Thursday, June 22, 2006

73] Is the IFC our own WMD?

Is the IFC our own WMD?
Azly Rahman
May 22, 06 5:45pm

Is the Interfaith Commission our very own Weapon of Mass Deception?

The very fact that a road-show discussion on Article 11 could provoke an angry protest tells us that there is something not right in the way we approach inter-religious understanding after almost fifty years of independence.

There is a proposed clause in it that is triggering the anger of the Muslims. It is one that proposes that a child born into a Muslim family be given the chance to choose his/her religion by the time he is old enough to choose a new one. It is one of the most provocative clauses that is coming from a committee that applies a paradigm of careless liberalism to a belief system that continues to be strongly preserved. Apostasy, is therefore a proposed ideology according to members of the IFC.

What does this proposal mean? How might we approach “inter-faith dialogue” through an educational lens instead as through legal means? I read the clause on “pro-choice in religion” and it triggered a reaction as serious as the last two clauses of the Surat Akujanji that triggered my dismissal from Universiti Utara Malaysia. While the two Akujanji clauses are pathetic clauses unfit for the consumption of a “space-bound- Muslim-nautical society”, the clause by the IFC is like a nuclear fission of interfaith conflict.

The members of IFC are bound by its logic bubble while those who oppose it are religious-driven beings. Both groups are operating on two different and irreconcilable paradigms. I do not think there will be a compromise. I do not think there must be a compromise especially in the clause that proposes ‘freedom of religious choice’. It is simply an antagonistic proposal for a deeply religious-based plural society such as Malaysia. Malaysia is not California, USA. We are trapped in the language we use. In the case of the controversy, when the word “commission” is used, instead of a “conversation” or dialogue, we are entering into zone of conflicts.

If the intention of the commission is to attack the very foundation of the Islamic belief system and not to understand its role in the spiritual, emotional, political and economic development of Muslims, then there will be conflicts.

Critical mass of good

Already, the idea of several thousands of Muslims who have supposedly applied to leave Islam has become somewhat of a propagandistic tool for political opportunists to undermine the religion. We can never know what the intention of such a ‘report’ as it has become, like the Danish cartoon issue, a daisy cutter bomb to hurt the feelings of the Muslims. Already, Muslims are grappling with the issues of the moral deterioration of its youth, the increasing number of drug abusers, damaging counter-culture and the increasing number of those calling themselves ‘the Quranists’ who reject the teaching and the personhood of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh).

We are also seeing the emergence of women’s group with dubious interpretation of feminism. Islam has been a religion of tolerance in Malaysia and does not need to be challenged by those who do not understand its mission and vision. What Malaysians need is to continue to understand each other’s faith and to let each and every religion strengthen itself against all forms of bigotry, material greed and the further division of people based on caste and economic classes.

What we all need to do is to raise our children to become good Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Jains, Taoists, Confucionists, Buddhists, etc, so that we may learn to live better and become good citizens in a pluralistic, multiracial and democratic society. Our goal must be to come together amidst our differences, to create a critical mass of good virtuous Malaysian who will keep throwing out morally and materially corrupt politicians who are still in Parliament. We must educate our children to use religious ethics to elect good Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. into power. What we see emerging are creatures intoxicated by power and greed that are using religion to manipulate others and to create their own family wealth. Our politicians have become corrupt to the core as a consequence of decades of ethnic-based politics that utilises race and religious sentiments to plunder the wealth of the nation in the name of progress and national development.

We must create good religious humanists through conversation and dialogues that aim to respect each other’s belief and spread the message of peace but founded on liberation theology. We must begin by understanding what we are and the ‘self’ we inhabit, through the own unique belief system we are born into. The Self, in the process of evolving, goes through different levels of understanding of what humanism means. We journey from one station of the soul to another, transmigrating from one real of spiritual understanding and ignorance to the next. The self, through a misunderstanding of the nature of the self, must learn to understand, within one's own paradigm of religious and philosophical belief system, what the self means and how to use the powers within the self to navigate through the complexities of this corrupt world.

Primordial self

The French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau once, said, ‘Everything is good as it leaves the hand of the author of Things, everything degenerates in the hands of man’. The Bhagavad Gita taught us eloquently about the beauty of the self, in the tense conversation between Arjuna and Krishna in which the essence of the self can be understood once the self is ‘destroyed’ and becomes one with all Creation.

The teachings of Jesus taught us how to love others, to be at peace with oneself and with others and to understand the nature of greed, and not to go to war like the evangelical right and neo- cons of the Bush regime are doing. The Granth Sahib taught us a similar message of love and compassion, true to its nature of being a philosophy of life based on the teachings of the mystic Muslim poet Kabir, and propagated by the work of Guru Nanak. Kung Fu Tze taught us how to lead an ethical life, like a ‘chuan tze’ or a gentleman and to honour the elders but provided, I would say, that the elders are not corrupt souls who use their high places in power to subjugate others through lies, deceit, and draconian rule.

Lao Tzi and Mencius taught us how to lead a life closer to Nature and to the primordial self so that we may learn what needs and wants are, and how by transforming Nature into Capital, we may sow the seed of Human destruction. The Torah, in the most mystical dimension of its teaching, through the philosophy of the kaballah, taught us how to understand the self as how the Prophet Moses taught us. The Al Quran ul Karim, in its deepest meaning of love and compassion, exemplified by the phrase ‘In the name of Allah the Most Merciful, Most Compassionate’ taught us the beauty of the self and to love others and to live a life of ‘siratul-mustaqim’ – of righteousness.

The Islamic concept of truth, compassion, equality and justice does not tolerate abuse of power in any form. Nor does it in any way, tolerate hatred for other religions - let alone suicide bombings or suicide by any name. If we take time amongst ourselves to understand each other through these lenses of deeper meaning, we will not need one religion or another to proclaim this or that religious state.

The states we build will be within ourselves.

Instead of setting up commissions to dialogue faith, we will gain more if we begin with conversations with our inner self.

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