Wednesday, November 26, 2008

RPK has the last word on FATWAHS!

Raja Petra Kamarudin is no mere journalist. His mental clarity and moral courage effectively make him the Conscience of the Nation. In his youth he may have been a bit of a hotheaded hellraiser but today, at the mature age of 58, he has come fully into his own as a Community Elder - somebody whose advice and opinion is well worth considering. With the added bonus of his royal pedigree, which adds a certain amount of clout to his proclamations, RPK's perspective on issues that concern the nation cannot be taken lightly, ignored, or suppressed (as the home minister and attorney-general are desperately trying to accomplish on behalf of their boss, Mr Pink Lips of "I never met the Mongolian woman" fame). Today on NO HOLDS BARRED, RPK presents his level-headed, no-nonsense view on the National Fatwa Council and their compulsion to fatuously fatwa the most trivial matters, blatantly ignoring what's truly important for the continued well-being and future health of the Ummah...

Raja Petra Kamarudin | FATWAHS GALORE
In time, these great Islamic empires became so corrupt that they eventually disappeared from the face of this earth. What we see in the Middle East today is the residual of the once great Islamic empire from the Golden Age of Islam.

Aiyah, so many people phoned me to ask why I have not written about the current fatwah controversy. People seem to have the impression that it is my duty to talk about everything under the sun. I think enough people, right up to the Sultans and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, have touched on the matter. Do you really need me to also offer my two cents worth?

I suppose I can’t run away from my ‘duty’ of also whacking the issue seeing that I have been ‘officially’ labelled as an insulter of Islam. People just expect me to put my foot in my mouth on any issue involving Islam. Anyway, here goes.

I have no problems with the Fatwah Council or religious bodies coming out with fatwahs. It is not like anyone would follow them anyway. It is just an exercise in hot air as far as I am concerned. I mean, take the many ‘fatwahs’ already passed by God and cemented in the Quran for eternity. Do Muslims really take heed over what has been forbidden by God?

I remember a talk that Sheikh Imran Hosein once gave in Kuala Lumpur about ten years ago on the subject matter of riba' or usury. We published his lecture into a booklet and distributed it free to all and sundry.

Sheikh Imran said that, according to the Prophet Muhammad, there are 80 levels of usury, bribery being just one of them. And the sin of the lowest level of all, said Sheikh Imran, tantamount to the sin of sexual intercourse with your own parent.

Can you imagine yourself having sex with your father or mother? Well, the sin of the lowest level usury is the same as the sin of sex with your own father and mother. And bribery is not the lowest level yet. So the sin of bribery certainly ranks higher than the sin of sex with your own mother or father.

Is there a fatwah on bribery? Do you even need a fatwah from the Fatwah Council or any religious body when God has already issued His ‘fatwah’? A man-made fatwah would be unnecessary and redundant. A fatwah can never make bribery more haram than it already is. And that is probably why no one sees the need for coming out with another fatwah.

But this does not stop Muslims from taking bribes. Considering that more than 90% of Malaysia’s civil servants are Muslims, and bribery is most rampant amongst the civil service, this would mean the Muslims are the most corrupt lot, at least as far as Malaysia is concerned.

Look at Umno. Even Tun Dr Mahathir laments about corruption in Umno. They call it ‘money politics,’ of course, but this is just corruption by another name. And are not all Umno members Muslims (except for maybe some from Sabah)? Umno is actually very concerned about the matter and can’t quite figure out what to do. Even the most corrupted Umno leaders are concerned about it. When the crooks worry about the spiralling crime rate then rest assured the problem is very serious indeed.

Sure, ban yoga for all I care. After all I do not do yoga and it does not really affect me personally. Even ban lipstick and high heels as well if that makes us more Islamic. Have separate checkout counters for men and women and ‘his’ and ‘her’ swimming pools. These, to me, are small potatoes. But while we are at it can we also issue fatwahs and ban the more serious practices that ail the Muslim community? Can we ban corruption?

