Is religion evil?

 Is religion evil? Now that’s a tough question to swallow. To Professor Richard Dawkins, a famous atheist, religion has a great tendency to be evil but is not downright so. It tires me personally to engage with this question time and again because in the end I come to the same conclusion, that many of the world’s major religions that I know of do not condone extremism and are not evil. It becomes evil and extreme when certain followers misinterprets the religious text (mostly intentionally) for their own political and financial gain. And when such group gain publicity and influence they gain support from new followers who are either blinded by faith, poor or misguided. Some may argue that there are verses in the Quran that preaches violence. But such ‘violence’ mentioned are within certain context that are often disregarded and not discussed. For instance Islam does not teach its followers to go against people of other faith for no reason. The only time the religion demands its followers to act is when the religion is under serious threat. But even so, that does not translate to violence. If a dispute can be settled peacefully, Islam is more than willing to accept. But of course proving this point is though thanks to all the misinterpretation and Islamophobia. The only way we could view religion in its purity is to learn its fundamental principle and certainly not from merely seeing how it is practiced by the masses. There are but a few true followers of Islam who embodies the religion in their daily practice by its truest sense. This is true not only of Islam but of every religion.

Prophet Muhammad PBUH is “Kalki Avatar” in Hindu Scripture

by: Ahamad Yanuana Samantho

A phamplet containing the following was distributed at a mosque in Chicago recently. Pundit Vedaprakash Upadhyai, a Hindu Professor, in his stunning book claims that the description of the ‘AVATAR”  found in the Holy Books of the Hindu religion, matches the Holy Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.).

Recently in India, a fact-revealing book has been published. The book has been the topic of discussion and gossip all over the country.If the author of this were a Muslim he probably would have been arrested or murdered.

Perhaps all copies of this book would have been confiscated. Maybe, even  a ban would have been extended.  A riot and violence would have broken out against the innocent Muslims and their blood would been shed.

Amazingly the author of this book, Pundit Vedaprakash Upadhyai, is a learned and famous Hindu Professor. The book is called ‘KALKI AVATAR”.  Pundit Vedaprakash Upadhyai is a Hindu Brahmin of Bengali origin. He is a research scholar at the  Allahabad University in India.

After years of research, he published this book and no less than eight pundits have endorsed and certified his points of arguments as authentic.
According to the Hindu belief, the Hindu world awaits “the guide and leader” named “Kalki Avatar”. However, the description as given in the Holy scriptures of the Hinduspoints only to Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.) of Arabia. Therefore, the Hindus of the world should not wait any longer for the arrival of “Kalki Avatar” (the spirit) and should readily accept Prophet
Muhammed (P.B.U.H.) as “Kalki Avatar”.  These are his facts verified and supported by eight other prominent pundits.

What the author says is that Hindus, who are still anxiously awaiting the arrival of Kalki Avatar are simply subjecting themselves to never ending pain. Because, such a great messenger has already arrived and departed from
this world fourteen centuries years ago. The author produces sound evidences from the Vedas and other Holy books of the Hindu religion in support of his claim:-

1. In the Puranas (Hindu Scriptures), it is stated that Kalki Avatar would be the last messenger of God in this world. He would be for the guidance of the whole world and allhuman beings;

2. According to the Hindu religion prediction the birth of Kalki Avatar would take place in an isle, which again according to Hindu religion is Arab region;

3. In the books of the Hindus, the names of the father and the mother of Kalki Avatar are given as VISHNUBHAGAT and SUMAANI respectively.  If we examine the meaning of these names we shall come to some very interesting conclusion.

VISHNU (Meaning GOD) + BHAGAT (Meaning SLAVE) = SLAVE of GOD  = ABDULLAH (In Arabic) is the name of Prophet’s Muhammed’s (P.B.U.H.) father.

SUMAANI (Meaning PEACE and CALMNESS)  =  AMEENAH (Meaning PEACE in Arabic) is the name of the Prophet Muhammed’s (P.B.U.H.) mother.

