These are just plain opinions; they can be rejected, refuted, argued against or accepted. These words are not meant to impose my ideals upon anybody , and they are not going against the law of the diversity of thoughts~~

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A response to IRF’s view on secular state

June 4-2014
I write in response to Islamic Renaissance Front's (IRF) reaction to Pembela, published in The Malaysian Insider yesterday.
I am not affiliated with Pembela or IRF, nor I am interested in their squabbles about the word "secularism" in our Constitution, but I feel obligated to comment on IRF's statement that only a secular state can provide religious freedom.
IRF seems pretty bent to prove that the Constitution provides the basis of a secular state, and because our forefathers have strived to achieve such agreement, we should follow suit, as the Constitution has decreed so.
I see no difference between advocating for a secular state because the Constitution somehow meant so, and the way pre-Islamic Arab societies worshipped idols because their grandfathers did so centuries earlier.
With this obsession with secularism, IRF has found a new idol to worship, and the way the article emphasises that only a secular state can provide religious freedom seems to undermine our own religion.
"And only in a secular system can Muslims be free to practice Islam exactly as they see fit and out of their own conscience, and not state coercion.
"And only in a secular system can non-Muslims be at peace without fear of their rights being compromised and erode," it said.
Secularism emerged as a resistance against the despotism of the church in Europe. The kings relied upon the "divine will" to gain legitimacy, while the clergy acts as if they were direct representatives of God. Countless men and women were oppressed under the name of religion, and thus the people sought to separate religion from the state and their livelihood.
Why should Islam go through the treatment of secularism, if such religious despotism did not occur in the first place?
Prophet Muhammad had offered freedom of thought and belief during the foundation of the city-state of Madinah, hundreds of years before the word "secularism" was coined. Non-Muslim were part of the shareholders in the Madinah Charter, and they were considered part of the Ummah, responsible upon the development and security of the state.
Under which rule did the Jews live in peace and harmony in Jerusalem? What kind of government was it that allowed Christians to coexist with Muslims in Cordoba? I am pretty sure it was not Ferdinand of Aragon.
The notion that only under secularism can ensure religions thrive is absurd and unacceptable. How could an ideology that seeks to remove religion and its values from the people ever be thought of being beneficial? I am not sure what kind of secularism does the IRF interpret from our Constitution, but secularism in France have seen Muslims being prevented from practising their religion freely. In Britain, religion is mocked and ridiculed by the people.
How could secularism create a country where religions can be practised freely, when the philosophy that came with it makes people skeptical to religion and abhors the mere mention of religion?
IRF, in the article, states that there is no compulsion in religion, then suddenly proposes that only secularism can provide such condition. This is a contradictory statement, and it shows how IRF is currently plagued with inferiority complex.
It is normal for occupied and defeated nations to emulate the example of the imperialists, and to assume that the creed that they had had for so long is somehow wrong or weak.
Rachid Ghannouchi wrote about "tawahush", which is about the return of mankind to the state of nature, or barbarity. Without religion to enhance good values inherent in mankind, they would become materialistic beings which lack compulsion to do good and prevent wrongdoings.
Family relations and bonds have collapsed under the secular system, while people living in close proximity don't even know the names of their neighbours. The state has to use all means possible to pacify the people; namely violence and welfare. We have seen how their societies broke into riots and uncontrollable mobs once the economy dips and their welfare is being reduced. This is the effect of secularism which separate people from religion and its values.
Therefore it seems naive to propose that religions can thrive under a secular state, or suggesting that the ideology brings benefit to the nation. It is an ideology which seeks to distance people from their Creator; a belief of emptiness and loneliness, for what would their lives mean without a vision beyond the world of the living?
The IRF need not worry itself over the making of the nation as a secular state, as it already is. Ghannouchi, however, names the form of secularism which exist in our country as pseudo-secularism, where instead of separating religion from the state, the government institutionalised every religious organisation there is, therefore making them instruments of the government, and effectively useless.
The government has done very well to incapacitate the role of Islamic clerics in a civil society, by limiting their works to finding pork in chocolate and raiding weddings, way better than a mass murder of Muslims.
It is due to this great evil that Islam is being trivialised and ridiculed by the masses, and the reason why IRF ran to the hands of secularists.
Jakim and other Islamic institutions should have been the main component in a civil society, working towards the eradication of poverty, and acting as a counter to the powers of the government. Religious institutions should be run independently by Islamic intellectuals instead of being an instrument of the government, and this is the only form of separation of state from religion which is acceptable. – June 4, 2014.

