The new generation of Muslims

AUG 15 — It is not often that one is offered pot by a hijabi.

The first time I was offered one was when I was studying in Lancaster University, the UK. An English friend was going to a party organised by a few British Asian friends of his, and “… they had a cool stash.”

Thirteen years later, I was invited to partake in a session, by a friend who was fashionably dressed, albeit modestly.

“And besides, the Quran has explicitly forbidden the consumption of alcohol and the meat of swine,” my hijabi friend replied. There is nothing in the Quran that mentions pot.

Even though the word ‘intoxicants’ may include drugs, natural or made, I asked.

The Quran was very specific: pork and alcohol were haram, she stressed. [1]

“You sure you don’t want one?” she asked.

“Honey, I’m in my mid-40s. I don’t intend to start a new vice.”

The topics of halal and haram, the drinking of alcohol and the recreational consumption of pot are fodder for endless debates and conversations. The above anecdote may well shock the reader in various manners, but at least for this writer, it is proof of one thing.

That young Malaysian Muslims are observant of their faith, and are even more curious, and educated about Islam, but are also creating their own boundaries.

In the year 2005, from December 15 to 18, the Asia-Europe Institute of Universiti Malaya conducted a survey on over 1,000 randomly chosen Malaysian Muslims in Peninsular Malaysia. The project co-ordinator was Dr Patricia A. Martinez. “The objective of the survey,” said the report was to get Muslims themselves, instead of those who spoke on their behalf, to define their identity, issues and concerns. While like all surveys, this particular one was ‘not perfect’ and faced limitations, the report caused ripples among the local intelligentsia and social activists involved in issues of culture and religion.”

The survey was administered by Merdeka Center, a renowned social survey centre, based in Bangi.

Some of the findings were as follows:

● 73 per cent chose being a Muslim as their one, top-most identity; 99 per cent felt that they were all three: Malay, Muslim and Malaysian

● They were asked about Article 11 of the Constitution of Malaysia which guaranteed freedom of religion. Seventy-seven per cent agreed that Malaysians should be allowed to choose their faith

● 75 per cent said that Malaysian Muslims who are not Malay are equally Muslim

● 49 per cent were educated in sekolah agama

● While 47 per cent felt that the Malaysian government was sufficiently Islamic, 49 per cent said no. Yet 77 per cent didn’t want an Islamic state like Iran

● For those who wanted an Islamic state, they said constitutional democracy didn’t work in Malaysia

● While 64 per cent wanted sharia rule to remain under the constitution of Malaysia, 31 per cent wanted it to replace the Malaysian constitution (note: in 2013, what are the numbers now?)

● 77 per cent felt that the sharia laws in Malaysia were not strict enough, and that 44 per cent believed that the state religious authorities should monitor and punish wrongdoers

● 97 per cent felt that it was acceptable for Malaysian Muslims to live alongside people of other religions (note: the word acceptable may mean tolerance or feeling that they had no choice. This is debatable)

● Almost 50 per cent disliked the US, Europe and Australia

This survey is not a conclusive one. It has been eight years and many things had happened to the country. While there have been alarming episodes, there have also been positive actions taken by civil society themselves.

The 2005 survey was an observation of irony. On the one hand, it would seem very positive, and yet, as a finding is uncovered, it would seem no.

The question now is: has Malaysia changed since 2005? And with the recent 2013 general election, what bodes for the country?

[1] [1] They ask you about wine and gambling. Say, “In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit.” And they ask you what they should spend. Say, “The excess [beyond needs].” Thus Allah makes clear to you the verses [of revelation] that you might give thought. (Quran 2:219)

“O you who believe! Intoxicants (all kinds of alcoholic drinks), gambling, idolatry, and diving arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork. So avoid that so that you may be successful.” (Quran 5: 90)

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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