Numbers game not for religion
Jul 18, 06 11:00am
There are lies. There are pure lies. And there are statistics, or so goes a modern saying. We love statistics and many use statistics to lie. Academicians and social scientists too love ‘statistical package for social sciences’ to crunch human emotions, fear and sorrow. We massage numbers to mould conclusions to our heart’s ideological desire.
In Malaysia, we have been doing this with the New Economic Policy, unemployed graduates, drug addiction, casualties of war and victims of natural disasters, among others. Attach race and ethnicity as elements and we see the political-economic and ideological dimension of the issue. What's the latest figure of Muslim apostates - 100,000 and growing?
We're now playing the numbers game with religion. There is danger to this. It seems the number of apostates is growing - from 50,000 to 60,000 to 100, 000 now. It will keep rising at an “alarming rate”. Some groups in the nation will be gripped with fear, while others may be smiling in joy. Does reporting that 100,000 people are “leaving Islam” make those who have a negative misconception towards the religion feel good? Is this number good enough to give bad publicity to this religion of peace? Is this figure legitimate enough to say that one religion is truer than the other? Is this compatible with the current international image of the religion, continuously at the mercy of the onslaught of the envulturising international media?
I am worried about the statistical game; worried that we will forgot that it is the spiritual quest in all religions that need to be highlighted. I worry that the more we blow up the numbers, the more we will see emotions flare up. Daily, as we switch on to the news, we see people, places, and peace being blown up in the name of this or that religion. Apostasy itself would have been a non-issue had our educational system approached religion from a peaceful standpoint. A better way will be to draw out the element of ‘spiritual evolution’ in all religions.
"Religious from birth"
If each family raises its children to be good, thinking, and philosophising Muslims, Christians, Catholics, Hindus or Buddhists, and strengthen the fundamental knowledge and belief in the truth of each religion, we would have a better grasp of the issue of apostasy. We would even help the nation create less corrupt and morally bankrupt leaders. The key phrase here is ‘good, thinking, and philosophising’. These are the main ingredients of inter-religious tolerance - a way to educate the next generation on cross-cultural perspectives.. If we train each child to explore deeply the philosophical foundation of their religion, we would have a nation that will tolerate and respect each other's belief system. If we train our children to attain strength in their religion, we would have young men and women who will see the beauty of Universal Truth in all religions.
A Muslim, by birth is born into ‘peace’ and ‘submission’ and will follow the path of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). A Christian by birth, is born ‘with Original Sin’ and will need to accept Jesus to find peace and salvation. A Hindu by birth is blessed with Krishna consciousness and seeks peace and blessings in the Bhagwan, so that there will be liberation from this world of illusion (maya). The Buddhist by birth is on his/her way to stop the cycle of rebirth and to seek peace and attain moksha through the path of the Boddhisatva as taught by the Siddhartha Gautama ‘Conquering Buddha’. In all these, the main theme is ‘peace’ to be arrived at through different languages.
"Cultured religious beings"
The numbers game in the apostasy issue does not tell us much about the qualitative aspect of one's understanding of his/her own religion. We can never know the reason why supposedly 100, 000 have “applied to leave” Islam. It could have been an application to leave Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism or any of the native-based animistic religions of indigenous peoples - the issue of potential misunderstanding will be the same.
We can never know what their level of understanding of Islam has been to the extent it prompted them to ‘leave’ the religion. We will never know what is happening in the consciousness of the ‘apostate’ as the human mind itself is complex, and the only thing that is permanent is change.
We can know something through statistics. But to use numbers to raise alarm, to arrive at spurious conclusion, and to call for potentially misguided action - especially in matters of religion - require our caution and deep reflection. These are sensitive issues and any political decision made that is based on an information gap will bring dire consequences. We will craft harsh punishments to stop the spiritual exodus, contrary to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, who spent a lifetime building a profoundly peaceful religion that spanned the globe.
Is it not time that we work as a nation to create ‘quality’ religious citizens that will help us evolve into a ‘republic of virtue’ in which there is an absence of rampant corruption, abuse of power, and militarism? If we create in large numbers, youth of different religious conviction that will also learn from one another and defend truth of their religion at birth, we will be more ethical as a people.
Statistics can never reveal a reliable representation of human consciousness. The claim that thousands have applied to ‘leave Islam’ needs to be taken with a barrel of salt. Instead of playing the numbers game, we need to have more interfaith dialogues that will teach one another the core principles of each religion. We should even require all religious teachers in public schools to undergo cross-cultural/sensitivity training. What the numbers game is doing to the nation is to open up the discourse to a wide range of interpretation - primarily ideological.
This is not helping us understand one another’s conviction to the the common, peaceful core of each religion. What the numbers game is doing is what wartime propaganda does. It is playing the psychological game. The target audience will be immersed in doubt. Chaos will be injected into the community.
We need to create philosophical pastures, not paint a propagandistic picture of a ‘problematic’ religion. Let us approach Islam with peace, as the word itself means. We will then learn the difference between culture and spiritualism. We must stop burying human beings under numbers and truth under an avalanche of statistics.