4. In the religious books of the Hindus, it is mentioned that the staple food of  Kalki Avatar would be dates and olives and he would be the most honest and trustful person in the region.  Without any doubt, Prophet Muhammed is acclaimed to possess these qualities;

5. It is stated in the Vedas (Holy Boook of the Hindu religion) that the birth of Kalki Avatar would take place in an Honourable clan.  This perfectly fits the Quraysh where Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.) belonged to;

6.  God would teach Kalki Avatar through His Messenger (Angel) in a cave. Allah taught Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.) through His Messenger (Angel Gabriel) in a cave known as Ghaar-e-Hira.

7.  God would provide Kalki Avatar with a very speedy horse to ride and travel the world and the seven skies.  Indication of Burraq (the horse)  and Mee’raj (the night when Prophet Muhammed(P.B. U.H.) travelled the seven skies;

8. God would provide Kalki Avatar with Divine Help. This was particularly proved in the “Battle of Uhud”.

9.  Another dazzling account given about Kalki Avatar was that he would be born on the 12th of a month. Prophet Muhammed was born on the 12th of Rabbi-Ul -Awwal  (Hijra Calendar;

10.Kalki Avatar would be an excellent horse rider and swordsman.  The author here draws the attention of the Hindus that the real days of the horses and swords have gone and the present time of guns and missiles.  So it would be foolish on the part of those who still expect Kalki Avatar, who should be an excellent rider and swordsman to come.  In fact, the Divine Book, the Holy Quran, contains qualities and signs attributed to Kalki Avatar reflecting on the Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.).  The Author has given numerous arguments in favour of his claim that Kalki Avatar is in fact  Prophet Muhammed (P.B.U.H.) and those who still await the arrival of Kalki Avatar should not waste time.

Source: https://ahmadsamantho.wordpress.com (2010)

An honest look in the mirror for Malay(sian) Muslims

By: Nadia Jalil

Malaysian Muslims should struggle against anything in Malaysian culture which does not protect dignity and equality of human being.” — Tariq Ramadan, Kuala Lumpur, January 2015

Looking at developments in the US, I think there are few Muslims who would be unmoved by the large-scale protests against the #MuslimBan there. I wonder, though, how many of us Malay Muslims who have felt touched and inspired by the sight of non-Muslims in a “non-Muslim country” defending Muslims against oppression, felt a twinge of guilt at the fact that we have been complicit in, if not active participants of, oppression in our own country.

Quite apart from the “special position” of Islam in Malaysia, which has been used to exert a kind of dominion over members of other faiths—from the major, such as the illegal expropriation of Orang Asli lands in Kelantan and elsewhere, to regular microaggressions like calls to boycott businesses owned by non-Muslims—it has now become very obvious that we have a very sick society.

Malay culture has become one of judgement over mercy. We have abandoned the precepts of hikmah in da’wah and adab when we indulge in amar ma’ruf nahi munkar (enjoining good and forbidding evil). Indeed, more often than not, we relish in public undertakings of nahi munkar and barely enjoin good at all. Social media may not be a perfect yardstick, but given that Malaysians are one of the most active users of social media in the world, it’s a pretty reliable measure of social attitudes. Observe, for instance, the public shaming that occurs when a Malay(sian) Muslim is judged to have strayed from accepted mores, particularly in cases where women do not follow conventions in terms of dress.

This behaviour is tied to a development that goes unnoticed in our communities: rampant misogyny. Universities host “cover your aurat” week in which women who do not don the hijab are shamed and harassed, sometimes physically. While a lot of the conversations surrounding the return of a deported serial rapist have centred on safety concerns, another, more worrying, trend is Malay men indulging in victim-shaming—informing women that if they wish to be safe, they should police their dressing and their behaviour. At the extreme end some have wished that the serial rapist would rape women who do not police themselves. We have movies that turn rapists into heroes, and cases where rape survivors have been forced to marry their rapists, a ‘solution’ that is condoned by the community.

