What is "compassionate Islam"? - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, May 20, 2019
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | “The point of modern
propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust
your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.” ― Garry Kasparov
I am not trying to be snarky when it comes to Mujahid Yusof Rawa (above),
because I think he is desperately attempting to come up with a
counter-narrative to the right-wing Islamo-fascist narrative of the
likes of Isma.
Here is the thing though. Is “compassionate Islam”
something like the rebranding George W Bush attempted to do with
mainstream conservatism when his spin-doctors dug up some old
conservative literature, of a time when there was intelligent discourse
in the conservative intelligentsia in America? The American president
attempted (fairly successfully, I might add) to project the conservative
ideology as "people friendly" as opposed to the religious nuttery it
has become now and was sliding into when he was POTUS.
Islam need a “compassionate” makeover, when its adherents always tell
non-believers that their religion is the religion of peace and their god
is all compassionate? This is the same contra-indication when they
claim there is no compulsion in religion, but a religious bureaucracy
enforces dogma in every facet of their lives.
Whom exactly is
compassionate Islam supposed to be compassionate towards? For folks who
subscribe to the kind of Islam that Isma propagates, the idea of
compassion is meaningless. Islam is political power. Nowhere is this
more evident in Isma's “Malaysia is an Islamic state” campaign they carried out last year.
the press duly noted: “A thread on Isma’s Twitter account listed eight
items on its agenda, most notably the rejection of Malaysia as a secular
country, and to stress that Malaysia is 'Tanah Melayu' or 'land of the
Malays' with the Malays its native citizens. In addition, it called for a
stronger role for Islamic jurisprudence in the national justice system.
Currently, Syariah jurisprudence is under state jurisdiction instead of
federal. The campaign urged Malaysians to fight in implementing Islamic
obligations in the national context. It also wishes to promote the
assimilation of Islam into the Malay culture, among others, in its
language, tradition, clothing and food.”
Isma president Aminuddin Yahaya (above),
said: “We see these evil attempts still continue, and more dangerously
when those who believe in that are among the country’s leadership,”
which, considering what he has said about our non-Malay/Muslim
attorney-general, is fairly tame.
That is one narrative. What is
Mujahid’s counter-narrative? While Isma may take potshots at Harapan as
betraying the Islamic cause, it lists the numerous ways in which the
Harapan government has been buttressing the Islamic bureaucracy . Here
are just two examples. Isma’s homepage carried reports of Mujahid Rawa
creating a special bureau to confront the issue of people insulting Islam.
Isma also carried a news report of how Jakim was grateful its budget had been increased. As
far as incorporating Islamic values into mainstream Malaysian policy (a
major preoccupation of Isma) is concerned, in the beginning of the year
Mujahid Rawa visited Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad (below) with an agenda to further incorporate Islamic values into public policy related to healthcare.
meeting, among others, discussed issues related to the implementation
of the ‘Maqasid Syariah’ agenda in the national administration,
particularly in the context and scope of collaboration between MoH
(Health Ministry) and PMD (Prime Minister’s Department),” Dzulkefly
wrote on Instagram. “Maqasid Syariah” refers to the real purposes of
Does anyone see a counter-narrative here? Isma, on the
one hand, is part of the Harapan government's religious initiatives, and
on the other, claims the Harapan government is not doing enough to
Islamise this country. Meanwhile, the religious czar is talking about
creating a counter-narrative, but in terms of policy he is doing exactly
what the Islamic right wing wants him to do.
If you are confused,
spare a thought for the poor Muslims. What do they make of Mujahid
telling them that the Harapan government has stood up against “orthodox”
ideas, when he spiels against advocacy rights groups and liberals (who
he considers as dangerous as “extremists) and displays the kind of
orthodoxy that folks like Isma propagate?
Mujahid claims he wants
Muslims to abandon “rigid” thinking, but then why is the Harapan
government collaborating with folks like Isma, allowing their ideas to
propagate through government programmes? Mujahid claims he wants
to stop the backwardness of Muslims in Malaysia, but he offers no
evidence that the Harapan regime is committed to enacting progressive
policies in Malaysia.
Mujahid claims that people like the Isma
president, whose “ideas” run contrary to what Islam is all about, should
be dealt with with debates and dialogue. There has been no such
dialogue in the mainstream media organs. Indeed, progressive voices have
been shut out from the Islamic discourse and numerous state- sanctioned
investigations have been carried out because their ideas run contrary
to the ideas of the far right .
You can only hold debates or
dialogues if there are competing ideas. Having closed-door sessions and
coming out smiling and shaking hands does not demonstrate any kind of
consensus building, but is an acknowledgement that the Establishment and
pressure groups are on the same page.
I have discussed the
problem with Mujahid's moderation: “Therein lies the rub. Mujahid wants
an Islam that is convivial and not confrontational. However, when a
religion – any religion – is made the religion of the state, it is, by
very definition, potentially confrontational. Non-Muslims have to
understand then when it comes to Islam in this country, secular rules of
engagement do not apply.”
Some people think that I want Mujahid
to fail. I sincerely do not want him to fail. My instinct for
self-preservation trumps any kind of egotistical desire to be proven
People talk of certain ministries being the most important
for the betterment of this country. I believe the position Mujahid has
of leading the Islamic bureaucracy is the most important position in the
government’s portfolio. Everything else is dependent on how Mujahid
defines the Islamic discourse in this country.