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Published: Saturday September 20, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Saturday September 20, 2014 MYT 8:16:29 AM

Be always alert to what’s ahead

THERE is a thesis that the use of Islam for political ends through violent means is an Arab phenomenon. It is an Arab problem.

As a result of oppressive and autocratic regimes in so many Arab countries which deny justice and human rights and destroy lives rather than provide hope and respect, the only way out is a call to arms and a response which returns the favour many times over.

Horror, with the genius of hate in dimension and form, against all of those regimes and all deemed to be supportive of them.

Because Islam is the only social organisation those oppressive regimes dare not touch or try to destroy, the religion becomes the political platform for the violent struggle to bring down the evil orders. The remit is expanded beyond religious practice although the idiom of Islam is applied in the call to arms.

There is merit in this thesis. In the context of the current Islamist uprising against the corrupt and unjust regime in Iraq which excluded Sunnis who were victimised in that country, there is a sense of immediate explanation. Expansion of the uprising to Syria, against another even more evil Alawite dictatorial state, can also be explained by this malignant Arab phenomenon.

However it does not explain everything. The pan-Islamist appeal of the bloody movement that has evolved, first ISIS ( Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) and now focussed on the creation of the Islamic State (IS), is not just Arab. It is universalist. The call to arms has been answered by a wide cross-section of the global Muslim community.

There are 200 from the Maldives, which has a population of 330,000, numerous Malaysian Malays across all age groups, and Muslims from Europe, particularly the UK, and America, fighting for IS alongside their brethren which, once again, raises the spectre of Islam as a religion of hate and horror and threat to the world.

It has nothing to do with Islam. But this has had to be said too often and must be wearing thin among victims, especially those from the West whose relatives and compatriots watch in horror the bestial beheading of their innocent loved ones.

This is not just an Arab phenomenon. Look at the evil joy of the executioners who take black pride from their bloody act who come from the streets of London or Bradford. What is it that drives them? An autocratic British government?

Why then is there not bloody revenge in the UK, without the rule of law, something that can well be imagined in many a Muslim country if there were such atrocities committed against followers of the faith?

There must be something deeper to all this Muslim acts of horror which is not related to bad government. It has to do with how Islam has been allowed to be used and abused without intervention to stop it.

In the mosques and madrasahs, whether in the UK or Pakistan, teachings of Islam which justify violence and death after self-righteous human judgment of divine law, have been allowed to spread without let or hindrance. Those drawn to them - whether by a sense of exclusion or insecurity - so easily become the perpetrators of evil who feel they are justified jihadists either by acts or deaths of horror, including their own.

We call this extremist Islam. But the huge mistake we make is by calling it Islam at all. And by offering moderate Islam, as if there is a menu of Islam to choose from. There is only one Islam. It is tolerant. It is just. It is not violent. It is about performing good deeds. Its practice is between man and God. It is only Allah who will judge on man against His divine law. Those who arrogate to themselves Allah’s remit are guilty of a sin against Him.

We have to be really careful in the use of terms. We really have to be conscious of the false teachings of Islam we allow which is the thin end of the wedge even if today their intolerant outcome is sporadic and not sweeping, roaring violence. If we just listened to or read the exhortations to arms and violence against unbelievers, the threat of rivers of blood is not something to be complacent about.

Regime of terror

We must therefore act, for example in Malaysia, when there is any violation of the laws of the country, however slight it might seem. The desecration of a temple could be the precursor of a whole church, with the congregation within, being burned down.

Next, apostates. Determination and follow-up action by self-appointed extremists. The other day an “expert” on CNN said this about armed attack on the Alawite regime in Syria by the IS: “They (the IS) adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam which regards the Alawites as apostates.” Nonsense. The violence against the Alawites (for whom, as a regime of terror, I have absolutely no sympathy) is for other reasons, with the idiom of Islam being deployed to entrench it. So many other “Islamist” judgmental actions, so much more violence.

Next, other Muslims who do not, for instance, wear Arab forms of clothing? Where does it stop?

In the early 1980s, after the Khomeini revolution in Iran of 1979, the kafir-mengkafir campaign swept from the little village of Rusila in Terengganu, led by no less a figure than the present president of PAS. Umno members were not allowed to pray in the same mosques as those from PAS, just as their dead bodies were prevented from being buried in the same burial grounds.

In 1985, there was a violent uprising in Memali in Kedah which was crushed with many deaths. I remember it only too well as I was on the tarmac in the same plane as then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was waiting for news on how bad the situation could become, before deciding whether or not to fly to China for his first state visit to that country.

Main point: Things can equally happen in our country using Islamic idiom to justify violence; we must beware of the thin end of the wedge; we must act objectively and decisively against all who violate the law and not let them be shielded by the cloak of “Islamic” language; the use and abuse of Islam is not just an Arab phenomenon or occurrence; in Malaysia we have the additional factor of Malay insecurity that could drive “Islamist” action.

Conclusion: Apply the laws of the country without fear or favour; do not allow politically-motivated “Islamic” actions to scare off enforcement. Most of all, the Government must always lead in entrenching constitutional rights and the Rukunegara. We are a multi-racial, liberal and tolerant society based on the rule of law. Compromise on this would, yes, be the thin end of the wedge.

Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid, chairman of Bank Muamalat and visiting senior fellow at LSE Ideas (Centre for International Affairs, Diplomacy and Strategy), is also chairman of CIMB Asean Research Institute.

Tags / Keywords: munir, islam, extremist, Islamic State

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