Research outfit starts online ‘pondok’ to counter radicalism (VIDEO)

A YouTube screen capture of Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin in the first episode of ‘Pondok Manusiawi’, a web series by local boutique research outfit IMAN Research.
A YouTube screen capture of Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin in the first episode of ‘Pondok Manusiawi’, a web series by local boutique research outfit IMAN Research.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 18 ― A preacher clad in a shirt, instead of the customary jubah, speaks in a video on social media about how a certain hadith has been misinterpreted to justify violence in Islam.

The short two-minute clip featuring Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin, an independent preacher, is the first episode of “Pondok Manusiawi”, a web series by local boutique research outfit IMAN Research that aims to create an alternative space for young Muslims to talk about religion amid the Islamic State (IS) threat in Malaysia.

“Does Islam really promote violence? In the first episode of Pondok Manusiawi, Ustaz Wan Ji will discuss a hadith that is popular among militants and jihadis, and used as a promotional tool to encourage war and violence,” IMAN Research founding executive director Dina Zaman said in a statement today.

In the video posted on IMAN Research’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, Wan Ji said the “heaven lies under sword’s glint” hadith, which is considered genuine by most scholars, has been used by some people to justify violence against non-Muslims and against those they consider to be “enemies of Islam”.

The preacher explained that the hadith, or saying by Prophet Muhammad, came originally from a war and that it cannot be used during times of peace.

“Therefore, if in interpreting the hadith, it is concluded that it is permissible to kill at will, then that is an incorrect interpretation and should definitely be reassessed together with its thinking. God knows best,” said Wan Ji.

IMAN Research’s newsletter this month titled “The Allure of IS” talked about why young Malay-Muslims in Malaysia are attracted to terrorist group, noting that there is a lack of social space in the country for Malay-Muslim youths to express their grievances amid the “siege mentality” created by the government and political parties among the predominant Malay-Muslim community.

Malay-Muslim youths are then pushed to the internet, where they are vulnerable to IS propaganda amid political cynicism and rising unemployment.

“These are the political and economic realities faced by Malaysian youths; the status quo to which IS is claiming to be providing an alternative towards,” said IMAN Research.

“To those who end up falling for IS, it is alluring because their present (life) is disheartening. The community ― in this case, the Malaysian community ― has failed to provide our youths with the space for them to express their aspirations in a healthy and positive manner, to make them feel that they are an integral part of the growth and future of this country,” it added.

IMAN Research said that in the interviews they conducted across the peninsula with Muslim youths from various backgrounds, interviewees in Kedah were “extremely reluctant” to denounce IS, while those in Selangor were hesitant to challenge verses or scholars that propagate violence, even if they disagreed with the terrorist group’s level of violence.

Interviewees from Kedah reportedly believed that “what is happening in Syria is a fight against enemies of Islam”.

“The fear of challenging the current discourse for fear of ‘sinning’ was evident. This, we believe, is what allows IS propaganda to become effective and lethal.

“If youths do not have the resilience to fend it off, youths will eventually succumb to the cause,” said IMAN Research.

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