119 Jalan SS 20/10
Damansara Utama
47400 PJ
Tel/Fax : 03-77293173


Religious pluralism – ‘my daddy’s cool!’
Edmund Chia
Oct 21, 05 5:55pm

Dr Musa Mohd Nordin’s letter on religious pluralism is timely. Just a couple of weeks ago, a new book was released by Orbis Press, entitled The myth of religious superiority. It is the product of a conference held two years ago for those identified as ‘pluralist’ theologians or scholars of religion.

The participants came from different parts of the world and represented six of the world’s religions, including Islam. Two Malaysians were amongst them. This conference took place in the University of Birmingham, where Prof John Hick teaches. And yes, Hick (whom Musa rightly points out as the ‘icon’ of the pluralist model) was the host.

Anyway, coming back to Musa’s letter, I don’t think he has accurately represented the thesis of religious pluralism. To be sure, the pluralist model does not consider all religions as ‘relatively the same’. If it does then it is no longer pluralist.

Pluralism refers to that which is not-one, which means it is also not-same. If anything, pluralist theologians insist that the many religions are so radically different that we can never reduce them to some common denominator. Pluralism, therefore, is adamant that the uniqueness of each religion be accepted not only de facto but de jure.

In other words, religious pluralism is not merely a fact of life (to be tolerated or accepted since there is really nothing we can do about it) but something which is treasured and embraced as part of the design of the universe or the will of God/Truth/Allah (or whatever name one attaches to signify divinity or the Ultimate).

It is also equally inaccurate for Musa to suggest that pluralism is an ‘all paths lead to the same summit’ paradigm’. On the contrary, the pluralist model posits that it is not necessary that all religions have a similar goal. There could be different religious ends. There could be many summits or even many mountains, not necessarily only one.

In fact, a simple exploration of the various religions will reveal that they have very different understandings about the origins of life, the creation of the universe and especially what constitutes the final destiny of humankind. Concepts such as salvation, moksha, nirvana, paradise, etc. mean very different things to the different religions. It is too simplistic to consider them as referring to the same thing or leading to the same summit.

Next, it is also inaccurate for Musa to suggest that “religious pluralism was gestated within the context of western secular liberalism”. It is kind of like saying that Albert Camus was the inventor of nihilism just because he authored a book on the subject. Religious pluralism, to be sure, is something which many of us in Asia are very much used to. It is in our psyche.

Just consider the religious landscape in India and China. For millennia, the many religions have not only been allowed to coexist peacefully but the people have also been free to embrace and practice many of them all at once (at least until religion became politicised). There is no need for any one religion to dominate or to regard itself as superior to the others. Each religion can have its truth and faith claims. They are not a problem as long as they are kept within the community.

Problems arise when such truth and faith claims are used outside of the community and, especially, to pass judgment upon other people or another religion. This is more characteristic of the monotheistic religions (though not necessarily limited to them), where the belief in the one God leads to the belief in one truth, which leads to the conclusion that there can be only one true religion.

Of course, this true religion is always the one we belong to; for the Muslim it is Islam, for the Christian it is Christianity, and so on. The believer believes, in all honesty and sincerity, that it is his or her own religion which is that final, definitive, unsurpassable and absolute religion, while other religions are at best, lesser versions of this absolute religion or at worse, false or even demonic.

To support such exclusivistic attitudes the Muslim can turn to the Quranic verse: “He that chooses a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him, and in the world to come he will be one of the lost” (Sura’ 3:85). Likewise, the exclusivist Christian can turn to the Biblical verse: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me [Jesus Christ]. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28: 18-19).

When such convictions are paired with power (social, political, economic, etc.) it can be dangerous. History has enough examples of cases of violence perpetrated in the name of religious truth. If I believe God to be on my side, then I see it not only my right but also my duty to convince, persuade, entice, coerce or force you into accepting my religion.

Or, I may see it as God’s will that I subtly or actively persecute you and your religion or work towards its conquest and annihilation. Musa will probably quote Sura Al-Baqara v. 256 which says that there should be “no compulsion” in religion. The Catholic could also quote from Vatican II’s Declaration of Religious Freedom which states that everyone should be “immune from coercion” and that “no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs” (art. 2).

The problem is that the evidence do not bear this out. We have enough incidences of religiously- minded persons proselytising and discriminating against those who are not members of their own religion. A look at bookstores along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman in Kuala Lumpur will reveal dozens of books which belittle Christianity. These are mainly written by Muslims or ex- Christians. Likewise, bookstores along Michigan Avenue in Chicago also have plenty of anti-Islam books. The authors are mainly Christians or ex-Muslims (some of whom even claim to have Islamic degrees from al-Azhar).

It is this latter dimension of absolute truth claims which the pluralist theologians are dead set against. Enough violence has already been committed in the name of these truth claims. It is not the truth claims which the pluralists preach against but how they are vulnerable to being exploited. If kept within their own community the truth claims are valid and good as they serve to nurture faith and a sense of commitment.

