When a university invades a student’s privacy... to save her soul

APRIL 10 ― It was early in the morning and I had already received some appalling news from a good friend of mine. The administrators of her university had hauled her in to say they had monitored her Twitter and Facebook accounts, and reprimanded her on her “lack of aqeedah.”

Her mistake? Questioning the abusive and discriminating behaviour of some Muslims. So to rehabilitate her, they made her recite the Syahaddah, Al Fatihah and Ayat Kursi in their office.

Not only was this a complete invasion of personal privacy, but once again we see higher-ups take it upon themselves to do God’s job. I am not sure how many times this has happened in that university, but hearing about it sure made me raise my eyebrows.

First of all, I would like to make it clear that questioning is not rejecting. Just because someone is searching for answers to the unknown does not mean that they reject its existence.

We cannot deny the fact that we have seen many acts of crime and discrimination committed in the name of religion. Questioning the acts of these Muslims does not mean that someone rejects the faith. When people do not draw the line between adherers and their religion, we see them as one identity and immediately mistake questioning Muslims as questioning Islam.

In Islam, personal privacy is an integral part of a Muslim’s dignity. A lot of people would argue that having what you say published on the internet does not entitle you to privacy due to its publicity, but that does not mean that we should go out seeking the faults of others.

Not only that, but the university even asked who are her friends, and manipulated her words to make it sound like she was an atheist only because she was interested in learning about the beliefs of others.

While I commend the university's pursuit in spreading Islamic knowledge, I do not think it is right for them to restrict their students to learning only about Islam. Keep that in your campus. However a student chooses to gain his/her knowledge outside of campus is not for you to dictate.

The excuse the university gave for prying into her personal life was that they are “mothers” to her on campus, thus they will be answerable for her sins when The End comes. They feel responsible for how she practises her faith.

Naturally, this was infuriating to her, as during her time of financial crisis, the university did nothing to help her lighten the burden yet when it comes to matters of faith, something which is supposed to be personal, they have delegated themselves as her guardians.

Your priorities should be the well-being of your students. Anything religion-wise should be placed in the hands of God for we are only mere mortals with no right to pass judgment over another’s faith.

However, let’s just say she really is an atheist. Does reciting the Syahaddah automatically put her back in the religion if her heart is still closed? Man does not have the authority to judge another in matters of faith as we cannot see into the hearts of others, therefore only God can be the judge of such affairs.

Islam is not a monolith. There is over a billion of us, and not all of us think the same way. Instituationalising a religion will undoubtedly cause discrimination due to differences. The moment you think against their conventional views, you will be demonised. But at the end of the day, who are we to be so sure that what we believe in is right and the others are wrong?

Surah Al Haj verse 69 states that “Allah will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which you used to differ.” There should be a mutual understanding of differences, and we should accept the fact that different opinions exist because He has willed it.

What we should do is not judge others, but rather, be kind to others always. The moment you use fear and coercion to spread your beliefs, your beliefs are weak.

As an institution of education, I truly hope that the university will not limit their students to the knowledge that they are allowed to gain. I also hope that they will no longer invade any other student’s privacy, which can cause defamation, slander and humiliation. Your pursuit in spreading Islamic knowledge is much recognised globally, just please do not act as God.

I only leave you with this: “My Lord alone has the prerogative to judge them, if only you could realize.” [Surah Ash Shu’ara verse 113]

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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