Sunday, March 8, 2009

Freedom of opinion and speech in Islam: your Sunday sermon

Freedom of opinion and speech in Islam: your Sunday sermon
8 Mar, 2009

The concept of freedom of opinion as applied by the Prophet is mentioned in various verses of the Quran revealed in both Mekah and Medina. The total freedom of opinion and speech is a principle that was guaranteed by Islam since the beginning of the revelation.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

This is what the Star reported today in its news item: Stand as MP then, Malay traders tell Raja Petra.

Online news portal editor Raja Petra Kamarudin should be an MP if he wants to criticise the Government and royalty, says a Malay industrialist group. Malay Businessmen and Industrialists Association of Malaysia (Perdasama) president Datuk Moehamad Izat Emir said Raja Petra’s constant criticism of the Government was bad for the economy and discouraged foreign investments.

“He should contest in the next election if he feels the people support him. Parliament is the place for him to voice out, not by throwing stones from outside and hiding his hand afterwards,” Moehamad told a press conference at Perdasama headquarters yesterday.

He was referring to an open letter to former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin purportedly written by Raja Petra and posted on his news portal Malaysia Today, encouraging Nizar to continue his struggle to reclaim his position.

Moehamad urged the Government to take action before more Malaysians follow Raja Petra’s footsteps as this could further erode political stability, investor confidence and public harmony.


I really don’t expect Izat to understand why I do not wish to become a MP or ADUN or whatever. DAP has, in fact, offered me a place in the party if I wish to hold public office. YB Ronnie Liu, the Pakatan Rakyat EXCO Member in the Selangor State Government, can testify to this.

I just laughed and brushed off the idea. Ronnie, in fact, blames me for DAP not being able to become the Deputy Menteri Besar of Selangor. The problem is DAP does not have a Malay ADUN and he thought, if I had contested the recent general election, then DAP could have offered me the post of Deputy MB seeing that I would be the only Malay they have.

I can’t pretend I was not thrilled with the idea, and deeply honoured as well, that Ronnie thought I was Deputy MB material. But I told him, as much as I was thrilled and honoured, I was, however, not in the least interested. He then tried offering me some other positions and I refused all those as well. I mean: having Saudara Karpal Singh, who I greatly respect, as one loose cannon in DAP is bad enough. Imagine me and Sam Haris and Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and maybe Malik Imtiaz, Bernard Khoo (Zorro), Azhar Harun, and a half dozen other Bloggers all in DAP. Menda gak?….kecoh…..bising bangau, as the Terengganu people would say.

Is this the face of a Wakil Rakyat?

Hey, I love my lifestyle and make no bones about it (even my daughter and son-in-law are perturbed about my 1960s lifestyle). As a Wakil Rakyat I can’t any longer be as outrageous as I am now. And what am I going to do with my Hippie beads and my Paris Hilton DVD collection and my pipe and cigars all that other ‘unorthodox’ culture that I practice? You mean I actually got to wear a bush jacket? Pleeeeeeez.

Anyway, while many Muslims are Muslims by birth or by ritual or in name only, I am Muslim by Akidah. And if a Muslim had any Akidah then he or she would understand the heavy responsibility one carries as a Wakil Rakyat. And if they understand this then they would never want to be a Wakil Rakyat in 1,000 years and for any amount of money.

A Wakil Rakyat is God’s representative here on earth. He or she is a trustee of God. And a trustee of God who breaches this trust has sinned against God. But God is forever forgiving and can forgive your trespasses against Him. It is your trespasses against humankind that God can never forgive.

Imagine come Judgement Day when you face God to be judged for all that you have done here on earth and your long list of sins the thickness of twenty volumes of Encyclopaedia Britanica are laid out before you and you are called to answer for these sins. And imagine if all your sins involve breaching God’s trust as a Wakil Rakyat and involve violations against humankind. God can forgive you for the first but never for the second.

Yes, you go to Hell not for gambling or drinking beer or for not praying. You go to Hell because you did not serve the people you were supposed to serve as a Wakil Rakyat. No way, Jose. That is not the fate that I desire. A Wakil Rakyat is such a heavy responsibility that I just can’t understand why people would bribe voters and delegates just to win positions. I mean: it is bad enough these people are bribing, but they are bribing so that they can go to Hell. Hey, you can go to Hell for free without having to pay a cent, like me.