But when used as a weapon to condemn or to judge another, then it becomes problematic. Truth claims are meaningful only within the context of a relational experience, of the believer with the Divine and with one’s own religious community.

Truth claims are much like love claims such as a child telling his father that he is the “best daddy” in the whole world, or a man telling his wife that she is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Such love claims and proclamations are not only valid but also necessary. They help deepen the relationship.

Moreover, they are also absolutely true, as far as the one proclaiming it is concerned. Likewise, truth claims are not only legitimate but also highly desirable. They distinguish one religion from another and help nurture the faith life of the believers.

But if the daddy is to use his child’s love claim and go around comparing himself to other fathers and making claims that he is indeed the ‘best daddy’ in the whole world and that others should emulate him or consider him as superior then problem arises.

Firstly, he will find out that other fathers who have also been told by their own children that they are indeed the ‘best daddy’ in the whole world. Secondly, such competitive judgements can only lead to enmity and hatred and not the compassion and love which religious truth claims ought to be generating.

This is what the pluralist theologians are concerned about. Theirs is not so much to deconstruct truth claims for deconstruction’s sake but to preach against the ‘myth of religious superiority’ for the myth has already contributed way too much to the inter-religious conflict and violence in the world.

Massacring the Innocent

Massacring the Innocent
by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

In the last 24 hours, in two separate incidents, the Israeli Occupiers of Palestine and the American Occupiers of Iraq have killed scores of innocent people.

On 19 May, Israeli helicopters, tanks and troops fired on a peaceful demonstration of mostly women and children in the Rafah refugee camp. According to various sources, 15 people were killed, including at least 2 children.

The peaceful demonstration attended by thousands of people was in protest against the killing of at least 20 Palestinians the day before and the demolition of hundreds of homes which have left thousands of Palestinians homeless.

Though the whole world has condemned the massacre, the Israeli regime, one can be absolutely certain, will continue with its wanton aggression against, and its cruel oppression of, the Palestinian people. The oppressor does not care about international public opinion. All that matters to the regime is the blind support of the US government. Yesterday, President George Bush endorsed yet again Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s bellicose policies designed to perpetuate the occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people, at a function organised by the ultra Zionist lobby group, the AIPAC. Sharon knows that with the American Presidential Election a few months away, the leading contenders will be bending over backwards to please the powerful Israeli lobby. This is also why — apart from the desire to avenge the killing of 13 Israeli soldiers in Gaza by Palestinians a few days ago — Sharon has chosen this particular moment to launch the most massive and most extensive military operation since 1967 in the Gaza Strip. He is confident that no American leader will even dare to go beyond the gentlest of admonitions.

But we hope the American people will prove him wrong. Civic groups, public interest organisations, media practitioners and intellectuals should stand up and speak out. Let them tell the American power elite that by underwriting Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, they are merely helping to further discredit and denigrate the US in the eyes of the world. The US does not need this, especially at a time when its international credibility is minus zero.

The American public should also stand up against its elite for continuing its blood-soaked occupation of Iraq. Yesterday, the Occupier added yet another reprehensible act to its litany of heinous crimes in that blighted land. A US military helicopter opened fire on a wedding party in Western Iraq killing over 40 people. A number of those killed were children and women.

According to media reports, the incident occurred after wedding guests started firing in the air in celebration of the occasion. Firing of guns is a tradition at Arab and Central Asian weddings. Two months ago, 6 members of an Iraqi family were killed and 4 others wounded by US soldiers in a village north of Baghdad. More than a year ago, a large number of guests at a wedding in Afghanistan-another country occupied by the US — were also mistakenly killed by US firepower in similar circumstances.

US authorities in Baghdad deny that the people killed yesterday were attending a wedding. They allege that those killed were ‘foreign fighters’ who had infiltrated into Iraq, near the Syrian border. The US version contradicts eye witness accounts of the incident. AP Television, for instance, filmed relatives burying the dead, several of whom were women and children.

Instead of attempting a ‘cover-up’, the US authorities should face the truth. And the stark truth that is staring them in the face is this : END OCCUPATION NOW.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar
President,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)

Malaysia.
20 May 2004

Rohingya Muslims

Rohingya Muslims
by Dr. Mazeni Alwi

YB Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid bin Syed Jaafar Albar
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Malaysia
Wisma Putra
No. 1 Jalan Wisma Putra
Precint 2
62602 Putrajaya

The Muslim Professionals Forum Berhad (MPF) lauds the government’s decision to recognise the refugee status given by the UNHCR to Rohingya Muslims who have sought refuge in Malaysia from persecution in their homeland.The UNHCR and other organisations concerned with the plight of the Rohingyas must be congratulated for their untiring efforts towards this end.