I don’t see how yoga, lipstick and high heels can weaken the ummah (community). I don’t think Muslims will convert to Hinduism or Christianity because of yoga, lipstick and high heels. But corruption can destroy the ummah. And most Islamic communities have collapsed because of corruption.

Muslims are fond of talking about the ‘Golden Age of Islam.’ Yes, at one time, Islam was a great empire. But it no longer is. And why is that? In time, these great Islamic empires became so corrupt that they eventually disappeared from the face of this earth. What we see in the Middle East today is the residual of the once great Islamic empire from the Golden Age of Islam.

And that is why the 'fatwah' from God, as related by the Prophet, says that bribery is one of the 80 levels of riba’ and the sin of the lowest level of riba’ tantamount to the sin of sex with your own parent. And this is more disastrous than yoga, lipstick or high heels.

Muslims have to get their priorities straight. Sure, come out with fatwahs if need be. But let these fatwahs be about what really ails us and not about some minor issue that was not really a danger to the ummah in the first place.

Armain Carlier, my one-time business contact from Schlumberger, related a story about how he went to Iran many years after the Iranian Revolution. He was there to visit their partner and to see how their joint-venture factory was getting along. It had been years since anyone from Schlumberger had visited Iran and they did not know even if the business was still in operation.

He was surprised when their Iranian partner handed him a cheque for the profits they had made over all those years. He thought the factory no longer existed, let alone was still making a profit. And he never expected Schlumberger’s Iranian partner to be so honest as to hand Schlumberger’s share of the profits over to him.

Carlier was so impressed and said that Islam must be a great religion if its people can be so honest. Yes, that is the example of an un-corrupt Muslim, which impressed even a non-Muslim like Carlier. And this should be the target of the Fatwah Council and religious bodies, to indoctrinate Muslims into becoming honest and un-corrupt.

So carry on fatwahing. I have no problems with that. It is just that maybe we should put yoga, lipstick and high heels way at the bottom of the list of items to be banned. Corruption should be the first target. That hurts us more than yoga, lipstick and high heels. That was what saw the end of the Islamic empire. That was what caused the extinction of the Golden Age of Islam.

And this fatwah fiasco has raised another problem. It has set the Rulers and religious authorities on a collision course. Will we now see a turf war between the Rulers and the religious authorities?

The outcome of all this is going to see one party embarrassed, either the Rulers or the religious authorities. And would this not be embarrassing for the Malays as well? And, in the meantime, corruption prevails. It is getting from bad to worse. And no one wants to come out with a fatwah on this.


wizsurf malaysia said...

Indeed Mr Antares , I think you are on par with him , except that I believe you are unfortunately not a self professed Muslim .

Which on hindsight might be the best thing to have happened to you ( or many of us ).

This fatwa thing is very obviously another piece of corrupted sandiwara and need we say "politically motivated".

You should be able to turn this into another effortless piece of montymalaysia pythonwara
LOL ! ( sorry , this is a serious matter )

Starmandala said...

Wiz - You're very generous, thank you! A wise friend once explained to me what "Islam" & "Muslim" actually mean and I realized then that all sentient lifeforms are either Muslim or evolving towards being Muslim. For the essence of Islam is to consciously align one's individual life with the Totality of Life Itself, for that is what Allah ultimately represents & embodies. Therefore the state of being Muslim simply means to be be attuning to & harmonizing with the Nucleus of All Existence. The Arabic/Hebraic syllable "sl" is expressed in human terms as SALAM... (which, incidentally, is MALAS spelt backwards ;-)

Anonymous said...

A non-Muslim perspective on controversial fatwa's
Posted by admin
Friday, 28 November 2008 18:31
Fellow Citizens,

Over the last few days, I witnessed much verbal battles online and elsewhere where some non-Muslims took potshots at the fatwa's and Muslims telling them to butt out as it does not concern them, many political leaders came out saying that the non-Muslims should not be concerned as it does not affect them.

