Lecturer: Religious extremism threatens harmony

KUALA LUMPUR: Muslims need to stand up for non-Muslims and minority Muslims here if there is to be change.

Prof Dr Syed Farid Alatas said this in his lecture on “The Universality of Human Rights in Harmony with Religions” organised by Suhakam here on Saturday.

“What threatens harmony is religious extremism,” said the Malay­sian who is an Assoc Prof of Sociology at the National University of Singapore.

In his lecture, he touched on religious extremism, discussed its impact on harmony and society, the religious spirit of harmony, and suggested that the modern notion of human rights was mostly in line with Islamic traditions.

He rejected the view that Islam was against human rights.

“The current tendency is to pit Islam against pluralism, liberalism, feminism and even human rights.

“It has been imagined by the Malay right that what we call multiculturalism – as a policy – is a threat to Malay supremacy and socio-economic upliftment of the Malays.”

He said abuses of policy, corruption and mismanagement were obstacles to the upliftment of Malays, not multiculturalism.

There was no reason Malaysia could not have both, he added.

Dr Syed Farid said the public was confused as the Prime Minister supports moderation but Islam is said by others to be against pluralism at the same time.

He said extremism was a violation of Islamic tradition because moderation was defined “in terms of wasatiyah (Arabic for middle-path) and has do with the notion mizan (balance)”.

He urged for inclusivity, which upholds tolerance and acceptance of diversity.

Citing Syiah, who were referred to as a national threat in a seminar at a local university, Dr Syed Farid said: “I don’t think a single Syiah has been arrested here or overseas for being a terrorist.

“They tend not to be suicide bombers or join terrorist organisations. Those tend to be Sunnis, Salafis and Wahhabis.

“Some say human rights is a western ploy but Islam has a long tradition of recognising other Muslims and non-Muslims.

“Muslims of before have not only protected non-Muslims but respected and brought them into their administration.

“More recently, we saved Jews during the holocaust and Christians during World War II. But today, we vilify them.

“How do we know our children are not going to grow up hating Jews and Christians?”

Dr Syed Farid added that some imams during the doa at the end of the Friday prayer, say: “Protect us from Syiah.”

Already Syiah, both local and foreign, are being accosted in mosques and surau in condominiums and universities.”

Dr Syed Farid urged for discourse on hate speech and the need to draw the line.

“We need to defend the rights of Muslims and others.

“Muslims have to be vocal, only then will things change.”


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