Members of the MPF who have been helping with the MERCY Malaysia mobile clinics to provide basic health care to this stateless community have a first hand understanding of their sad plight. This due recognition by the Malaysian government will alleviate the deep anguish and constant fear that they face from being arrested and deported as illegal immigrants. That they now can seek gainful employment, live in proper housing, seek proper medical care and have their children educated in Malaysian schools will go a long way towards preventing the social ills that such marginalisation and exclusion can engender.

Similar humanitarian gestures should also be considered for other genuine asylum-seekers fleeing persecution in their homeland, regardless of race and religion.

In tandem with this new policy, we urge the government of Malaysia through the forum of ASEAN to exert pressure on the Myanmar ruling military regime to cease the persecution and gross human rights violations of the Burmese Muslims and other minorities, and to guarantee their safe return, respect their fundamental rights and justly compensate their losses.

Yours faithfully,

THE MUSLIM PROFESSIONALS FORUM
Dr. Mazeni Alwi
Chairman

A battle imposed cannot but be fought

A battle imposed cannot but be fought
by Dr. Azzam Tamimi (The Muslim Association of Britain)

Observers have pursued different lines of analysis in a bid to explain the storm that accompanied Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s recent visit to the United Kingdom. The Zionist lobby in Britain, which is usually spoken for among others by the Jewish Board of Deputies and Louise Ellman MP), mounted a most virulent attack on the Sheikh seeking to hit several birds with one stone. Pro-Israel lobbyists do not particularly like the Muslim Association of Britain, which sought to have former Israeli Chief of Staff (current Defence Minister) incarcerated and prosecuted for war crimes during a visit he made to the UK last year and which came to the fore of British politics as a result of its alliance with the anti-war coalition. Nor do they like the fact that Israel has been exposed more than ever before as the last remaining bastion of racism and fascism on the face of the earth thanks to the efforts of peace and justice loving people in the UK and across the world. My own analysis is that the primary target has the Mayor of London, Mr. Ken Livingston, a man of great integrity and a history of solidarity with and support for just and good causes including the Palestinian one.

Sheikh Yusuf had been to Britain several times in the past. Never was a visit by him met with such a furor before. The difference this time is that he arrived in London upon the joint invitation of the Muslim Association of Britain and the Mayor of London. To prove my theory, I would draw attention to the fact that the Sheikh visit the UK in February 2003 on his way to, and back from, Dublin where he chaired a session of the European Council of Fatwa and Research. The Muslim Association of Britain, who invited him to the UK had arranged for him to meet the press. At a highly successful press conference, the Sheikh answered questions put to him by the media on a variety of issues. Channel Four News aired an exclusive interview with him while the Mirror, for reasons unknown to me, failed to publish its own exclusive and lengthy interview with him. The opinions of the Sheikh on the issues raised by the pro-Israel lobby during the recent visit had been in the public domain for many years and he could have been questioned about them during his last visit. However, that did not happen. Furthermore, during his earlier visit the Sheikh addressed thousands of Muslim men and women, young and old, at the Central Mosque and then at East London Mosque in White Chapel advising them to strike a wise and fair balance between maintaining their identities as Muslim and living in their country, Britain, as law-abiding citizens.

The success of that visit prompted the Muslim Association to approach the Sheikh several months later inviting him for another tour. However, the Sheikh was discouraged by world events, particularly the invasion of Iraq, and decided not to accept the invitation at a time when the US-led war on terrorism had claimed many innocent victims. The concern expressed by the Sheikh was not hypothetical; several incidents had already been reported where prominent figures from the Muslim world were turned back from airports, arrested and harassed or subjected to humiliating blackmail so as to collaborate with the authorities. Although most of these cases had happened in the United States of America, European governments had clearly been succumbing to pressure from their NATO master.

By chance, the Muslim Association of Britain communicated the Sheikh’s concerns to officers from a unit set up by Scotland Yard’s special branch. The officers, whose main task is to improve relations between the police and the Muslim community in the aftermath of the eleventh of September, assured the Muslim Association that not only would the Sheikh be permitted to enter the country but that he would be most welcome as well. They expressed readiness to provide the Sheikh with a VIP reception at the airport and protection throughout his visit should he decide to come back to Britain in the future. The reason, from their own perspective, was attributed to the fact that “he is one of the most authoritative scholars in the Sunni world of Islam today whose moderating influence on the Muslim youth of Britain is highly appreciated.”

It was in light of these assurances that the Muslim Association of Britain, as part of its cooperation with the Mayor of London, brought to the attention of the Mayor’s office the fact that the annual meeting of the European Council of Fatwa and Research was going to be due in July and that it would be a good PR job for the LGA to invite the Council to convene in London. It was explained too that although the Council was founded in London it has not met again in the British capital. Over the years it met in Paris, Dublin, Stockholm and several other European cities but not in London.

