Respect is to be earned, not demanded

JULY 7 — Now that it is the fasting month, I have seen many posts where Muslims have demanded respect from non-Muslims in the way they dress. Non-Muslims were also told not to eat in front of us.

Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria released a statement recently urging non-Muslims to dress appropriately in public places out of respect for Muslims, for seeing their aurat will cause us to sin.

I won’t go into the technical details explaining how someone’s sin is their own to bear, but I would like to talk about respect.

I recall reading many times in the Quran and in the Hadith where people hurled verbal abuse against the Prophet; calling him crazy, a fraud, that the revelations he received were false. How did the Prophet react to these people?

He never retaliated. He never called for these people to be attacked or executed. Instead, like what the Quran commanded, he was patient with them.

The Quran also tells believers not to be provoked by those who mock Islam and to not let the hatred of others make you act unjustly towards them.

From here, we can see that the Prophet never once demanded respect. Instead, he was respectful of others, even to those who did not favour him. He always reacted with forbearance, calmness and righteousness.

If  this was the way the Prophet reacted towards those who insulted him and Islam, what about the innocent non-Muslims? Would it be right for us to force onto them our rules just because they are not living the same way as us?

Even if non-Muslims are showing their aurat, are they to blame if we get aroused? Or are we to blame for having such perverse minds? If non-Muslims eat in front of us, are they to blame because we feel the need to eat too? Or are we to blame for having such weak imaan?

This doesn’t apply to only the fasting month, but our everyday lives as well. We all know it’s nothing new to see crosses getting taken down or the building of a religious shrine boycotted because we are afraid that it will shake the faith of our fellow Muslims.

How lowly do you think of your brothers and sisters in faith to want the world to bolster us, instead of teaching from within the faith that we are the bearers of our own sin, and that we are the ones who have to take care of ourselves?

Remember: This is our jihad. Not theirs.

The foundation of a religion is only strong from within. It cannot be destroyed by external forces. If we are easily manipulated, then we are the problem, not the rest of world. We have to fix ourselves from within instead of fixing others to live our way.

I don’t see Hindus complaining every single day that their peers are eating beef in front of them, so why do we have to demand that others “respect” us?

It’s time that we live with the diversity that exists around us. The Prophet taught us to be kind to our enemies. If we learn a thing or two from that, maybe we’ll know better how to treat innocent non-Muslims as well.

The message of Islam is peace, not coercion. Even if you legislate it, it doesn’t mean that it’s well-deserved. If we want respect, we have to be respectful of others first. Then maybe we will finally receive the respect that we have been yearning for.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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