Rid of Clericalism
Circa 25 July 2013: The Varginha visit was one of the highlights of Pope Francis’ weeklong trip to Brazil. At his encounter with Argentine pilgrims, scheduled at the last minute in yet another sign of how this spontaneous pope is shaking up the Vatican’s staid and often stuffy protocol, he told the thousands of youngsters, with an estimated 30,000 Argentines registered, to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a “mess,” saying a church that doesn’t go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group.
“I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!” he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. “I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!”
[ HTM Editor: Read what Zaid Ibrahim said in the matter of four Muslim girls being prohibited from participating in the Miss Malaysia World 2013 beauty contest. Extract from: http://www.malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/guest-columnists/58501-why-the-beauty-contest-is-important ]
I am disappointed not just for the girls. I am disappointed with the organisers who “chickened out”. I am disappointed with the Bar Council, with Anwar Ibrahim the liberal Islamist, the DAP and those out there who always talk about freedom and living in a free country, but who do nothing and say nothing about defending a very simple principle.
That principle is this: Malaysia is a democracy. It is a country founded on freedom and liberty. If people have forgotten, they should go back to the Proclamation of Independence of our truly great leader Tunku Abdul Rahman.
This issue is not about the beauty contest per se, nor is it about morality and religious values. It’s about living in a society that cherishes personal freedom and liberty. “Freedom has its limits”, of course, but those limits must themselves be limited by laws passed by Parliament.
No one else should be allowed to regulate the lives of the people, Muslims included, for to allow this would be to make a mockery of the legislative process and the representatives of the Rakyat. Don’t think that advocates of freedom ignore morality, because we value good morality. What is offensive is authoritarian rule exerted under the veneer of religion.
I know some lawyers who will tell you that the Federal Court in the Sulaiman Takrib case ruled that a fatwa is “delegated legislation” and therefore it can be issued by the National Fatwa Committee on a wide range of issues.
I say that the Federal Court is wrong – absolutely wrong – because it did not have the benefit of fuller and more detailed arguments. It did not reflect and contemplate on larger issues. It did not fully consider the legal and constitutional ramifications of its decision.
[ HTM Editor: Read what Marina Mahathir commented on whether faith is being on shaky ground and that it needs to be protected by indestructible walls built by the state. Extract from: http://www.malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/guest-columnists/58552-staying-happy-together ]
FROM age three until I was 15, I went to a Convent school in my hometown, Alor Setar.
There, both nuns and lay teachers taught me and the few other Muslim girls in the school, perhaps four or five in each class. As far as I know, every single one of them has remained Muslim to this day.
Our school building had a large cross on the roof and photos of Jesus on the walls. At school assembly, we listened quietly as other students sang the Lord’s Prayer. The nuns were covered head to toe in white and we liked some and feared others because of their strictness in class. But mostly, we were used to them and didn’t have much curiosity about their lives.
We did not, however, grow up totally devoid of our own religion. We had compulsory Ugama classes and on Saturdays, we had Quran-reading classes. This was in addition to whatever classes our parents might arrange for us at home. Nobody ever accused us of being less than regular Muslims, with less religious education than those who went to other schools.
And we got on with everyone. If I went to a birthday party at a non-Muslim friend’s home, they made sure the food was halal.
During Ramadan, we still went to the canteen but simply did not eat. None of us looked in envy – or resentment – at our friends eating. For that month, that was just the way things were. I don’t remember that we had to be protected from the sight or smell of food. Nor do I remember any of our friends trying to tempt us into breaking our fast by dangling food in front of us.
Could it be that in the years since I was a child, despite being subjected to more religious education, our faith is on more shaky ground than before? That it needs to be protected by indestructible walls built by the state because none of us can be trusted to believe on our own?
Today, everything is apparently a threat to our faith, from yoga, dressing in non-gender-specific ways to seeing people eat when we can’t. Nobody has any faith in faith any more.