Reply by Dr Farouk Musa of IRF
What is obvious at first glance to Ahmad Ibrahim Zakaria’s response is that he doesn’t seem to understand why in the first place Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) issued such a statement. The statement was in response to Pembela’s challenge to prove that the term "secular" was stated in the Constitution. The sudden realisation that the word "secular" was not in the constitution was from the "revelation" by none other than Professor Shamrahayu Aziz during a seminar.
What we stated was obvious: that the word "secular" does not need to appear in the Federal Constitution since the interpretation is made by the contents of the Constitution. But we expanded the statement to touch on Article 3 that is pertinent to the topic being discussed.
And it is obviously malicious to associate the statement for advocating a secular state to that of the Arab societies worshipping idols because their grandfathers did so centuries earlier, since the Constitution was already meant for a secular state. The issue at hand is that Pembela denied that the Constitution had laid the foundation for a secular state. And that very fact triggered the whole debate.
Ibrahim made the same mistake as many other Islamists in thinking that secularism was anti-religion. While secularism in the form of laicete is antagonistic towards religion, what IRF is promoting is a passive secularism, a secularism that is neutral towards religion.
This is similar to what was said by Rachid Ghannouchi, leader of Hizb en-Nahdah (The Renaissance Party) when he stressed that there is no inherent incompatibility between Islam and secularism. And he defended a degree of separation between political and religious affairs in what is known as as-siyasi (the political or profane) and ad-deeni (the religious or sacred).
A state should be secular in the sense that it is neutral to all the differing religious doctrines. It does not mean the exclusion of religion from the public life of a society. The misconception that it does is one of the reasons many Muslims tend to be hostile towards the concept.
As Abdullahi An-Naim argued, state neutrality is necessary for true conviction to be the driving force of religious and social practice, without fear of those who control the state.
And typical of any Islamist argument is to cite the history fourteen centuries ago where freedom of thought and belief was the foundation of the city–state of Madinah. While nobody denies the fact that it was the main foundation laid by the Prophet, circumstances at large today are a far cry from such a situation.
Unless Ibrahim is living in a vacuum, freedom of conscience and religion is gradually being eroded in the 21st century in this country called Malaysia and being felt by many; not only the non-Muslims but also Muslims of other denominations than that of the mainstream endorsed by Jakim and Jais.
I do not have to cite the numerous inexhaustible examples and the trend is very worrying so much so that some have even envisaged that very soon this country will become the next Taliban state, but of course with a Syafi’i flavour.
And yes, no matter how absurd it might sound to Ibrahim and the like, we stand by our argument that only in a secular state can religions thrive.
This argument does not arise from an antagonistic attitude against piety but from a true appreciation of what piety is all about: a sincere belief free from coercion. Any regime that imposes piety because of the belief that it is part of the doctrine “commanding the good and preventing the wrong”, for instance, is basically creating a community of hypocrites instead of instilling genuine piety.
Genuine piety only arises through personal choice. And that choice only becomes possible when there is freedom.
In other words freedom to sin is a necessary medium to be sincerely pious. The erudite Muhammad Asad made it very clear when making his commentary in his magnum opus The Message of the Quran regarding verse 25 of al-A’raf or Faculty of Discernment where he commented on the story about the temptation of Adam and Eve, saying:
“The growth of his consciousness – symbolised by the willful act of disobedience to God’s command – changed all this. It transformed him from a purely instinctive being into a full-fledged human entity as we know it – a human being capable of discerning between right and wrong and thus of choosing his way of life. In this deeper sense, the allegory of the Fall does not describe a retrogressive happening but rather, a new stage of human development: an opening of doors to moral consideration. By forbidding him to 'approach the tree', God made it possible for man to act wrongly, and therefore, to act rightly as well. And so man became endowed with that moral free will which will distinguish him from all other sentinel beings.”
And to us, the only way forward is to allow a space for intellectual discourse and to respect religious rights and freedom of conscience and expression, which is clearly wanting.
Islam and true religiosity could thrive better in a secular state that breaks down the monopoly of religious truth. It is a space needed for a Muslim to live a life based on his own free will and true conviction, not because of the state’s imposition.
Secularism, as the separation of state from religion, is probably the minimum requirement for participation in the sphere of civic reason.
Secularism needs religion to provide moral guidance for the community and in turn, religion needs secularism to mediate the relations between the different communities that share the same political space and space of civic reason.
Secularism is able to unite diverse communities of belief and practice into one political community simply because the moral claims it makes are minimal.
And secularism is able to tolerate differing view in a religiously diverse community while maintaining its political stability. Such a situation is probably just a dream in an autocratic Islamic state envisioned by many Islamists, including Ibrahim.
And only in a secular democratic state will all citizens, believers no less than non-believers, and even believers from the various denominations, Sunni and Shiite alike, have the same basic reason to embrace the right to religious freedom.
They will have total freedom from a government that wants to behave as an arbiter of religious truth or worse, a government that manifests its coercive power to impose religious authority and uniformity. – June 5, 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment