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Between faith and farce

Posted: 29 Jul 2013 05:00 PM PDT

One reason for this is that in the West the church and the state have been separated whereas in the Muslim world, at least for quite a number of Muslim countries, there is no separation of church and state. Back in the days when there was also no separation of church and state, Christendom was no different from the Muslim world.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Are Muslims so weak willed and easily led astray? What does that say about the faith and Muslims in general?

If the truth be known, the strict controls on Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia, has nothing to do with faith; but has everything to do with control. Umno-Baru will use religion and a few well-chosen muftis to impose its will and its Umno-Baru style of Islam.

It knows that Muslims would not dare contradict the word of these muftis. No one wants to be seen to go against the word of God. Does the Umno-Baru government suspect that large numbers of Muslims wish to reject the religion?

Few Muslims would dare question these muftis, despite their incorrect interpretations, because the hassle they receive is not worth it. Anyone who speaks out is deemed seditious. They are arrested, charged and jailed. With this culture of fear, the rakyat is easily cowed into submission. (Mariam Mokhtar, FMT, 29 July 2013)



Mariam Mokhtar's opinion piece regarding Islam being about control and not about faith is both correct and incorrect. I say this because this criticism should not be targeted just at Islam in particular (or at the Muslims) but to the Abrahamic faiths in general.

I have, in fact, written about this issue more than once and, of course, the Christians as well as the Muslims attack me. I suppose for once the Christians and Muslims are united in their views.

Christians will argue that this may have been true once-upon-a-time but it is no longer so in Christendom. Muslims, however, argue these people, are still stuck in the rut that Christianity was in, say, up to 200 years ago.

If we compare Islam, today, with Christianity of the 1800s, that argument would probably be true. But if we compare Islam and Christianity of, say, 1500, you would find very little difference between the two other than in matters of dogma.

In other words, Islam and Christianity are both about control and domination, as was Judaism at the time of Christ -- which was why the Jews opposed Christ: because Jesus fought against this control and domination.

Some may argue that Judaism and Christianity moved on, they modernised, they changed with the times, whereas Islam is still stuck in the past.

That is one way of looking at it -- the libertarian or liberalist way of looking at things. However, the fundamentalist would not agree with this view. The fundamentalist would argue that the Jews and Christians have deviated from their religion whereas the Muslims still hold true to Islam.

In other words, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all the same. The only thing is the Muslims still follow the true teachings of Islam whereas not many Jews and Christians still follow the true teachings of Judaism and Christianity.

This point, of course, is subject to interpretation and disagreement. Not all Jews and Christians agree with the modern approach (meaning the liberal approach) to their religion. Many are still fundamentalists at heart. But then they are the minority and in western societies where the majority rules the minority has no voice.

One reason for this is that in the West the church and the state have been separated whereas in the Muslim world, at least for quite a number of Muslim countries, there is no separation of church and state. Back in the days when there was also no separation of church and state, Christendom was no different from the Muslim world.

A Kwailo friend and his Chinese wife dropped in over the weekend and amongst the issues we debated were the 'problems' facing the Muslim world (meaning violence, intolerance, extremism, etc.). His prognosis of the problem is that the Muslims are less educated and have less access to, for example, the Internet. Hence the Muslims are less informed and hence also the problems that we see.

I disagreed with this prognosis and spoke about the Judeo-Christian and Islam divide.

All three religions are classified as the Abrahamic faiths. And this is because all three religions accept Abraham as the patriarch. However, the Jews and Christians consider Isaac as the legitimate heir to Abraham whilst the Muslims consider Ishmael as the legitimate heir.

Now, according to Islam, Isaac, the son of Abraham's wife Sarah, was born after Ishmael, the son of Abraham's 'second wife' Hagar. Hence, although Isaac is the son of the first wife, Ishmael is the elder brother.

But then Sarah is Abraham's 'legitimate' wife while Hagar is their slave. Therefore, although Ishmael may be the elder brother to Isaac, he is Abraham's bastard or illegitimate son.

Seen in the context of today, that would most probably be true. But then seen in the context of the time of Abraham, a slave is the property of the master and sex between master and slave is legal and hence the children would also be legal and not considered bastards or illegitimate.

Today, slavery is not allowed. And if you have sex with your slave that would be sex out of wedlock and the children would be considered bastards. But that is today. We are talking about maybe 5,000 years or so ago. Values and standards then were different from that of today.

And this is where the divide between Judeo-Christianity and Islam begins. All three follow Abraham. But two follow one of the sons of Abraham and another the other son. And since the Bible tells one story and the Qur'an another, and since all consider their respective holy books the word of God, this matter can never be resolved till the end of time.

So the birth of Islam starts with a disagreement on which of the two sons of Abraham is the true 'leader' of the religion. And since Muslims believe that Abraham and Ishmael both built the holiest shrine in Islam, the Kaaba, there would be no way this can be resolved. To reject Ishmael would mean they would also have to reject the Kaaba.

Now, the prognosis of my Kwailo friend that the problems facing the Muslim world is because the Muslims lack education and do not have access to, say, the Internet, is a myth, at least as far as Malaysia and the Malays are concerned.

You will find that in Malaysia the rural Malays are not so intolerant and more accommodating than their counterparts in the urban areas. The farmers and fishermen are actually quite easygoing and if you have ever lived in, say, Terengganu and Kelantan, you will be aware of this.

Those professional and more highly educated Malays, however, are the opposite. They are less tolerant and more uncompromising. You hear and read about Malays (meaning Muslims) saying this, that and the other and give an impression that they are quite 'militant'. But who are these people? Are these people fishermen and farmers?

Certainly not! They are people who have gone to college or university and some even to overseas universities. Whether it is people like Ibrahim Ali, Zul Noordin or whatever, these are all people who have received an education and some of them are lawyers, engineers, doctors, and whatnot. And many are quite wealthy.

If lack of education or no access to the Internet which is the problem, then it should be the fisherman and farmers who are frothing at the mouth and not those from the higher rung of society who have received a university education.

Let's talk about suicide bombers as an example. Are you aware that some of these suicide bombers are very intelligent and highly educated people? They are not fishermen and farmers. Some, in fact, can even fly planes. And these are the people who perpetuate violence in the name of God.

Whether it is Judaism, Christianity or Islam, all three are about control. In the west, the people have managed to remove the control that the church had over them. But this was achieved through bloody revolutions at the loss of many lives. The Muslim world will need to go through this same process, which is going to take a long time.

So it is going to get worse before it gets better, just like it did in the west. And when eventually religion becomes a personal thing and not a matter of state, like in the west, we may begin to see changes in the Muslim world.

But don't hold your breath just yet.



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