PETALING JAYA, 22 Apr 2009: Forcing minors to convert to Islam is un-Islamic, leading Islamic scholar Prof Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali said today at a public lecture.
“Those who use Islam for purposes not germane to aqidah (articles of faith), for example to legitimise marriage, divorce, or win custody battles over children, are misusing the religion,” he said.
Kamali was responding to a question from the floor on the legitimacy of minors being unilaterally converted to Islam by a parent who had converted to the religion.
Hashim KamaliIn a recent case, a Hindu convert to Islam, Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah, converted his three children to Islam on 2 April, according to his still-Hindu wife, M Indira Gandhi.
According to Indira Gandhi, Ridzuan then obtained a syariah court order on 3 April to claim custody over their children, Tevi Darsiny, 12, Karan Dinish, 11, and Prasana Diksa, one.
Karan Dinish has since stated publicly that he does not want to be a Muslim and wants to remain a Hindu.
“When a husband who has converted to Islam claims that his children, who could be two or three years old, have also converted to Islam, this doesn’t make sense,” said Kamali.
He said that belief in Islam entails affirmation “in the heart” and “through words”, and thus could not be forced upon anyone.
Kamali was part of a public lecture organised by the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies Malaysia, attended by some 50 students, journalists, academics and the public.
The invited speaker to the lecture, former Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab, spoke on global challenges to religious extremism, with a special reference to Southeast Asia.
Different strands of Islamic thought
Referring to the 11 Sept terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Alwi said there were both external and internal factors that give rise to terror in the name of Islam.
He said the external factors included the impact of US foreign policy on the Muslim world, particularly with regard to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
According to Alwi, Islamic radicals see the US as propping up repressive regimes in several Muslim-majority countries, such as Egypt and Pakistan.
“For example, in Egypt the radical Islamic groups there resort to terror because the Egyptian regime has deprived the people of some of their political aspirations,” he said.
Alwi ShihabAlwi said when citizens equate such repressive regimes with sponsorship by Western powers, this compounds the problem and forces them to choose violent outlets for their frustrations.
As for internal factors, Alwi said that contemporary radical Islamic movements are also quick to deny the existence of diverse interpretations of Islam.
He gave the example of radical Muslim groups aligned with the Wahhabi school of thought, which in turn was inspired by the writings of the 14th-century scholar, Ibn Taymiyyah.
“[Ibn Taymiyyah was] known to be critical [of] philosophy, Sufism and Shiism as well as Christianity,” said Alwi.
“[In] his environment … hostility was at its height between Muslims and the Mongols and the Christians in the wake of the Crusades,” he said.
Alwi therefore said it would be a mistake to implement Ibn Taymiyyah’s thought today because the social and political environment had changed drastically.
He proposed a clear distinction between the religion of Islam, and the various strands of Islamic thought.
“If you are comfortable with one interpretation of religion, then take it, but do not say that other interpretations are wrong,” he said, adding that this applied not only to Islam but to all religions.
He stressed, however, that violent acts such as suicide bombings are categorically incompatible with Islamic values.
“Recognising the reality of radical Islam is entirely different from accepting its ideas,” he said.