This misogyny seems to be founded on a culture of patriarchy that has been given an Islamist sheen. In official and unofficial sermons, women are constantly told that we must be subservient to men, that the one and only way to heaven is by serving the men in our lives, whether they are our husbands, our fathers or our brothers. Exposure to this male chauvinism starts from a young age: in mixed-gender schools, boys are encouraged to be leaders, girls their followers. By contrast, we don’t teach our boys that men, too, have duties and responsibilities to their wives, mothers, and sisters.

Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 3252 Narrated by Aisha ; Abdullah ibn Abbas Allah’s Messenger (saws) said, “The best of you is he who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to my family.” 

This attitude stands in stark contrast to the fact that Islam is a religion for which the last Messenger’s (PBUH) first wife was a successful businesswoman and his employer, while another is widely acknowledged as one of the major narrators of hadith, for whom it is said, “the implications of her actions for women’s participation in scholarship, political life, and the public sphere clashed with later conservative conceptions of the role of women”.[1] Indeed, Islam revolutionised the role of women in 7th century Arabia: where once women were thought of as nothing more than chattel and female infanticide common, Islam proclaimed that they were equal to men in God’s eyes.

Misogyny, in combination with a repressive and perverse attitude towards sexuality, has contributed to Malays having the highest rates of incest, rape, and unwed pregnancies. There has been no recognition that this is the direct result of a patriarchal and misogynistic culture that objectifies women, in addition to a refusal to educate children on sexual health and reproductive rights. Rather, proposed solutions again tend to focus on victim shaming and increasingly punitive measures.

We have now become a people who emphasise religiosity over spirituality, good deeds and good conduct; obsessed over the trivial and ritualistic. We are constantly preoccupied by perceived incursions into our ‘rights’ by non-Muslims, and this siege mentality permeates our interactions with them: a clearly non-Halal pork burger restaurant gives one of its dishes a traditionally Malay name, and we are up in arms, claiming it an insult to our religion.

Where, then, are similarly vociferous outcries in matters of grave injustice? We police outward shows of religiosity—what we eat and what we wear, and demand that our rights supersede those of others, always. As citizens of a multicultural country we ignore the rights of others and public interest (maslahah) in order to chase “religious points”. We stand quietly by as an Islamist State government destroys Temiar lands and punishes members of the tribe who are protecting their homes and trying to stop the environmental devastation that occurs through excessive logging.

We don’t question massive embezzlement of public funds, even when we know that those funds are used to finance people going for Haj and Umrah—which seems to me a very perverse way of “spiritual money laundering”. We allow for the fact that many of our mosques are not sanctuaries but places where the most vulnerable amongst us are turned away.

Our preoccupation with religiosity is aided and abetted by an institutionalised religious infrastructure that infantilises Muslims by claiming that only it can “defend the honour of our faith” and “protect Muslims from becoming confused”. We are constantly told that only the official way is religiously acceptable, even if some rulings rely on a narrow and highly literal interpretation of Scripture. Any form of questioning, however slight, or criticism, however valid, is automatically labelled deviant, and an attack on Islam. In addition, we have a moral police that has been known to harass suspects to the point of causing death—how is this following the precepts of ‘adab?

The fact that Islam in Malaysia is now represented by moral policing, religious bigotry and misogyny has contributed to resentment among non-Muslims, giving rise to Islamophobia. Many non-Muslims lauded Trump for his anti-Muslim views because they have been presented and oppressed by this narrow, intolerant and sometimes, absolutely distorted version of Islam their whole lives.

There are other challenges, but the final one I would like to put forth is the rise in violent extremism. According to IMAN Research, as at August 2016, 236 Malaysians have been arrested by the authorities for joining ISIS, including a 14-year-old girl.[2] This is not surprising, given the fetishising of violent jihad above all other types of jihad, not only in some Madrasahs, but in ‘mainstream’ environments as well. In addition to that, official efforts by the establishment to counter violent extremism contrasts jarringly with domestic bigotry that continuously otherises those in the minority.