Having looked into the matter and assessed the role played by the Council in guiding European Muslims to be pro-active, law-abiding and fully involved citizens, the Mayor extended his invitation for the Council’s members to come to London and hold their meetings in it. Two other ideas immediately sprang as a result: the Muslim Association decided to hold its own one-day conference and benefit from the presence of such a long list of esteemed jurists and thinkers; Jamiiatul Ummah decided to hold their police-sponsored “Our Children, Our Future” during the visit to Sheikh Qaradawi to have the honour of his participation as a guest speaker; and Sheikh Qaradawi himself decided to seize the opportunity by inviting around two hundred Muslim jurists from around the world to form the International Union of Islamic Scholars. And it turned to be quite an eventful week.

It may be the case that the Jewish Board of Deputies and Louise Ellman have regretted stirring this storm in the first place. Their venomous attack turned achieved the exact opposite of what they were seeking. Initially part of the press, especially the Sun, the Mail and the Telegraph, fell into their trap and sank in the mud. The more respectable media, including the BBC (both radio and TV), the Guardian, the Independent, Channel Four News and Sky News, saw the smear campaign as an attempt not to discredit the Sheikh but to erode what has remained of the democratic values of Britain. They decided to move in favor of the right to free speech, which the Zionist lobby would like to see us all lose. Following a BBC2 TV News Night programme a couple of nights into the campaign, the tide shifted and the arrows of malice and contempt turned back at those that threw them in the first place. The image of the Sheikh suddenly changed from the Sun’s “The Evil has Landed” into an array of the best attributes ever given to Al-Qaradawi by a non-Muslim media acknowledging him as a moderate, authoritative, renowned, and learned. Not only that, the charge that Al-Qaradawi supported suicide bombings against Israelis in Palestine turned into a debate about the legitimacy of these operations with many commentators concluding that the Palestinians, after all, have been left with no other option. What is truly amazing is that neither Al-Qaradawi nor the Muslim Association of Britain had intended to raise this issue or turn it into a subject of debate. All the Sheikh had come to Britain to stress on the Muslims was integration and living as good law-abiding citizens of the country of which they’ve chosen to become nationals. The Zionist lobby insisted on imposing a different agenda and they must now be biting their fingers for having done so. TV and radio programmes, including phone-ins and chat shows, for many hours and many days debated the issues of suicide bombings and the right to freedom of speech.

Some Muslims, including individuals involved with the preparations for some of the events Al-Qaradawi came for, had indeed been intimidated and expressed the opinion that the Muslims in Britain, even in Europe, were not a match to the Zionist lobby and could not afford to enter into battles with it. Some thought that certain concessions might throw water on the fire and save the Sheikh and his guests the embarrassment of the vicious campaign. It took only a day and a night to prove them wrong. A battle imposed cannot but be fought. It was the Zionist lobby that started the war and the Muslim Association of Britain had to resist and fight back. The Association, with the support of freedom lovers across the country, won the battle and the Zionist lobby lost in disgrace.

If Qaradawi is an extremist, who is left?

If Qaradawi is an extremist, who is left?
by Sohaib Bhutta

The moderate Islamic jurist’s interpretations of religious texts have been wilfully misrepresented. This is an attack on all Muslims

Sohaib Saeed
Friday July 9, 2004
The Guardian

“Moderate” has become one of a set of labels without which the word “Muslim” looks almost naked in any western newspaper today – and it is being used in an increasingly divisive way that can only cause confusion.

The most important use of “moderate” has become shorthand for “not supporting al-Qaida”. More broadly, the key ideas behind being moderate in Britain would seem to be integration, participation, tolerance and dialogue.

The scholarly figure widely considered to be the world’s chief proponent of moderate Islam is Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian-born Islamic jurist who heads the European Council for Fatwa and Research. Mr Qaradawi’s rulings are recognised by Muslims around the world as reflecting the balanced nature of Islamic law and its relevance to modern life. This is the recurrent theme of his programmes on Arab television channels, as well as the popular Islam Online website, for which he acts as patron.

When most Muslims look to Mr Qaradawi, they see a shining example of moderation: in its Islamic meaning. To us, being a moderate Muslim means to practise the religion faithfully, according to its letter and its spirit.

So when he arrived in Britain on Monday in advance of his long-awaited conferences in London, the barrage of attacks against him in the media was distressing for the British Muslim community. All of a sudden, the words “extremist”, “radical” and “hardline” were being used liberally, and the Sun surpassed itself by calling him a “devil”, complete with a menacing-looking photograph under the headline: “The Evil Has Landed”. Now there are demands that he be expelled from the country.

This was bound to cause distress among Muslims, but not because of the personal attacks on Mr Qaradawi. This was also a sharp tug at the rug under the feet of moderate Muslims: because if he is an extremist, who is there left to be moderate?

For as long as we care to remember, Muslims have had to answer accusations about suicide bombing, wife beating, homosexuality and much else besides. One of the reasons for the Muslim Association of Britain to host Mr Qaradawi was to allow the British people, media and policy-makers to put their questions to a real expert on Islam and modernity. Any controversial views he holds can be explored and criticised, while he can clarify or defend his point of view.

