‘Otherness’ in the Muslim world — Aizat Shamsuddin

OCTOBER 13 — I’m affronted by the news that Shiah Muslims were arrested yesterday in Malaysia for celebrating the day of Ashura in their own way, not in line with the popular belief. Both Sunni and Shiah denominations observe Ashura as a sacred day of remembrance. Yet, Muslims are still splitting hairs with one another over the caliphate conflict ages ago. Painful history will repeat itself when the people do not learn the lessons and do not move on!

In fact, what a coincidence, for another Abrahamic belief of Judaism to commemorate their liberation from slavery, or known as the Passover on the same date as Ashura. Why did I suddenly mention Judaism? Perhaps the anti-semitic Muslims here will not burn their turbans off after knowing that the Jewish festival coincides with the Mohammedan calendar. 

Let’s clear the air, as a religious Universalist Muslim, though the label I gave myself sounded more complicated than Sunni-Shiah combined, I view freedom of religion and belief is very much integral in Islam to reflect the natural law on “the best creation of God or Universe” as being able to rationalize, reason and exercise conscience with unimaginable intelligence.

On the freedom of religion and belief, I call for a reform of institutionalised religion and extreme interpretations to conform with the inter- and intra-faith tolerance, respect and acceptance. During the Prophet’s time, there were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians and Polytheists protected under “one nation” concept. For instance, the minority Christians were protected in terms of security and welfare by the covenant with the Prophet Muhammad.

The religious pluralism without imposition of one’s religious understanding on another is parallel with the famous divine excerpt from the Quran, “There is no compulsion in religion”, which is a clear cut sentence that condones a freedom for human beings to believe and not to believe.

Here goes the unspeakable betrayal by the extreme clergymen who confine that freedom for self-interest, power and rhetoric of defending “the religion”.

Apparently, correcting someone’s faith is more obligatory in Islam than dispelling human right violations in Yemen and Syria, among others motivated by the religious sectarianism to punish non-Sunnis or vice versa that many Muslims believe but unaware of it.

Majority Sunni Muslims here might be outraged by the fact that Iran persecutes Sunni minorities for their beliefs; it is also an overwhelming fact that Sunni-ruled countries persecute Shiah, Ahmadiya, Liberal and other minorities behind the veil of God. Not to justify culpability with culpability, but we are mad at the thing that we unfairly deal ourselves. 

Therefore, in the spirit of peace and harmony, religious diversity should be celebrated by everyone. Religious and non-religious minorities should be able to enjoy and express their freedom liberally in this country without fear. In the meantime, religious scholars must preach for the inclusivity of human beings without promoting “otherness” and violence, so that Malaysia will not follow suit the theocratised countries.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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