I highly suspect that part of this behaviour is due to the heavily politicised nature of Islam in this country, where Umno and PAS regularly try to “out-Islam” the other, and all other political parties have to play along with this narrative. Thus has our faith been hijacked by rank politics and conflated with the bigoted ideology of Malay supremacy.

Of course, it can be argued that these are generalisations, and “not all Muslims” subscribe to these behaviours and have these views. I emphasise again that these are norms, in the sense that we have become desensitised to them and, apart from the statements made by more temperate Muslim organisations and our own private protestations, they continue on, generally unremarked and tolerated, if not accepted.

I am not at all questioning the position of Islam as the official religion of this country. Instead, what I am calling for is the end of this distorted misrepresentation of our faith. As those who are privileged to be in the majority, we have a duty to end oppressions committed in the name of Islam.

I fully realise that I am preaching to the choir in an amplified echo chamber. However, ours is a more dissonant than harmonised, whereas those promoting a narrow and intolerant Islam far removed from the vibrancy and openness of the Muslim civilisations which continue to be our inspirations—of the Abbasids, Umayyads and Cordoba—are concentrated and organised. We have let this go on for far too long. If you care for an Islam in Malaysia that is representative of our faith’s beauty, ideals of justice, and rahmah, I submit that we have to act now.

Firstly, we need to arm ourselves with knowledge. Of Islam, of other faiths, of socio-political and economic developments. Knowledge is, as always, power. If you choose to be devout, as Tariq Ramadhan, the Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, has exhorted, “(i)f you want to be good Muslims, instead of preventing people from believing, you become better believers. Don’t be scared of people who are not Muslim. Be scared, be afraid, be worried about our own lack of consistency.”[3] 

Secondly, we need to strengthen our own communities, and get organised. We need to overcome petty disagreements surrounding minute differences in opinion and support those organisations that are already working to promote a tolerant Islam that fights oppression. We need to form alliances, and yes, we need to go beyond the echo chamber.

Finally, we need to act against oppressions conducted in our name. Loudly speak out and strongly act against bigotry, fight for the vulnerable and marginalised, insist that our mosques are opened as sanctuaries, promote Islam as it truly is.

We need to get to work.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

[1] ‘15 Most Important Muslim Women in History’, https://ballandalus.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/15- important-muslim-women-in-history/ extracted on 10 February 2017.

[2] ‘The Allure of ISIS’, IMAN Research August 2016, https://issuu.com/theaffair/docs/newsletter- isis_1_aug2016 extracted on 10 February 2017.

[3] “Look in the mirror, Muslim don tells Malaysians critical of Western discrimination”, The Malay Mail Online, 1 February 2015, http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/look-in-the-mirror-muslim-don-tells- malaysians-critical-of-western-discrimi#sthash.lwflqwTZ.dpuf

 

Source: MalayMailOnline (11th February 2017)

When state and religion were separate

By: Ahmad Mustapha Hassan

Politics has become a curse to this country. It is no longer a means to achieve good governance and reliable state management. It has been turned into a source of power to inflict evil on people.

Power has been misused to enrich those in high positions. Independence has been turned into making the country socially and culturally backward.

Religion has become a source of amassing influence. The Malays were pushed into being servile, leading to a siege mentality. They were made to lose their power of rational thinking and to totally accept what the powers that be had committed.

During the early days of independence, the country experienced religious tolerance and ethnic understanding. There was merrymaking whenever occasions presented themselves. Dances and singing were common happenings. Funfairs would make their rounds in various towns. There would be games for the children and at night there would be dancing to the ­various melodious Malay tunes.

Joget dancing was the order then. Hostesses would sit in line on the stage and those interested in doing the joget could purchase tickets and go up to pick the dancing partner of their choice. There would be joget and later this would be termed joget moden because Western tunes had also been incorporated.

There would be the old ronggeng, the precursor to joget, and in the north, there would be changgong from Perlis and ramvong, joget dancing to Thai music.