But I don’t expect Izat to understand all this. This involves Akidah and I don’t expect him to understand the word, let alone the concept. This was the man who scolded his brother, Rahmat, because his brother had gone for his prayers and Izat was irritated that they had an appointment with a Datuk and were now late because his brother went to pray. “The appointment with the Datuk is more important than your prayers,” Izat scolded Rahmat. Rahmat decided, soon after that, that he would no longer work for his brother.

Being in a political party -- any political party -- means I can no longer speak freely. As a party leader and Wakil Raykat I would have to toe the party line. And that is something I can never do. Islam is about freedom of opinion and free speech. You just can’t separate Islam from freedom of opinion and free speech. To deny one freedom of opinion and free speech would mean to deny Islam itself. If freedom of opinion and free speech ceases to exist, then Islam would cease to exist as well. That is the long and short of it all.

I know, now many so-called Islamists will argue that Akidah is about praying, fasting, paying your tithes, going to Mekah and all that. To these people I say: bullshit. That is not Akidah. That is amalan (practice). And those are mere rituals. Even horses, penguins, seals, elephants, tigers, dogs, and whatnot can be taught to do tricks. This does not mean they all know why they are doing these tricks. They only know that if they do them then they get rewarded with food. So they do them….but for food.

Those rituals that many Muslims perform are also for rewards -- mostly the reward of Heaven and to avoid punishment, meaning Hell. Assuming you get nothing and suffer nothing if you either do or do not do them, then 90% or more of Muslims would dump all the rituals. That is how ‘sincere’ these fakes are. They do not perform these rituals for God. They perform them for their own sakes, for the ‘rewards’ and to avoid punishment.

Okay, now take a look at this:

Did you notice that Malaysia is number 132 on the list of countries that suppress freedom of opinion and speech? Even countries like Nigeria, Colombia, Cambodia, Algeria, Angola, Bolivia, Thailand, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Burundi, Senegal, Haiti, Zambia, Botswana, Serbia, etc., are all ranked above Malaysia.

Now, Malaysia is supposed to be a Muslim country with Islam as the official religion of the country. And the leaders of UMNO (the dominant partner in the ruling coalition), which claims to be the largest Islamic party in the world, are also all Muslims. Should not this country, therefore, be setting an example to the rest of the Muslim world?

In the first place, do Malaysian Muslims even understand the position of freedom of opinion and speech as espoused by Islam? Below is an extract of a 40-page paper written by Ahmed Mansour, which I feel Malay-Muslims, in particular Izat, should read and try to understand.

This is what Ahmed Mansour said:

Freedom of opinion refers to man’s total freedom of creed and thinking, as well as his freedom of declaring and expressing his point of view peacefully, without using a weapon. This definition of the concept of freedom of opinion is taken from verses of the Quran that are concerned with confirming the total freedom of opinion, and the application by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) of these verses in his time with people around him.

The concept of freedom of opinion as applied by the Prophet is mentioned in various verses of the Quran revealed in both Mekah and Medina. The total freedom of opinion and speech is a principle that was guaranteed by Islam since the beginning of the revelation, and applied by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and some of his successors (Caliphs). Yet, this freedom had been forbidden during the time of the Umayyad Caliphate. Then the Abbassids came along and introduced a theocratic concept of governing the state. That concept was justified by religious texts opposed to the Quran, but was mischievously ‘credited’ to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through so-called Hadith created to justify the actions of the government.

Man’s freedom of opinion is the origin of his existence, God’s creation of the universe, and the idea of the hereafter. This is how far the roots of freedom of opinion in Islam go. And this puts an end to every pretext of people supporting suppression of opinion in the name of religion.

If man wants to be free, he will be, and if he wants to be a slave to another man or any thought, he will be too. What is important is man is able to choose, and through choice, man can use his freedom however he wants. However, man will choose to be a non-believer, and deny his inner instinct and God’s existence when others try to dominate him with their human laws and seize his right of being a non-believer. To this extent, God Almighty created man with free will. And man’s free thought can lead him to deny the existence of God, the Almighty.

God did not authorise some people to punish, in His name, others just because they have different opinions or because they disbelieve in God. And those who proclaim their right to punish others spoil the case from its roots and play the role of God - as there is no god but Him. They dominate what God Almighty wanted to control as He created human mind free without restraints, able to think with no limits, and believe or disbelieve if it wants. They fake God’s religion and assault His powers that He saved for Himself to practice in the Hereafter, on grounds that there is no need for punishment and reckoning in the hereafter, as long as there is a compulsion in faith and religion. They form a bad, extreme, bloody, stubborn and fusty image of God’s religion, and contribute to get most people away from it. This bad image has nothing to do with God’s religion. It is their image and religion that is entirely opposing to God’s religion.

