THE arrest of former Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin raises disturbing questions:
Isn’t it unjust to arrest a person and take him [or her] to court while investigations on him [or her] are still ongoing?
Doesn’t this smack of arbitrariness and high-handedness, and doesn’t it erode established judicial norms and the rule of law?
Wasn’t the deployment of an extraordinarily large number of JAIS (Selangor Religious Affairs Department) staff and police personnel a show of force tantamount to abuse of power?
Since Asri has been giving talks in Selangor and elsewhere for a while now, what was the reason for arresting him at this point?
Was the arrest a well-orchestrated move by certain religious authorities, backed by some Muslim non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to dissuade the federal government from going ahead with the appointment of Asri as the new head of a potentially influential Islamic dakwah foundation, Yadim?
If this was the motive, doesn’t it show that there are religious institutions and groups in the country that are intolerant of views on Islam which are different from theirs, however humane and rational some of these views may be, and however well grounded they are in the Qur’an?
Isn’t such intolerance a betrayal of the respect for differences of opinion, and for dissent, embodied in Quranic thought and in the practice of the Prophet?
It is important to ask these questions. Asri’s crude and coarse treatment echoes the authoritarianism of certain groups in other parts of the Muslim world, which has led to tension and conflict. This is why any attempt by any group to monopolise religion and marginalise alternative voices should be checked immediately.
It was one of the causes of the closing of the Muslim mind in past centuries, and was partly responsible for the decline of Islamic civilisation.
Dr Chandra Muzaffar
International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
4 Nov 2009