People were able to dispense with all the stress of life during the day through these fun outlets. There were no cases of rape, incest and such other devilish happenings. In big cities like Penang and Kuala Lumpur, there were cabarets whereby working people would be able to get rid of the stress of work.

This was the place where enterprising people would practise their flair for Western dancing. They would do the various ­dances, such as the foxtrot, waltz, quickstep, rumba, samba, tango and other new trends. Competitions were also held and it was all in good fun.

Religion was never part of public dominance. It was a private matter. That was when religion and the state were completely separated.

The Islamic religious departments were only involved in family matters, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. Other aspects were left to the discretion of the people. Religion was never forced into the everyday life of the people.

Malay-Muslim children from a young age would attend afternoon Islamic religious classes where the various aspects of their religion were made known to them. The emphasis was that the individual was answerable to Allah and not to anybody else.

But Umno’s rivalry with Pas for the support of the Malay-Muslims caused both these political parties to accuse one another of being non-Islamic, and thus the devil was let loose. Once Pas started to accuse Umno of being deviant in its Islamic stand and also convinced some conservative Malays of the sins practised by Umno, the latter in the 1980s turned into being fanatical in its Islamic agenda.

The Islamisation of the country started to take shape.

The tudung suddenly appeared as part of so-called female Islamic attire. Dances were no longer encouraged. Life had been made austere.

Islamic religious departments were expanded and new ones ­created, like the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim). Religion had been made part of the state. Malay-Muslim life had been regulated.

Money and power were invested in these religious institutions and with power in hand, more regulations were manufactured. Halal certificates became necessary to indicate to the Malay/Muslims which places they could patronise. This was done simply to exhibit the power these institutions had.

The Umno government became victim to the whims of Pas, and there was no need for Pas to govern the country as Umno was implementing its agenda.

Malay culture was deemed ­deviant from Islamic values and Arabic culture started to seep in. There were no more greetings of selamat pagi or selamat datang. All terms had to be in Arabic. Politicians in starting their speeches would rattle off in Arabic for a few minutes to show off how Islamic they were before coming to what they wanted to deliver, and would do the same when ending their speeches.

The Malay-Muslims in the country became obsessed with rituals and other humanistic aspects of religion were discarded. Thus they became arrogant and aggressive in displaying their Muslim-hood. This is nothing but mere hypocrisy.

Religion should be personal. The state should have no say in regulating Malay-Muslim life. What each individual does, drinks, eats and wears is up to each individual to choose as long as there exists no criminal element.

The state must divorce itself from religion. The country must go back to being secular and let religion be the choice of individuals.

There should be only one legal system and to have two running in the country has caused confusion, where even the learned cannot distinguish between consent, conversion and conscience.

Ahmad Mustapha Hassan is a ­former press secretary to Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

Source: Aliran (11th February 2017)

Kritikan terhadap umat Islam yang perlu diambil serius

Oleh: Farouk A. Peru

Ada kritikan yang akan melondehkan kelemahan kita. Inilah kritikan yang harus kita dengan dengan telilti.

Dunia Islam kini tidak menunjukkan tanda pemikirannya maju ke depan, sebaliknya lebih menunjukkan ciri kemunduran, lebih buruk daripada beberapa dekad lampau.

Lihat sahaja di Terengganu. Penunggang motosikal yang berlainan jantina dan tidak mempunyai hubungan keluarga atau perkahwinan, boleh ditahan dalam Ops Bonceng.

Menurut Jabatan Hal Ehwal Agama Terengganu (JHEAT), ini kerana mereka melanggar ajaran Islam. Bukan itu sahaja, exco Ghazali Taib menyifatkan menaiki motosikal dengan cara begini mengaibkan dan memalukan.

Logik yang digunakan dalam pemikiran mereka amatlah daif. Adakah setiap pasangan lelaki dan wanita yang duduk berdekatan naik berahi dan melakukan aksi sumbang?

Bagaimana pula dengan seorang lelaki dan seorang wanita yang terpaksa bekerja di bawah bumbung sama dalam sebuah pejabat kecil? Adakah mereka terpaksa bertukar kerja?