However, all of a sudden it is the moderate Mr Qaradawi himself who “encourages suicide bombing”, “permits wife beating”, and “advocates the death penalty for gays”. Statements attributed to him are consistently misquoted or quoted out of context to misrepresent his arguments.

For a person who does not believe in God, the concept of martyrdom may remain incomprehensible. A question such as that over the rights and wrongs of suicide-bombing in Palestine can legitimately be approached from different angles. A jurist like Mr Qaradawi is required to draw conclusions about its status within Islamic law – his comments are made in the context of a debate about the interpretation of Islamic texts.

He, as well as most Islamic scholars and Muslims worldwide, considers the desperate actions of Palestinians as valid acts of resistance. That is not without many difficult aspects, not least because death of innocents is considered in Islam to be horrendous. The scholars do not permit suicide bombing in any place, nor do they advocate that people from Britain go to Palestine to take part in the jihad there.

As for wife beating, there is a verse in the Koran that a few Muslim men misunderstand as permitting domestic violence. Scholars have always cautioned against this. Mr Qaradawi has specified that “the respectable and honest Muslim man does not beat his wife”.

Islam’s negative view on homosexual relations is not unique, it is common to western religions. Muslims have not abandoned the truth to please liberal fundamentalists. That we consider same-sex attraction unnatural by no means entails discrimination against “homosexuals”, nor do we seek to kill them. Again, when Mr Qaradawi has discussed homosexuality it has been about weighing up different interpretations of Muslim tradition. The question of punishment simply does not arise outside the context of a state ruling by Islamic law, and there is scholarly disagreement over the nature of appropriate punishment.

We have to ask whom British Muslims are expected to follow if not Mr Qaradawi. A leaked document reported in the Times in May described the government’s plans to promote certain scholars, including Hamza Yusuf, Suhaib Webb and Amr Khaled. The three greatly respect Mr Qaradawi, as is well known from their speeches and the solidarity between all moderate scholars of Islam. Alongside Mr Qaradawi at Saturday’s conference – entitled “Islam, Mercy to Mankind” – will be the philosopher Professor Tariq Ramadan, another key thinker for Muslims in the west, who also holds Mr Qaradawi in high esteem.

The real moderates are those who tell it like it is, even though aspects of Islam may be hard for western secular mindsets to fathom. We should be proud that Dr al-Qaradawi was not afraid to state firmly that “Palestinian martyr operations are a weapon of the weak”. The fact that Rabbi Weiss publicly stood by him shows that claims of anti-semitism hold no water. For all Muslims, Jews are “people of the book”, and Mr Qaradawi has emphasised the special relations Muslims have had with Jews down the centuries, notably when the west persecuted and expelled them.

The freedom of expression enjoyed in the UK is a source of pride, and should encourage debate between cultures. If people have criticisms of Islam, they should feel free to raise them in appropriate times and places. We Muslims don’t have to apologise for everything in our faith and way of life that doesn’t match the here-and-now of British life. I don’t want to be that sort of “moderate”.

· Sohaib Bhutta is spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain

sohaib@mabonline.net

Regarding – Live, Don’t Die for Islam

Regarding – Live, Don’t Die for Islam
by Dr. Azzam Tamimi

I read the article below. I appreciate the good intentions of the brother but he is not right on a number of points. The following was a quick reply I wrote to a message I received from Nazri with whose assessment of the article I fully agree:

“If only Sardar is asked whether he lives for Islam? Only those that live for Islam may consider dying for it. ( I would even go as far as saying those that live for Islam wish to die for it.)

I am puzzled by the assumption that the world does sympathise with the Palestinians. This is a myth created by people sitting far away from the action itself. In fact more people than ever before today sympathise with the Palestinians and support their cause. More people are even challenging the Zionists and speaking out in support of the right of the Palestinians to defend themselves through whatever means available to them. I am sure it is out of good intentions that some Muslims are worried; but they are worried for the wrong reasons. No ‘martyrdom operations’ have been taken place for many weeks now. But who is doing the killing on daily basis and who is destroying the lives of the Palestinians? Why does not Sardar and those who admire him live for Islam by concentrating on the crimes of Sharon than on the helpless victims of his?

When the Zionist lobby tried to sabotage Sheikh Qaradawi’s visit recently in Britain I appeared on every single TV and radio channel saying this: “What do you expect the Palestinians to do? You’ve left them with no options. Get Sharon to stop his killing the ‘martyrdom operations’ will stop.” I found that in most cases TV and radio presenters agreed. Many of them said: “Well, isn’t what Qaradawi is saying something we all share but fail to express.”

Muslims who cannot defend ‘martyrdom operations’ should keep quiet and not stab their brothers and sisters in the back. Let those who can defend these operations speak because they are defensible in the most convincing manner and the most explicit language.”

If the brother concerned and others who have doubts wish to have a private session when I am in Malaysia to discuss the issue I am most willing to do so. The clever thing to do is not to criticize what means the Palestinians choose to defend themselves or respon to Israeli brutality but in fact to defend it and market it to public opinion. Public opinion can be convinced of any thing if the approach is right. I do not say this out of opportunism; I think we are right and what we do is correct and legitimate. If the Zionist have been able to convince public opinion of the incorrect and the illegitimate, how come that we retreat and give up so quickly on what is right and true?

Medicine – an Inalienable Right

Medicine – an Inalienable Right
by Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

Published in Malaysiakini and NST on the 7th June 2004

The straight As students and their families seem to think that 4As give them the “divine right” for a place in medicine. One dad had the audacity to write in the NST that his 4As son deserved a place in the University of Malaya medical school but was infuriated when given a place in the medical school of the University Sains Malaysia.. Everyone seems to be playing into the hands of the racial undertones of the mainstream media and the opportunistic politicians.

If you’ve been following the polemics in the United Kingdom medical schools, you’d realise that many are beginning to conduct their own mechanisms to select their “best choice” medical student candidate. Quite clearly 4 flat or straight As is but just one of the criteria; and not necessarily the pivotal criteria. The medical school in Cardiff only required 3Bs from me; and Sheffield even less 1B, 2C. Your teacher’s testimonial and forecast results, one’s extra curricular record, one’s leadership roles, one’s community service, one’s medical related activities, and one’s performance at the interview persuades the faculty whether you are a worthwhile investment and have what it takes. Then in the early 1970s, many did not survive the screening onslaught when foreign medical student selection were hyper stringent and medical places were scarce by today’s standards.

My orthopaedic colleague has written to the editor NST; suggesting that the 800 + 128 “budding docs” to just spend

2 weeks tagging the houseman on call and he is very confident that by the end of the fortnight at least 128 would have aborted this holy idea of ever becoming doctors !!!

I am appalled at how readily we bend our benchmarks in quality medical education to create more medical school seats.

How dare we compromise our educational gold standards and sway to the demands of the students, parents and society. The victims of all of these poorly thought, stop gap and quick fix measures are our unsuspecting patients, that is you and me. And we have not even begun to address the massive brain drain from the medical schools and the Ministry of Health to the “greener pastures” which is haemorrhaging quality teachers from these teaching institutions

I personally believe that many doctors in the private sector are keen to teach part time in the medical schools but the system is unfortunately not in place to harness and facilitate this process; a truly missed opportunity ! I myself will be doing 12 hours of teaching in the Law Faculty of UIA in their 6 months certificate in medical law and am presently engaged in teaching their master students in biotechnology and the law. So it has been done and can be done and most of us do not even expect any form of remuneration. It is simply the love of teaching which we have had to prematurely offset due to other considerations.

Why is it that our southern and northern neighbours can secure their best medical brains within the civil and educational service whilst we fail miserably? This is a classical case of human resource foul up.

In my daughter’s college, about 10 top notch students have failed to secure a place in the current UK medical school applications and have to either wait for clearing or apply locally. I dare say, that they are all much better and well rounded students in the program that they follow in the college compared to those doing form six who are obsessed with As and grossly exam centric. At the end of the day, the whole purpose and noble end points of education is lost in this adolescent rhetoric of As.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin
musa@mpf.org.my
Consultant Paediatrician & Neonatologist
Damansara Specialist Hospital
119 Jalan SS 20/10
Damansara Utama
47400 PJ
Tel/Fax : 03-77293173

Letter to the Press Regarding “SIS : Feminisme Islam warisan sunah Rasulullah”

Letter to the Press Regarding “SIS : Feminisme Islam warisan sunah Rasulullah”
by Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

Saudara Pengarang

Reaksi yang dicoretkan oleh Sisters in Islam bertema “SIS : Feminisme Islam warisan sunah Rasulullah”; didalam ruangan Forum bertarikh 23hb Julai 2003 memang telah dijangkakan dan konsisten dengan teras perjuangan mereka semenjak penubuhannya pada tahun 1988. Saya tetap menghormati kesungguhan dan ltizam mereka mengarus perdanakan isu-isu wanita dan menarik perhatian masyarakat kepada ketidakadilan dan penganiayaan yang berlaku dan berlanjutan keatas kaum Hawa.

Namun demikian, didalam keghairahan dan keasyikan SIS memperjuangkan agenda wanita, mereka tidak harus hilang pegangan dan pedoman kepada tradisi dan kesahihan ilmu dan fakta. Ini ternyata didalam suatu luahan Ketua Eksekutif nya yang mendakwa bahawa punca kebanyakan daripada wanita professional tidak mahu berkahwin ialah kerana sikap kaum lelaki masakini yang tidak bertanggung jawab dan menghambat si-isteri dengan bebanan kerja yang berlebihan dirumah disamping tugas kerjaya mereka.

