Dr Zakir Naik letter, Kit Siang, fiction writer and Asri

Dr Zakir Naik letter, Kit Siang, fiction writer and Asri

Peace brother and sister Malaysians!

Since I wrote my open letter to Brother Zakir Naik, a few interesting reactions took place.

But firstly, thank you for the many kind support across the religious, racial and age spectrum from all of you my fellow brother and sister Malaysians. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc so many of you supported the letter not because it is a religious issue, but it’s a Malaysian one – we all want to live in peace and harmony, dulu, sekarang dan selamanya and therefore we do not want to import a culture that is foreign to ours.

Thank you to those who disagreed, too. But it would be good if the many who reacted in bad-mannered ways, were to do so in a factual, peramah and moderate way – especially if you are a Muslim who wants to follow the example of the Prophet.

However, I will try to read what is in your heart and see your ill-mannered outburst as a call to something deeper that I must be sensitive to. The 4th rule of a Moderate Malaysian reads, “I will always choose the better meaning and see all problems as opportunities.  If someone says hurtful words, I take that as an opportunity to empathise with the pain in his heart.”

‘Lim Kit Siang’s comments’

As Brother Zakir Naik’s issue is politically pretty sensitive, I was not expecting any politician to react to my letter. As such, I was surprised to readvB Lim Kit Siang’s article. I guess as a Non-Muslim, Lim Kit Siang must have wanted to say something but avoided it all this while. My points in the letter seems to resonate with his feelings and outlook and as such he decided to concur and use it to say what is in his heart.

Since then, there are calls for him to leave the country – which I find too shallow to even spend time mulling about it. I also find it amusing that overnight I have also been painted by some as a DAP agent and being paid by them. Ironically, just a few years ago the DAP cyber warriors suggested that I was on UMNO’s payroll and attacked my article when I urged Lim Guan Eng to among other things to try to understand the Malays and Malay culture better.

‘J Rizal’s fiction’

A rather cute reaction is by a chap that goes by the name J. Rizal who wrote a counter-letter, to my letter to Brother Zakir. It is a kind off a sweet fictional writing about how I grew up and how I form my thought processes. With cool mention of Guinness Stout, Abba, Bee Gees, Mokhtar Dahari and more! You must give it to him! The writer has a vivid imagination creating things and experiences that I never knew I had like a tafsir group of the Quran (but I must admit that I wish I do have one!), that I believe that all religion is the same and I ‘discovered’ Islam later in my life.

He should have done his research better and read my books, articles and postings which are readily available. He would have found out that my study and interest in the Quran started really early and my earliest role model was my grandfather who was a Hafiz Al Quran. The man who taught me the Quran with love, understanding and Mercy.

He assumes that in the university I was a busy partying not knowing that I was reading hundreds of books and works among others by Maududi, Iqbal, Faruqi, Shariati, Hossein Nasr, Fazlur Rahman, Isutzu, Hasan Al Bana, and many more.

One of my mentors (then and now) who was completing his Phd at the time I was an undergraduate, is now the RECTOR and Distinguish Emeritus Professor of ISTAC-UIA. J. Rizal should have done better homework rather than projecting his own fictitious imaginations about another person’s life and history.

On religious pluralism, he would have found out that I have written,

“Pluralism is a sensitive word and an often-debated term within certain circles among Muslim leadership and followers. Many take the position that pluralism in religion or belief mean equating each religion or way of life as the same. That would be an obvious error. No two religions are the same. In fact, even within a religion one can find differences.

I have strong convictions that serious followers of other faiths like Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhist too will stand against anyone who suggest that their religion is similar to all other religions. The fact is, suggesting all religion is the same is simply wrong factually.

Pluralism represents the acceptance of a diversity of views or stands rather than a single approach or method toward life. It is the idea that we can agree to disagree, to you your religion, to me mine. It is the ability to see reality, that is, the universe and the earth that we live in is by design a diverse one. To go further, the availability of many religions and path is by design God’s creation and as such we need to learn to live with it. We do not ignore the differences of various religions (and cultures). We try to understand the different ‘other’.