Berdasarkan pemikiran ini, pemandu teksi lelaki pula mungkin perlu mengupah orang ketiga untuk duduk bersama mereka semasa mengambil penumpang wanita!

Bagaimana pula dengan pasangan berkahwin? Perlu diingat, status “berkahwin” dan “belum berkahwin” tidak tertera di atas dahi. Bagaimana pegawai skodeng ini tahu yang pasangan itu sudah berkahwin atau tidak?

Status mereka hanya dapat diketahui jika sesuatu pasangan itu ditahan dan diperiksa. Jadi bagaimana pula Ghazali boleh mengatakan yang pasangan yang tidak berkahwin nampak aib bila menunggang motosikal?

Inilah yang dinamakan logik yang gagal. Pemikiran begini membawa tamadun Islam kepada tahap yang rendah.

Persoalannya, mengapa umat Islam tidak dapat meningkatkan taraf pemikiran mereka? Bagaimana dengan masalah sebenar seperti kemiskinan, pendidikan rendah, masalah sosial and alam persekitaran? Gejala ini mempunyai potensi menghancurkan masyarakat tetapi golongan ulama hanya dapat mencadangkan sembahyang hajat.

Di sini masalahnya. Umat Islam masih tidak dapat mengkritik agamawan mereka tanpa mendapat respon yang sangat negatif daripada golongan konservatif di kalangan mereka. Kritikan dilihat sebagai serangan ke atas ulama, malah ke atas agama Islam sendiri.

Satu contoh yang saya perasan baru-baru ini ialah laporan memetik seorang pemimpin PAS yang berkata kritikan terhadap sekolah agama adalah rasis. Menurutnya, kerajaan memang bertanggungjawab untuk mendanakan sekolah agama dan sekolah aliran ini perlu diperkasakan lagi. Dia juga mengatakan sekolah agama menjadi pusat perpaduan negara dan pembinaan akhlak.

Adakah dakwaan ini benar? Untuk menjawabnya, kita perlu bertanya jika sekolah agama mempunyai masalah sosial. Wujudkah kes di mana pelajar sekolah memukul atau mendera pelajar lain? Bagaimana pula dengan kes rogol atau kelakuan sumbang? Jika ada, maka dakwaan ketinggian moral ini tidak benar.

Bagaimana pula dakwaan yang sekolah agama itu menggalakkan perpaduan negara? Adakah mereka mempelajari tentang agama lain? Jika ada, kenapa mereka tidak pernah menyuarakan pendapat untuk mempertahankan agama lain apabila diserang?

Mengapa, apabila penganut Kristian dilarang menggunakan kalimah bahasa Arab, orang yang melalui aliran sekolah agama tidak memberitahu kerajaan yang kalimah ini memang wujud sebelum kedatangan Nabi Muhammad sendiri?

Ini menunjukkan mereka tidak benar-benar berminat untuk menyatupadukan negara tetapi hanya melebihkan kepentingan kelompok mereka sahaja.

Bilakah sesuatu kritikan itu menjadi rasis atau Islamofobia dan bukan kritikan membina? Inilah soalan yang perlu kita fikirkan.

Benar, ada rasis yang benar-benar membenci Islam dan tiada apa yang kita lakukan yang akan mengubah fikirkan. Tetapi yang sebaliknya juga benar – ada kritikan yang akan melondehkan kelemahan kita. Inilah kritikan yang harus kita dengan dengan telilti.

Kritikan ini boleh dikenali dengan sifat mereka yang tahu pelbagai bentuk Islam. Ada Islam yang fundamentalis, sederhana, konservatif, liberal dan sebagainya.

Realiti yang kita hadapi dalam dunia semasa adalah rumit. Ia tidak semudah menyatakan “aku betul, kamu salah”, tetapi ada lapisan kebenaran dan kebatilan yang harus kita fikirkan.

Jadi usahlah kita alah kepada kritikan.

Source: FMT (25hb Januari 2017)