Terbawa-bawa dengan emosi feminsime yang luarbiasa ini, SIS melemparkan suatu kecaman yang tidak bertanggung jawab dan tidak berasaskan ilmu dan fakta didalam nukilan mereka yang terakhir ini. Demi mendokong dan merasionalkan perjuangan  “feminisme islam”, mereka merumusakan secara membuta tuli bahawa penindasan wanita dan penafian hak-hak asasi mereka adalah berpunca “kerana kaum lelaki sahaja yang telah menguasai secara eksklusif hak mentafsir al-Quran dan bahan-bahan ilmuan Islam yang lain”.

Hujjah sedemikian rupa yang acapkali ditonjolkan oleh SIS tidak asing kepada mereka yang mengikuti secara halus sejarah dan evolusi pergerakan feminisme  didalam dunia Islam. Amina Wadud yang baru-baru ini telah mencetuskan kontroversi di-Konsultasi Pemimpin Islam SeDunia Kedua berkenaan AIDS/HIV, juga merupakan diantara pengasas SIS, adalah termasuk sebilangan kecil yang menganut fahaman “feminist revisionism” yang mencemuh mufassireen lelaki terdahulu, yang mereka dakwa bersikap “bias gender”; memihak kepada jenis mereka dan menganiaya hak wanita apabila mentafsser ayat-ayat suci al-Quran.

Wadud didalam penulisan nya “Warisan Aishah : perjuangan untuk hakhak wanita didalam Islam” mendakwa bahawa “Pada zaman Abbasiyah, semasa asas-asas Islam sedang dibina, kesemua ahli fikir dan ulama nya adalah lelaki. Mereka tidak menghayati wahi secara terus ( dakwaan ini agak pelik kerana hanya para anbiya yang menghayati wahi secara terus dan pilihan Allah eksklusif kepada pihak lelaki, dan jika mantik Wadud dilanjutkan apakah Allah tidak bersikap “gender neutral” ? ), tidak mengenali Rasulullah secara peribadi dan kadangkala terpengaruh dengan fahaman intelektual dan budaya moral semasa yang bertentangan dengan Islam”. Wadud dengan emosi feminisme yang meluap ini menekankan bahawa Allah mesti digelar dengan “He/She/It” ! Selaku anak murid dan rakan seperjuangan Wadud yang setia dan ta’sub kepada perjuangan “feminist revisionism”, SIS turut mengutarakan hujjah yang songsang ini, tidak amanah kepada fakta sejarah dan membelakangkan tradisi ilmu yang bersandarkan an-Nahjus Sahih..

Tidak dinafikan bahawa ulama, ahli falsafah  dan mufassireen “kebanyakannya” lelaki tetapi tidak eksklusif dan hanya lelaki sahaja. Terulung dikalangan pentafsir ayat-ayat suci al-Quran dikalangan kaum Hawa merupakan ummul mukminah Aishah, Ummu Salamah dan Hafsah dan lebih kontemporari ialah penulis Kitab Tafsir Al Bayan bil Quran nil Karim, Dr. Aishah Abdul Rahman yang lebih dikenali sebagai bint al-Syatie ( yang cerdik ). SIS seringkali kali bernaung dan merujuk kepada kitab tulisan Wadud “Quran and Women : Rereading the sacred text from a woman’s perspective” ( Quran menurut perempuan : Perempuan meluruskan bias gender dalam tradisi tafsir ) yang telah pun digazetkan haram oleh JAKIM pada tahun 2001 dan diharamkan penyebarannya oleh Kementerian Dalam Negeri (KDN).

Melemparkan fitnah sedemikian kejam terhadap mufassireen lelaki yang terdahulu adalah seakan menghina tradisi suci ulumul Quran yang diantara lainnya mensyaratkan bahawa setiap mufassireen, lelaki maupun wanita, mesti memiliki ciri-ciri seorang mujtahid. Sifat-sifat ini termasuk aqidah Islamiah yang sahihah, ahli didalam bahasa Arab, ahli didalam jurusan lain yang bersangkutan dengan ulumul Quran seperti ilmu al-riwayah, memulakan tafsir Quran dengan Quran sendiri, ahli dalam ulumul hadith, mengelak daripada mengutamakan pendapat fardhi, merujuk kepada sunnah sahabah, tabiin dan kepada ulama tafsir lain yang muktabar. Apakah SIS mendakwa mufassireen lelaki yang terdahulu cacat didalam kriteria yang diterima pakai ulama tafsir sejagat, tidak jujur dan amanah didalam usaha mereka menyelami dan menerokai ajaran-ajaran kitab suci al-Quran dan “hanya memperalatkan agama untuk membenarkan amalan dan nilai-nilai budaya yang menganggap kedudukan wanita lebih rendah daripada lelaki” ?