Some even chastised Terence Fernandez of The Sun for giving his views , which in my opinion were very pragmatic and non-confrontational.

I abstained from posting a single opinion as I am neither Muslim nor a Yoga practitioner, but as a citizen living in a multiracial multireligious country I realize that it is not so easy compartmentalize these issues.

My understanding is that a fatwa is an Islamic religious ruling, a scholarly opinion on a matter of Islamic law.( please correct me if I am wrong) people who pronounce these rulings are supposed to be knowledgeable, and base their rulings in knowledge and wisdom. They need to supply the evidence from Islamic sources for their opinions, and as has pointed out by some scholars can come to different conclusions regarding the same issue. Harris Ibrahim in his peoples parliament blog also pointed out an instance where a fatwa issued was revoked several years later, in his story about Pak Ahmad.

He also points out that it is a fineable and jailable offence under section 9 & 12 of the syariah criminal offences act 1997 which includes flouting a fatwa. So it is not only about using ones god given conscience as a guide. I also understand that Muslims are expected to follow fatwa's but not obliged to do so. In short it between you and god. Thus it puzzles me that the fatwa is enforceable under the syariah act.

Is our Fatwa council comprised of members who have the stature to give such edicts, or are they merely yet another tool under the ruling government’s payroll?

Is it not odd that the fatwa council took unilateral action without consulting other Islamic bodies whether NGO's, opposition linked ulama or the rulers?

The fatwa council is under the jurisdiction of the Prime Ministers department, directly or indirectly influenced by UMNO who in turn control 35% of Parliament,

So how far are they represented by 60% of the population who are Muslims?

Should there be a more inclusive consultative approach where the view of a more diverse group is consulted before it is announced to the world?

That is a matter for Malaysian Muslims to decide.

As a non-Muslim citizen however my concerns are as follows :-

1) The effect of investment inflows into the country including tourism due to investors pessimism over frivolous fatwas, this affects us all regardless of religious affiliation.

2) Overzealous enforcement officers inconveniencing non-Muslims by hanging around health clubs and demanding to see identification, in the past it made us an international laughing stock when they asked an American couple for their marriage license, they have proven in many incidents to be anything but tactful. This encroaches on personal privacy.

3) Using such fatwa's to frame Muslim opposition MP's on trumped up charges, this will be a setback to the constituents (including non Muslims) whom they represent.

4) The ruling government who has the fatwa council under its payroll, twisting their arms to issue such fatwas to scare non-Muslim voters into abandoning opposition Islamic party PAS, I cannot help but notice the escalation since PAS extended the olive branch by formally ratifying its non-Muslim wing, it seems that they are killing 2 birds with one stone by trying to show that they are more Islamic than PAS at the same time trying to erode PAS non-Muslim support. I for one see this whole episode as possibly politically motivated with far reaching ramifications.

5) Its divisive effect over citizens, as it is in some instances we are divided in schools, eateries because of the religion we profess or the food we eat, must we be separated by the exercises we do as well ?

6) Will civil rights activists be arrested under ISA, for declaring a fatwa unconstitutional?

7) Will the ruling government through its control of the Fatwa council issue specific Fatwa's against groups who dissent against them politically?

As you can see we are not islands unto ourselves, everything is interconnected, more so in a country where the non-Muslims are a whopping 40% of the population. Fatwa's are the prerogative of the Islamic community, but justice, knowledge & wisdom cannot be claimed exclusively by any group.

Not discussing these issues openly or excluding some groups from the discussions will only give a cosmetic semblance of order and stability when in fact it will be a veritable timebomb when it permeates into civil society and causes dissatisfactions.

Having said that Malaysians must learn to discuss issues rationally without seeing everything as a win or lose situation, we need to learn the meaning of agreeing to disagree.

I am reminded of this quote by Pastor Martin Niemoler :

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent;I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

- Vijay Kumar Murugavell