This also means that pluralism suggests that one’s religious identity is not a person’s only identity. In other words, ethnically one can be a Chinese Muslim and the other a Malay Muslim or a Western Muslim. Even within a Malay Muslim community, one may belong to particular political party while the other, another. In one profession or another, and so forth. Pluralism as such is the ability to accept the other and the willingness to accord the other the right to be who they are.

I see a pluralist as a person who believe, create, promote and defend a society where two or more religious groups can coexist in peace and harmony – providing a social order that is productive and effective for humanity. In a pluralist society, we actively engage with one another. We acknowledge and we engage our differences without one attempting to impose domination. We apply equal treatment before the law without any distinctions in terms of religion or belief.”

Be that as it may, I am glad that my letter inspired him to write. I also hope that he gets his wish to have tea with Brother Zakir and get to discuss about the Sunni-Syiah divide of which the writer erroneously perceives that Brother Zakir’s position is different from mind. I am rather sure that when it comes to the Sunni-Syiah problem, Brother Zakir and I is on the same page – just watch his videos.

‘Dr Maza.com’

Among the reactions, the disturbing one is from Dr. Asri Zainul Abidin the current Mufti of Perlis. He posted on his Facebook the picture below. It is disturbing for a few reasons.

1. He lied. In the post he asked, “Who is he (anas), what is his religion” when we know of each other. We have sat in one or two meetings, has had our differences reasoned in a previous chat group and he acknowledged in person about receiving my book, “The Quran and I” (we send all out Islamic based publications to all muftis). Why does he want his followers to think I am a Hindu instead?

2. By cherry picking a part of the note I wrote, and not sharing the context that it was written, he seems to want his followers to get riled up about my stand and want them to question my faith. He negated my call for empathy and understanding between Malaysians – showcasing the beauty of Malaysia in the fuller message. Here is the post in full,

‘Hindus, the cow and Muslims’

I stopped eating beef in 1985 on my 21st birthday although my favourite makan then was Mc Donalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese.

I was trying to convince my college to stop serving beef to respect the Hindus as we do not serve pork at the university. Since I did not manage to convince them, I decided I should start with myself. So since then not only I do not eat beef, it is also a policy not to serve them at my office functions, at the office or at home. Since these are within my area of control. I have not taken beef for 32 years.

I have Hindu friends who have many Malay friends who avoid pork too. That is the beauty of Malaysia.

I have many non-Muslims- Chinese and Indian friends who avoids going to non-halal makan places when I am in the picture. That is the beauty of Malaysia.

For Malaysia to succeed we need to practice empathy.

I humbly suggest to all my Muslim brothers and sisters to stop serving beef at all functions within our control even if only one Hindu is present.

We must also try to avoid korban lembu during Raya Haji. Korban other animals.

I do not recommend these across the world. But for Malaysia, this is the way forward.

3. This misinformation drew hundreds of vile comments not only towards me but also the Hindu community both at his Facebook and mine. There are even those who suggest I should be used as korban, or beaten up and many other appalling proposals. Is that what the Mufti hopes for? As of 6pm August the 2nd there are more than 600 comments and 190 shares. He has yet to say any word of advice or stop his followers from posting what is considered threatening unlawful violence.

4. It is disturbing because as a Mufti, he should be at the forefront in calming down the situation not only between Muslims and Muslims but between Muslims and Non-Muslims. He is an instrument of the state and acts on behalf of the YM Raja of Perlis whose subjects are from not just the Muslims but also the Non-Muslims. The YM Raja is the protector of all Malaysians. By allowing and encouraging his followers to post repulsive and disgusting remarks he is undermining His Majesty’s position. I hope Dr. Asri will rise up to the occasion and become a bridge builder and not a divider – a bridge builder not just between Muslims, but all Malaysians.

‘What’s next’

I am an optimist. The future is for us to plan and design. I have strong convictions that Malaysia and Malaysian can find our way towards moderation. Allow me to end this not with relevant Quranic verses.

“For, [true] servants of the Most Gracious are [only] they who walk gently on earth, and who, whenever the foolish address them, reply with [words of] peace” Quran 25:63

“But when you are greeted with a greeting [of peace], answer with an even better greeting, or [at least] with the like thereof. Verily, God keeps count indeed of all things.” Quran 4:86

Peace.

Anas Zubedy is a member of Malaysian Movement for Moderates

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of The Leaders Online