Kajian SIS yang merumuskan bahawa faktor lelaki didalam ilmu tafsir al-Quran menatijahkan tanggapan yang serong terhadap kedudukan wanita didalam Islam bukan hanya naive, simplistic dan feminisme ala barat tetapi juga mencernakan kedhaifan dan kedangkalan mereka didalam seni, sains dan tradisi ilmu-ilmu al-Quran, al-hadith dan syariah Islamiah. Wallahu alam.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

Letter to Malaysiakini

Letter to Malaysiakini
by Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin

The current discourse on HIV/AIDS in the media, Malaysiakini included seems to suggest an obsession with the condom culture and safe sex paradigm. The libertarian occident in no uncertain terms advocates this as their main thrust in their crusade against HIV/AIDS and have seduced a substantial volume of support for this strategy elsewhere. To indiscriminately ape this modus operandi and transplant them piecemeal  into our national HIV/AIDS programs may turn out to be a folly.

Some 22 years into the syndrome complex, the WHO global summary document of the HIV/AIDS epidemic estimates 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Dr. Nafis Sadik, Kofi Annan’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in the Asia Pacific, said that (in stark contrast), the prevalence of HIV/AIDS remains low  in the Muslim world with rates well below 1% in countries with a Muslim majority and similarly in Muslim minorities in other countries.

These figures would therefore suggest that the infusion and practice of universal values derived from the Quran and prophetic teachings in individual, family and societal life must have endowed considerable prophylaxis against this deadly disease.

On the whole, I believe our citizenry continue to cherish the universal values of self discipline, chastity, morality, decency and family centricity. A whole host of  human values, code of conduct and ethics shared and guarded enviously by the believers in our nation, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs or  other religious persuasions.

Addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic demands a comprehensive and integrated response which prioritises preventative strategies, provides therapeutics, care and support to the afflicted and their families and puts in place long term macro-economic and social interventions to redress the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS.

The preventative strategies advocated by Islam and shared by virtually all other religious denominations emphasises the A for Abstinence from sex, the B for Being faithful in marriage, the C for Condom use, the D for Drug abuse avoidance and the E for Education of the public on the disease complex and her myriad of repercussions.

The avoidance of fornication and adultery is fundamental in the injunctions of the Shariah (and I believe most other religions too) to preserve the sanctity and purity of virginity, progeny and family. How may I ask would you respond to a speaker at the International Muslim Leaders Conference on HIV/AIDS (IMLC) who arrogantly said “.how empty religious platitudes are in addressing the problem and how, even when those responses are based on the Quran and Sunnah they are ineffective to resolve the problem”. And with impunity she adds “In effect, what I present here emphasizes the ways that Islam and Muslims exarcebates the spread of AIDS .” Farish Noor in his current column on HIV/AIDS  would therefore be well advised to be prudent and careful in his baseless accusations or is he, like the associate professor of Islamic studies oblivious of the ABC of the priorities of the Shariah (Maqasid as-Shariah) and Islamic Family Law!

There are obviously circumstances when condom use is indicated but to suggest a national policy of liberal condom use would only unleash a  culture of sexual promiscuity and permissiveness. And we need to be reminded that the vast majority, in excess of 80%, of our PLWHA are intravenous drug users (IVDU). The government and all her agencies have failed miserably to diminish, if not eradicate this social scourge in our society. This however did not attract the press attention (or Farish Noor for that matter) during World AIDS Days – a stale and non-sensational issue by comparison with the rise in heterosexual transmission. I think a careful analysis of the women affected heterosexually is in order. Complete and comprehensive data collection is unfortunately not a forte of our major stake holders in HIV/AIDS work. Our experience with the well over 70 women whom we have sheltered in our Rumah Solehah project (Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia’s Half Way Home for Women & Children with HIV/AIDS) showed that  the majority acquired the virus heterosexually from their IVDU husbands or partners. And without exception all the affected children in our care acquired HIV vertically from their mothers who were themselves heterosexually infected by their IVDU husbands. This is the domino effect of the heroin culture in our society which the key players need to address equitably and judiciously.

Many of our western counterparts are beginning to awaken to the wisdom of this time tested and best practice strategy. The leading editorial in the British Medical Journal, 21st June 2003, entitled “Preventing HIV : Time to get serious about changing behaviours” writes; “But if behaviour cannot be changed then no amount of money is going to make a big difference in prevention because every successful form of prevention requires change in behaviour”. Arthur J. Ammann, president of Global Strategies for HIV Prevention further writes “Data from developed and developing countries show that programs that incorporate abstinence, mutual monogamy, delayed sexual intercourse and condom work together to reduce the number of new HIV infections.”

An emotive issue as HIV/AIDS is bound to provoke a multitude of responses based on one’s religious, ideological and philosophical underpinnings. As Muslims, the Tauhidic paradigm envelops our responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It is simply put a “back to basics” wholesome blueprint of action which espouses and celebrates universal values of self discipline, chastity, morality, decency and family centricity and embraces a theology of  mercy, care and compassion, forgiveness, healing, benevolence, brotherhood of humanity and belief in the hereafter.

Dr. Musa Mohd. Nordin