Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Saving Islam and Democracy - the interuppted Bar Council Forum

The whole day, I have been getting calls non-stop for my two cents worth of the “storming of the Bastille”…oops I mean the calling off of the Bar council forum on “Conversion to Islam: Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution, Subashni and Sharmala revisited” due to Muslim protestors. The first thing I did was to get the view of one of the panel speakers. He said that he felt it was a win-win situation for both the Bar Council and the protestors. The forum did go on for an hour but did not go on for the planned full duration. Ambiga, the Bar Council President, was said to have exercised her judgement wisely to shorten the forum in view of the protestors.

Walao! A day of victory for democratic rights where protestors can successfully stop a forum organized and participated by “thinking people” in society? But what about the exercise of democratic rights by those who want the forum to go on? Difficult position?

But the organizers, it is said, were already warned that the issue is sensitive. Even one or two of the government officials pre warned that it was sensitive. It is “sensitive” to discuss the legal problems faced by those who converted into Islam? It is sensitive to allow the affected families to relate their experience so that they can be understood and remedies sought? Objective, indoor, peaceful discussion is sensitive?

We know what the forum was about. Anyone can read the flyers given by the bar Council. There was nothing to hide. The forum had distinguished speakers like Prof Dr Mehrun Siraj, prominent syariah lawyer Mr Hanif Khatri and others. There were many other muslims in the auditorium. They did not feel that the forum was an “affront” to Islam as the protestors obviously did.

There are muslims in the Bar council and if the forum went on, it must mean that the muslims in the Bar Council did not feel it was a “challenge to Islam”. So, there were two views then? The muslims in the bar council and in the forum felt it was okay but the muslims in the protest felt it was not. So when there are differing views what are we to do?

Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it: those are
the ones whom God has guided, and those are the ones endued with understanding. 039.018

My questions to myself are these: 1) who really organized the protests? Of course the papers reported that there were 100-odd protestors from various “muslim NGOs”. Notable among those who attended were figures from political parties –UMNO, PAS, PKR, etc. But in Malaysia, we have a culture of wearing many hats. Can I presume that the “leaders” who organized the protests already had pre-discussions with the Bar council to determine the content and purpose of the forum? It is the mark of a believer to act based on knowledge reasonably obtainable rather than suspicion.

O ye who believe! Avoid suspicion as much (as possible): for suspicion in
some cases is a sin: And spy not on each other behind their backs. Would any of you
like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, ye would abhor it...But fear God: For
God is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. 049.012

2) Do the protestors know what they are protesting against? The placards and the speeches had messages like “jangan cabar Islam”. “jangan hina Islam”, “Hidup Islam”, "hancur bar council" and so on. So am I to conclude that these protestors came to “protect Islam”? I really do not know. I keep insisting to myself that God is the protector of Truths and that if we are able we may recognize them.

3) Have the protestors investigated, verified what they are going to protest against? Since they were doing so in the name of Islam, surely it would be correct to ask if they were acting according to Islamic principles. This is what the Quran says:

And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge; for every act of
hearing, or of seeing or of (feeling in) the heart will be enquired into (on the Day of
Reckoning). 017.036

4) And I have asked this question to myself so many times before. Why do such protestors often loudly shout “Allahu Akbar” which is taken to mean “God is great” ? What is the purpose? To educate those who can hear? To remind themselves? To invoke God’s assistance? Why is that always done? I sincerely will like someone to enlighten me on this.

Call on your Lord with humility and in private: for God loveth not those
who trespass beyond bounds. 007.055

Do no mischief on the earth, after it hath been set in order, but call on Him
with fear and longing (in your hearts): for the Mercy of God is (always) near to those
who do good 007.056

If the protestors were right in the eyes of God, they did NOT save Islam as their placards proclaimed. Islam does not need to be saved by any mortal. If they were wrong, their actions did NOT shame Islam. It reflects on their understanding of their religion, by whatever name they call it.

And my two cents view? None. I only have questions about what happened. And I acknowledge that I could even be asking the wrong questions. In ending, I remind myself of the following two verses from the Quran:

Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides God, lest they out of spite
revile God in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own
doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth
of all that they did. 006.108

Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching;
and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth
best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. 016.125

And if ye do catch them out, catch them out no worse than they catch you
out: But if ye show patience, that is indeed the best (course) for those who are patient. 016.126

Have a blessed day and may God not burden us with a burden greater than what we can bear. Salam.


Alex Wong said...

Hi Jabar,

Great to know you have started a blog. I was wondering when you will come out of your cave! I had always enjoyed our discussions on Islam. It has made me look at Islam positively. In fact, I have been reading the quran for the past one year now. Find it amazingly fascinating. I suppose to quote one of your favorite phrase " we do what we do, and they do what they do. There is glory in neither for all glory is God's".

All the best and peace to you.

Alex Wong

Julian C H Lee said...

I was there are the Bar Council Forum and it was very difficult to think about the what people were saying within the forum because of the chanting from outside. You can imagine how distracting it is when people say they want to Hancur you. The results demonstrated that the demonstrators got pretty well what they wanted. The results also seemed to demonstrate that the police are willing to co-operate with them. Ordinarily, I would have thought that if someone threatened to storm a building and, presumably, do violence to the people inside, that would have been a threat worthy of arrest. I know extortioners, who threaten violence if their demands aren't met are arrested. What transpired was a victory not for the law of the land, but the law of the jungle.

jahaberdeen said...

Dr Julian,

Can imagine the stress caused by the threats of :hancur bar council"! On the police, someone commented to me that he viewed the police as having won that day too for the way they conducted themselves that day. In fact I was made to understand that Ambiga, the bar President proposed a round of applause for the police at the close of the forum.

Quite a number of others are concerned that this episode may leave a bad precedent of extortion.

Anonymous said...

Brother Jahaberdeen,

My fair comment which I do believe that most of these people i.e they are taqlid (blind) just follow without understanding.

This is the main problem with the so called Malay.

Islam respect discussion and others right but Islam will not compromise anything against God Command.


Anonymous said...

Hi Sir

I enjoyed reading your blog. Keep it up

Alex Tian