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Perils of questioning Islam

“If Muslims themselves do not respect the decision by the syariah court and offer contradicting views on the matter, how do we make non-Muslims respect our laws[?]”

SELANGOR mufti Datuk Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid, on why Muslims shouldn’t question the caning of Muslim women. (Source: Don’t question syariah caning sentence on women, New Straits Times, 21 Feb 2010)

“Dewan Pemuda PAS Pusat dengan ini menegaskan tindakan JAG (Joint Action Group for Gender Equality), SIS (Sisters in Islam), dan konco-konco mereka ini adalah tindakan biadap menceroboh bidangkuasa jenayah syariah negeri-negeri yang telah kita warisi sejak zaman silam dalam kanun undang-undang negeri-negeri Melayu.”

PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, on women’s groups that had questioned a previous caning sentence on beer-drinking model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno. PAS Youth took issue with demands that the Syariah Criminal Offences Act (SCOA) be abolished. (Source: Hukuman sebat: Kartika bukan yang pertama, PAS Youth website, 8 Sept 2009)

“Any person who orally or in writing or by visible representation or in any other manner –

(a) insults or brings into contempt the religion of Islam;

(b) derides, apes or ridicules the practices or ceremonies relating to the religion of Islam; or

(c) degrades or brings into contempt any law relating to the religion of Islam for the time being in force in the Federal Territories, shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.”

The SCOA, defended by PAS Youth, criminalises “insulting or bringing into contempt”, etc., the religion of Islam. (Source: Section 7, Syariah Criminal Offences [Federal Territories] Act 1997)

“Any person who gives, propagates or disseminates any opinion concerning Islamic teachings, Islamic law or any issue contrary to any fatwa for the time being in force in the Federal Territories shall be guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to both.”

The SCOA also forbids opinions that are contrary to an official fatwa. In many Muslim societies, fatwa are non-binding legal opinions that are highly context-specific. There can be conflicting fatwa even on the same subject, and Muslims have more than one choice on a particular religious question.

In Malaysia, however, fatwa from state-appointed mufti are legally binding and carry the force of law. (Source: Section 12, Syariah Criminal Offences [Federal Territories] Act 1997)

“I’m warning them and will take stern action as it involves national security … This proves that they have no respect for other religions because the fatwa was issued for Muslims. Why do they have to be the one to demonstrate?”

Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan, warning Malaysians not to question the 2008 fatwa outlawing pengkid or tomboys. (Source: IGP warns NGOs against challenging fatwa, The Nut Graph, 13 Nov 2008)

“Jangan cuba bermain api, jangan cabar umat Islam, kita akan lakukan apa sahaja untuk pertahankan agama suci ini.”

Former de facto minister for religion Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, warning non-Muslims not to question Islam, this time regarding the usage of “Allah” by non-Muslims. (Source: Jangan cabar Islam, Utusan Malaysia, 1 Feb 2009)

“Kita sanggup bangkit mempertahankan hak ini dan Allah sendiri mewajibkan kita berjuang sekiranya kesucian Islam dicemari. Jangan sentuh semangat jihad kami.”

International Islamic University of Malaysia lecturer Prof Datuk Paduka Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid, warning of a jihad if non-Muslims continued questioning rulings in Malaysia regarding non-Muslims’ use of “Allah”. (Source: Jangan persenda guna nama Allah, Utusan Malaysia, 2 Feb 2009)

“I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book, which is against Islam, the prophet [Muhammad] and the [Quran], and all those involved in its publication who are aware of its content are sentenced to death.”

Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in his infamous 1989 fatwa calling for the death of British author Sir Salman Rushdie.

Rushdie responded: “I doubt very much Khomeini or anyone else in Iran has read this book or anything more than selected extracts taken out of context.” He also explained that the novel attempted to investigate conflicts between religious and secular viewpoints. His defence, however, was to no avail, and he soon had to go into hiding.

The fatwa was revived in 2005 by Khomeini’s successor. (Source: 1989: Ayatollah sentences author to death, BBC, 14 Feb 1989) favicon

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4 Responses to “Perils of questioning Islam”

  1. kelefeh says:

    Isn’t it a hadith by the prophet that differences of opinion in Islam / among the ummah is a mercy?

    Unity does not mean (conforming) to uniformity.

    I have a feeling it is not necessarily Islam per se that they want to “defend”. Islam, as Muslims ought to believe, needs no defending if Allah has promised to preserve it. It’s our own souls that need protection…sometimes (well, actually most of the time) from our own selves.

    la ‘adri, Allah hu ‘alim (I don’t know, Allah knows best).


    The hadith you quote is actually a saying by Imam Malik – when the Abbasid Caliph Mansur wanted to make his muwatta the standard Islamic code throughout the empire, Malik persuaded him against it, arguing that the diversity across the empire was a good thing. Muhammad Khalid Masud has elaborated on this here:

    Shanon Shah
    Columns and Comments Editor

  2. confused says:

    Why do most of the comments touch on violence upon questioning? Even if what you believe is true, isn’t it subjective? So why the call to not question…or doubt or reason with? If we can reason with other thoughts why not Islamic religion?

    Plus, how mature is Islamic scholarship in Malaysia or even the Islamic faith? I do hope that those who think they are defending Islam have studied the Quran for themselves from cover to cover; for it would be a shame if they were defending something they don’t even truly understand.

  3. Azizi Khan says:

    Questioning is bad for Malaysian Muslims because a lot of un-Islamic practices are tied into the religion to keep a lot of people happy. A prime example is Ketuanan Melayu. This is similar to Saudi, Pakistan, Afganistan who all claim to be strict Islamic countries but their practices are actually contradictory to Islamic practices because they are immersed in tribalism.

    In a lot of these cases so called “religious scholars” feed the public irrational ideas and tell them its Islam and it cannot be questioned. Its the same thing in Malaysia – countless so-called Islamic professional bodies and religious groups seem to have the uncanny ability to abide by Umno’s version of Islam.

    If the average Malaysian (Muslim or otherwise) asks any question – they are told that its Islam and it cannot be questioned.

    The fact of the matter is, no one is questioning Islam. We are questioning the mere mortals who claim to represent God. Does being an Umno member somehow make one closer to God and hence have the ability to execute orders on His behalf ?


  4. Ida Bakar says:

    I am in agreement with ‘confused’. There is heated discussion going on on FB at the moment. I am arguing for the separation of religion and state, given the ‘sterling’ job that Syariah Courts are doing at the moment. The outcome remains the same: why do we need to discuss anything like that? Islam is supreme etc etc.

    If Islam is indeed supreme and the fatwas and syariah rulings are the epitome of all that is good in Islam, why can’t we question them? Surely the answers would enlighten our doubting conscience. Or perhaps the answer will only illuminate the farce that is syariah-Malaysian-style.

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