Articles, Opinions & Views: Why even bother with religious dialogues? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy

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No Atheists
In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God

Which must always come to pass

He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?

Have you always turned the other cheek?

To My Church have you been true?"

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't

Because those of us who carry guns

Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around

Except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here,

Lord, It needn't be so grand,

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

& Infor
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Why even bother with religious dialogues? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, November 17, 2018
Malaysiakini : “One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.” ― Thomas Paine, ‘The Age of Reason’
COMMENT | An irate Malaysiakini subscriber emailed me about Abdul Hadi Awang’s call for Christian priests and Christians to have a dialogue with Muslim preachers like Zakir Naik to find the “truth” instead of distributing Christian literature. I have no idea what having a dialogue has to do with proselytisation, which is illegal to do to Muslims in Malaysia anyway.
It is easy to caricature someone like Hadi – I have done it a couple of times. But what Hadi said is calling for an SOP (standard operating procedure) for the Islamists in this country. I am also talking about the Islamists within Pakatan Harapan and political operatives (including non-Muslims) who profit from sustaining a particular narrative of Islam in this country.
What Hadi said is exactly the kind of rhetoric coming out from New Malaysia politicians. Every time when a question of religious policy or trespass crops up, the federal government makes a big show and dance about how they will consult with religious scholars to determine the best Muslim outcome available.
Never mind that religious policy should be set forward by the political body and enforced by the religious bureaucracy. To argue that nominal heads of religion set religious policy is disingenuous considering the way how the legislative body has set the religious agenda in this country.
This normally means caving into the “group think” that purports to be the sole Islamic narrative in this country. This also means that the so-called moderate, liberal or whatever else kind of Muslim in this country is left out in the cold. I have often argued that the Harapan government is not setting the Islamic agenda in this country but instead allowing the Umno-PAS combo to define the narrative.
To understand the kind of flip-flopping that goes on in the establishment when it comes to Islam in this country, consider the brouhaha that erupted when Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa was offended by headline in The Star that (gasp!) implied that the Harapan regime was, by implication, a moderate Islamic entity because it would cease intruding into the private sphere of Muslims.
I said this earlier: “The prime minister backing up Mujahid's stance that the federal government will not intrude into the private sphere of Muslims in this country is a good first step. Reading the old maverick's rather forceful defence of Mujahid policy intent and the kind of Islam Harapan wants to promote is a positive indication that (perhaps) this was really a new-ish Malaysia.”
The above is important for various reasons but the most important of which is that the prime minister was actually attempting to change the narrative – even though there is ample evidence when he was prime minister the first time around, he played footsie with Islamists – and this opportunity was lost when a supposed moderate Muslim (with federal power) decided it was better singing an Umno-PAS tune instead of coming up with another one.
Harapan fails to capitalise on its power
A couple of months ago, I took a swipe at Bersatu’s Rais Hussin for justifying moderate stances using Islamic dogma. I cannot remember exactly where I said this, but I said it. At the time, it made perfect sense to me. However, of late, I have been talking to many young Muslim religious operatives and I can sense their frustration when it comes to Islam and politics in this country.
Depending on where they operate, Islam has a far greater pull than the various pecuniary scandals that brought down the Najib regime. While these young Muslims worked in various political parties and aligned with various factions within Malay power structures, they could all agree on one thing - that “secular” Muslim narratives were doing more damage to the Harapan-Islamic cause than the machinations of Umno-PAS.
Mind you, they were also concerned about the influence of Umno political operatives upon Harapan, but I think this has more to do with political survival than any principled stand. Anyway, the consensus was that Harapan had failed to capitalise on its power and introduce a moderate alternative to the hard line of PAS and now, Umno. The problem was that Harapan was failing to use Islam to project a moderate Islam because:
  • those moderate Islamic preachers, activists and intellectuals were not invited to the table and,
  • the Harapan politburo was more interested in covering their asses when provocations were thrown their way, instead of justifying their moderate stand using religious sources.
One of young Islamic activists who is involved in student politics said that while people such as lawyers Latheefa Koya and Siti Kassim were needed, what was more important is that the Harapan political elite be brave enough to confront the Islamists from PAS and Umno using interpretations of the Quran which highlighted the “good side” of the religion.
To say I am sceptical of this, would be an understatement. I wrote this when questioning the moderation of Mujahid: “Would someone like Mujahid ever say ‘no parent can ever unilaterally convert a child’? He may find it in some obscure Islamic jurisprudence, or who knows, maybe even consult the work of the late Kassim Ahmad – but non-Muslims would still be at the mercy of the possibility of him finding something ‘fair’ in the Islamic canon or not finding anything at all.”
But who knows? Maybe these young people have the right notion. What they are most angry about is not that Islam is used in politics but rather that this Harapan regime is not using Islam as a means of transmitting moderate ideas.
“Everything can be found in the Quran, Commander,” a young Muslim activist told me. I do not know whether to be afraid or hope that she is right. Harapan has, at its disposal, a vast array of propaganda tools which it could use. These tools permit Harapan to broadcast its so-called moderate agenda into the homes of millions of Muslims in this country.
The question is, will Harapan politicians do this? Will they create their own narrative instead of cowardly allowing the likes of Umno-PAS to control the narrative because they fear they will lose the Malay vote?
All I know is that the next time someone like Rais Hussin uses Islamic dogma to justify a moderate position or the prime minister makes a statement about Islam which is in direct opposition to the mainstream narratives, I hope the Muslim members of Harapan show a bit of cojones and back up the statements instead of siding with the extremists.
Until there is an official counter-narrative of Islam in this country put forth by the establishment, there is no point in having “religious dialogues”.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 3:00 PM  
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