Fasting, for example, is hard only for the first few days. After the body, and more importantly, the mind, adjusts, life goes on as normal. There is no necessity to constantly guard against temptation unless we want to imply that we are weak creatures and it won’t take much to make us fall off the wagon, so to speak.
We should be endeavouring to make things light and easy for everyone, do charitable work and bring people together. Yet, we see the opposite happening, whipped up by some of our leaders, including religious ones who really should know better.
I think it is time we built a resistance to the false causes that our leaders sometimes impose on us. On a day-to-day basis, we all get along, just as we did in my childhood.
We should get even by resisting being manipulated into the fears that our leaders want us to feel. We should refuse to fall for any of the games that they play, which result mostly in making us feel more angry and fearful. We have to stop falling for ploys that divide us and resist by coming closer together to be more united.
We need to take action to change that. We need to resist.
[ HTM Editor: Read what Sisters in Islam describe as idolatry by religious authorities. Extract from: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/sis-warns-jakim-against-claiming-to-be-voice-of-god ]
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 ― Malaysia’s religious authorities risk the sin of “shirik” (idolatry) after seemingly speaking for God in judging an online video deemed offensive to Islam, Muslim women’s group Sisters in Islam (SIS) warned yesterday.
“What differentiates Jakim’s opinion from that of the lay person is that Jakim’s views are backed up by enforcement powers of the state,” SIS programme manager Suri Kempe told The Malay Mail Online via email yesterday.
“Anybody who questions and challenges the injustice of these views and actions is accused of being against Islam and God,” she said. “This is tantamount to claiming to be the embodiment of God, and Jakim should be very careful as it could be a form of shirik.”
Shirik, which means setting up rivals or peers with God, is one of the gravest sins in Islam. Suri pointed out that understandings of Islam and the Quran are “partial, limited and humble” and cannot be considered “perfect or free from error”.
SIS speaks out regularly against some actions by Malaysia’s Islamic authorities. Just last month, it criticised the dropping of four Muslim finalists from the Miss Malaysia World 2013 beauty pageant after the Federal Territory Mufti said the female contestants had purportedly violated a 1996 fatwa that deems Muslim participation in beauty contests sinful.
The NGO said that fatwa, or religious edicts, should be deliberated by a legislative body like Parliament or a state assembly before they are made binding on Muslims, noting that the current procedure was “un-Islamic and undemocratic”.
[ HTM Editor: Pertinent to the above discourse is some extracts of an article by Imam Ahmed Saad, entitled “Al-Wasatiyyah: The Lost Middle Path”:
The Qur’an is a rich record of many verses calling upon Muslims to follow moderation and balance in everything, referring to this middle course of action sometimes as ‘straight path’ (sirat al-mustakim) or ‘righteous way of life’ (al-lati hiya aqwam) or ‘moderation and balance’ (al-qasd wal i`tidal).
The Muslim Ummah has to abide by wasatiyyah (fairness) because this is the only way of securing justice and maintaining fairness when dealing with global issues. Today’s world is complaining of the absence of justice and fairness, and it is the role of the Muslim Ummah to re-bring such concepts in action back to the life of people by applying the ‘always-theoretical’ concept of wasatiyyah
As a way of life, Islam came to establish a cooperating human society. In order to achieve this goal, Islam teaches its followers that they have to strike a balance between individuality and collectivity. Since we live in a society, we have to respect the other members of the society and respect their rights. It has therefore placed etiquette relating to seeking permission, visiting people, interacting with members of the opposite sex and the like. All this is meant to protect man against falling into extremity while taking his/her role as a member in the society.
The Ummah is in a real need to understand its duty as a witness to mankind and stand up to fulfill this duty by being an example in everything, sticking to justice, fairness and moderation.
We must enlighten the young generation about the importance of accepting the other regardless of how different he is and teaching them the ethics of difference. Besides, the youth need to be taught about the comprehensiveness of Islam and how to practice this comprehensiveness in life. Re-introduce to the youth the Fiqh At-Tadarrug (Fiqh of Gradualism) in which people are trained bit by bit on how to lead a true balanced Islamic life.