Because they are the real enemies of God, He legislated militancy against them, not to force people to get into Islam, but to assure people’s right of faith or infidelity, as well as their right to get rid of the domination of insincere religious leaders. The insincere religious leaders (priesthood advocates) are those who pretend to be talking in the name of God, and controlling - in His name - people’s minds and thoughts. Islam fought them with the legislation of militancy. Yet the insincere religious leaders of Abbassids and Sheiks succeeded in reversing these concepts and misrepresented Islam.

When we read the Holy Quran we find that God, the creator of the universe, doesn’t want to force people to believe in Him, His books, and messengers. And because God created people with free will, he conducts a dialogue with them to believe if they want to believe, and not because of force and compulsion used against them. As insincere religious leaders refuse to have a dialogue with people, and instead issue decrees condemning them -- because they have opinions that are different with theirs -- as being disbelievers and renegades, God conducts a dialogue with His worshippers, Adam’s sons, to convince them that He is the only God who has no companions.

When we think about the verses of the Quran and look at ourselves, we feel sorry for what some of us, who bear the banner of Islam, do. They impose their own opinions and suppress others the right to express their opinions. Moreover, they offend and hurt these people through deeds and words. And they proclaim these people as disbelievers who must be killed, thinking they are fighting for the cause of God. If they properly considered the verses of Quran, they would find that they are repeating the deeds of the tribe of Quraish at the time of the Prophet (pbuh).

The problem is that some people grant themselves an authority higher than that of the Prophet.

In his book (Jame’a Bayan Al Elm Wa Fadleh Fadlan Kamelan) under the title of (Bab Zekr Karaheyat Al Elm Wa Takhleedah Fil Souhouf), Al Kortoby said that the Prophet ordered: “don’t attribute anything to me but what was mentioned in Quran”. He added that Zaid Bin Thabet said to Mouaweya that the Prophet (pbuh) ordered people not to write down any of his Hadith. Al Kortoby also said that there were various narrations that asserted that Omar, Abi Saad Al Khadry, and Ibn Massoud refused to write down the Prophet’s Hadith. Ibn Saad, the Prophet’s closest companion, didn’t narrate any of the Prophet’s Hadith.

The Abbassid Caliph used those Hadith as a pretext to kill his enemies keeping his religious title of Mahdy, Hady or Rasheed without giving anyone a chance to practice his freedom of opinion. The Abbassid religious insincerity wasn’t limited to the suppression of religious and political opinion. It was extended to include scientific research and intellectual teachings. Many people sought to get closer to the Abbassid Caliphs through the invention of new narrations, interpretations and laws and attributed them to Ibn Abbass, the higher grandfather of Abbassid caliphs. Those innovations acquired a kind of sanctuary and its discussion attracted the Caliphs’ anger.

The suppression of intellectual and scientific opinion increased when Al Mamoun tried to impose his own point of view concerning the issue of interpreting the Quran. And despite his open-mindedness and patience, Al Mamoun couldn’t resist the Abbassid influence. He tortured Ibn Hanbal and killed Ahmad Bin Nasr Al Kozaey when they rejected his opinions. The story began in the month of Rabee Al Awal, 218 hijri, when Al Mamoun issued a publication in which he ordered Islamic lawyers to embrace a creed that said that Quran was created by God after He created the universe and threatened whoever rejected that.

These threats soon caused some scholars like Ibn Saad, Abou Muslim, Yazeed Bin Harwoon, Yehia Ibn Maeen and Abou Khothayma to submit. When they were released, Al Mamoun ordered the arrest of other scholars such as Ibn Hanbal to force them to agree that the Quran was created after the Universe. They all agreed except Ibn Hanbal and another three. Two of them retreated while Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Nouh kept insisting on opposing the idea that the Quran was created after the Universe. Before his death, Al Mamoun charged his successor with the investigation of the case. Ibn Hanbal was tortured for a long time and then and died from his wounds after he was released.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You made some good pointers about "akidah" and "freedom". Especially "freedom" in Islam. Yes this is first fundamental rules/teachings in Islam. To recite the "shahadah" without force for one to embrace Islam. That was the first message that prophet SAW introduced to the people in makkah. UMNOkurap should take lessons from RPK and not from Imam al hadhari. To Mr. Izat please take note bro!!! All Umnoo READ AND DIGEST.