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What Muslims, Especially In Malaysia, Need To Do To Defend Islam – OpEd

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When politics becomes absurd, I go back to absurd literature to find solace. To philosophy to seek consolation. I am talking about the gathering of the ummah. I have no interest in even using that word. I’d rather stay home and read Anton Chekhov.

But what must Islam be defended against? Who are the real attackers of this religion? What then must we do working through the political will of the present government that promised to resolve the issue of racial and religious extremism?

Consider this – a philosophical, purely cognitive-spiritual Islam. How then must we educate? How must our policies to ensure peace and security be put in place?

Last week, I tweeted these messages on the Ummah rally: “O’ Malays! Anything better to do than attend another Ummah rally”? That sounds like a reason for a mammoth pre-Ramadan bazaar. During the “Ummah Rally” people would be shouting slogans they themselves do not really understand. A food festival sort of.

During the rally, they’ll say “Islam is threatened”. Not really. Islam is used profitably, I think. Nobody’s threatening anybody, actually. A rally is just to show that the country is marching towards the “Islamic State” joyfully. It’s okay if the Ummah rally is to protest against the money stolen from 1MDB, Tabung Haji, KWSP, KWAP, and surau donations.”

There is an internal force of implosion spreading like wildfire, calling itself “true Islam”. It is a historic dilemma that can never be resolved, I believe. What it does is to claim that it is the true form of Islam that needs to be followed by all Muslims. It is calling itself an ideology that is defending Islam.

Here are my thoughts on what thinking, feeling, life-appreciating-and-celebrating Muslims need to do.

Islam needs to be defended against bullies like the Salafi-Wahabis and those closing the minds of Muslims globally, preachers who profit from religion by pretending to be holy yet filled with hypocrisy, Islam coming from countries plagued with sectarian violence, the mullah and mufti who use the word ummah to blind society, and Islamic rulers who aren’t morally fit to govern Muslim society.

The religion also needs to be protected against Islamic parties that profit from the ignorance and gullibility of village folks, preachers who do not have anything better to do than spread hate in nonsensical sermons, those who wish to drag Muslims back to the Stone Age and fugitive foreign preachers who are bullying the Malay-Muslims.

The list goes on – Islam needs to be defended against those who use “Islamisation” to advance their political career, those in the Education Ministry who wish to spread Salafi-Wahabbism, those wishing to turn Malaysia into an “Islamic state”, those who reject anything that is Western and those who do not like Western education.

The state constitution is supreme – above religion. For Muslims, Islam is the “constitution of the self”, not for the rest. Know thyself. Salafi-Wahabi ideology is a cultist form of Islam I am not familiar with. I know the history since young. Dangerous. Islam is, first and foremost, a personal philosophy, not to be turned into a state ideology. Or else, a mad mullah will take over.

Muslims are more obsessed with hudud and green robes now. Move forward. Talk about hyperloops and green technologies. Is the education of today’s Malays in danger of being infiltrated by the Salafi-Wahabi ideologues in the Education Ministry? Investigate.

To say that Islam is under attack in Malaysia is to use a scare tactic. Before preachers open their mouth, they should study the anthropology of religion. It seems that one can be a celebrity Islamist preacher by running down other religions. Only in Malaysia. Even under the Pakatan Harapan regime.

Malay-Muslims in Malaysia still follow blindly the Islamic State. They have not done enough reading of genealogy. Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Syria – these states under the influence of IS and Salafi-Wahabis are failed states. Malaysia, beware of IS.

In Islamic countries, the problem is a wannabe mad ayatollah; in Latin America, Empanada-loving mad generalissimos. Each country is sovereign. Each has its own unique lunatic leader. No country is free from tyranny.

What to do now? Malaysia is allowing home former IS followers and soldiers, even giving refuge to a most despised hate preacher. Horrible policy. This is the malaise of the new Malay-Muslim government.

In the name of racial survival, the government is inching towards the IS and thus, endangering future generations. With the blessings of the Education Ministry, more universities may host that hate speech-monger. Absurd! We are weak in our critical thinking capacity. 

I’d say this now – Malaysia, deport any radical Islamist preacher who does not belong to our country before it is too late. Pakatan Harapan government – have the guts to maintain peace. IS is not dead. Its soldiers are merely returning home to carry out/orchestrate a localised-global war in Asia and in Southeast Asia. It’s a business of terror and spiritualism gone totally wrong.

What would you die for? I asked this question in a lecture to American students in discussing terrorism. One must not die for anything. Not even for religion. Not even for God. One must live to know oneself. To know God.

We must re-conceptualise the idea that religion is all there is to life. No. Spirituality reigns supreme. Even over the “self”. The lack of and ignorance towards the meaning of “liberal education” paves the way to the surrender of oneself to the jihadists.

The word ummah itself is not only vague but misleading. No one Muslim is the same. To each, his or her own soul. Not answerable to some cult or something called the Islamic State.

Dr. Azly Rahman

Dr. Azly Rahman is an academician, educator, international columnist, and author of nine books He holds a Columbia University (New York City) doctorate in international education development and Master's degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies, communication, fiction, and non-fiction writing. He is a member of the Columbia University chapter of the Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education. Twitter @azlyrahman. More writings here. His latest book, a memoir, is published by Penguin Books is available here.

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