[ HTM Editor: From http://www.malaysia-today.net/mtcolumns/letterssurat/58041-most-islamic-countries-in-the-world-are-non-muslim begets a question: Is a good Islamic country one that keeps to the substantive teachings of Islam, more concerned with the content rather than the form of the religion? Where fairness, justice, honesty are the cornerstones of government policies and of its citizens’ daily dealings.
How is a good Muslim judged? By the number of times he prays a day, by how assiduously he keeps to the rules? Or by how he lives the true meaning of his faith? A study by Scheherazade S Rehman and Hossein Askari from George Washington University, published in the Global Economy Journal Vol 10 drew surprising conclusions. The study examined if policies of Muslim countries (or Muslim majority countries) were founded on Islamic principles in comparison to non-Muslim countries. 208 countries were studied.
The criteria: economic opportunity, economic freedom, corruption, financial systems and human rights were used to measure the level of ‘Islamicity’. The study found that most Islamic countries did not conduct themselves according to Islamic principles concerning economic, financial, political, legal, social and governance issues.
This is reflected in the governments in those countries but also the practices of the citizens in their daily dealings. Even at a social level it was found that many non-Muslim countries did much better in keeping to Islamic values.
The most ‘Islamic’ country the study found was actually non-Muslim – New Zealand. Luxembourg came second. The top 37 countries in the study were all non-Muslim. Imaddudin Abdulrahim, one of Indonesia’s leading thinkers on Islamic monotheism claimed that Ames, a small city in Iowa, represents an exemplar of an Islamic state.
Yet Islam does not play a part in the day-to-day social, economic and political life of the city. The population does not observe Islamic rules on food or dress. Imaddudin was not interested in form; he used parameters which reflect what he considered true Islam – trust, justice, fairness, freedom.
He found that people did not lock their doors when they went out and yet no one trespassed. If you returned a broken egg to the grocer he accepted that it was broken when you bought it and replaced it without question. People were honest in their dealings irrespective of the value of the transaction
Extract from http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/mat-sabu-believes-muslims-lagging-in-terms-of-ethics-and-integrity – PAS deputy president Mohammad Sabu says Muslims must return to their roots and learn to embrace ethics and integrity as many sorely lack these two qualities in modern times.
He said Muslims had been left behind by other communities in terms of being “honest, ethical and upstanding” as Malaysia moved towards achieving developed nation status by 2020.
“I am not pointing the finger at any political party. It is a general view which I have observed with the passing of time,” he said during a forum at Taylor’s University. “Nordic countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway lead the way in terms of being free of corruption and graft. Muslims should actually be at the forefront of such rankings, in terms of being honest, and not prone to either giving or receiving bribes.”
He cited an example which occurred at a restaurant he owned in Alor Star, Kedah. Mat Sabu was having a drink and there was a group of civil servants at a table nearby. “The waitress walked over to their table to calculate their bill. The bill was RM50 but was told to issue a receipt for RM100.”
Mat Sabu shook his head as he related this story, saying it had become normal for civil servants to inflate their expenses to increase their claims.
Another lament of Mat Sabu was cleanliness, a cornerstone of the Muslim faith, which he claimed seemed to be sorely lacking in modern times. “I have been abroad to other countries and I’ve seen with my own eyes that the non-Muslim areas were always much cleaner and hygienic compared with the Muslim areas,” he said. He said during a trip to India he asked to be taken to a clean halal restaurant for a meal but was instead told by his tour guide that such restaurants were located in the non-Muslim areas.
“Even in London, where the majority of Muslims reside in the eastern part of the city and the non-Muslims and Caucasians lived in the west, it was the former which was in a deplorable condition.
“What kind of message are we telling the rest of the world when we can’t even keep our own places clean? Why is this happening?” Mat Sabu questioned.
He said an ongoing operation in Indonesia where the chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), an Islamic party, had been arrested for graft was a sad fact. “This is a question of ethics and integrity. Muslims today are lacking in these qualities and walking down the wrong path.”