When Danish newspaper and other European Publications displayed their imbecility in publishing cartoons caricaturing our beloved Prophet Muhammad in 2005/2006… it hurt.
It really hurt.
In fact, it STILL hurts. (Present tense being the functioning grammar)
To say that The Muslim Nation was ‘upset’ would be an understatement of the century. We were not merely astounded, appalled, aghast and shocked, we turned violent. We became aggressive. Several of Danish embassies in the Muslim world were brutally violated, invaded, bombed. Danish flags were burned several times over.
In fact, the very lives of the dozen or so cartoonists were in serious danger.
The prophet, were he still living and breathing in our midst, would be the first person to ignore the childish, stupid, asinine taunting of the cartoons…after all, he had endured even worse while preaching to the pagans in Makkah.
So why did we find the followers of Prophet Muhammad became violent, and as a result, tarnished even further the (ehem) enviable reputation of Islam as the largest terrorist organization the history has ever seen? (in the Western minds, at least). Why couldn’t we act the way our prophet had acted when he was provoked even more outrageously, even more audaciously, and in the most insolent and impudent manner one can ever imagine.
Even though I will be the first person to object to violence of any sort as opposed to intellectual debate and dialogue, but I have to admit that the urge to violence is quite understandable. Not acceptable, mind you… but understandable.
To the non-Muslims, let me give you some context regarding our sentiment towards our prophet. Our love for the prophet surpasses (a thousand times over) the love that we have for our mothers. Imagine how much you love your mother, multiply that a thousand times over…even then, you would not have captured the level of regards that we have for our prophet.
What the cartoonists had done (whose names I would not even type if only to taint and disgrace my page) was even worse than if they had said “Your mother is a bitch” to my face. Had anyone dared to say that to my mother, I will probably commit some serious body harm to that person. So imagine, how I feel when an insult was issued to my prophet (someone I love more than my mother). I will find the urge to hurt that person quite natural.
This is something that someone who doesn’t love their mother will never understand. If you are the sort of person who will let anyone insult your mother to your face, without any repercussion, you either don’t love your mother ENOUGH (the way she deserves to be loved) or you are the biggest coward the world has ever produced.
No one with the least amount of pride would let any insult to their mother go unpunished. It is a gut instinct for every child to protect the good name of their mother.
Ergo, if you are the sort of person who cannot understand the urge to punish someone who has insulted your mother, how can you understand the urge to hurt someone who has insulted Prophet Muhammad, someone who we love even more than our mother, someone who we love best after Allah?
By the same argument, if you can understand the urge to hurt someone who has insulted your mother, then you can also understand why the Muslims turn violent when an insult was issued towards our most beloved prophet.
Understanding the urge is one thing. Actually acting on it is another. Our mother would be the first person to tell us “Don’t fight on my account. Just ignore it and turn the other way.” But that is easier said than done.
In my opinion, those who insult other people’s mother must be brainless idiots. Either that, or they were purposefully trying to pick a fight. So it would be my pleasure to give them the fight that they were trying to pick.
By the same argument, those who insult other people’s religious icons are brainless idiots, all of them. Either that, or they were purposefully, bellicosely, provokingly trying to pick a fight. So, serve them right for the kind of violence they have ignited.
Like I said, I frown upon violence. In this case, that violence was unacceptable but understandable. It SHOULD be understandable to anyone who loves their mother…because our love for our prophet surpasses even that.
The Western World marveled at the Muslims ‘over-reaction’ over the caricature.
When they published the cartoons, they had no idea that we would turn THAT violent. But they should have suspected.
How would they react if a Muslim publishes a mocking cartoon about Jesus?
Having questioned that, I hereby declare that you could never induce any pious knowledgeable Muslim to publish mocking cartoons about other people’s religious icons! Never in a million years will you find any sane, knowledgeable and God-fearing Muslim be induced to mock other people’s religious icon. We are not that stupid.
The very reason knowledgeable and pious Muslims will never mock other people’s religious icon is because that foolish act will be a DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE to Allah’s command in the Quran. Indeed, my religion EXPLICITLY forbids me to mock other people’s idea of a God or prophet. So even if I’d feel inclined to mock whatever religious icons there are, I CANNOT!
Al-Quran (6:108):”And abuse not whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, abuse Allah in their ignorance..-“
(In Malay: Dan janganlah kamu memaki sembahan yang mereka sembah selain Allah, kerana mereka nanti akan memaki Allah dengan melampaui batas tanpa pengetahuan)
Allah, our Ceator, understands our psychology perfectly. Our psychology basically goes something like this: If you insult my mother, I will insult your mother back. If you insult my prophet, I will insult your prophet back too. If you insult my God, I will insult your God . The psychology of tit for tat! The psychology of equivalent retaliation regardless of whether or not it is based on reason or justification.
Allah knows this human tendency will lead to disharmony and a very unstable society. Therefore, Allah makes it a religious prohibition that says if you are a Muslim, you shall not EVER insult other people’s religious icons. As a Muslim it doesn’t befit your character to become the instigator of such an ugly spat.
So you see, our lips are sealed and our hands are tied by our own religious regulation. We couldn’t mock you back. We could only express anger at your mockery; and some of us, unfortunately, went into extremes in expressing their fury.
That explains why you can never see Muslims publicly jeering at other people’s religion although we actually know as well as you do about what to say to hit the anger button. To the Christians, we believe in Jesus as a prophet, too. And therefore, you will never find us mocking him just to hurt the Christians. The very idea is REPUGNANT to even consider. In fact, we actually believe that the Christians are the ones who are best in behavior towards the Muslims. So, to hurt them with silly insults will be an act most disagreeable to Muslims.
“Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the Believers wilt thou find those who say “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning (priests), and men who have renounced the world (monks), and they are not arrogant. And then they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognize the truth. They pray: ‘Our Lord! We believe, write us down among the witnesses.’ (Surat Al-Maida 82-83)”
Moses is not only believed by the Jews; we believe In Moses too. So, you will never find us mocking Moses. The very idea is loathsome and abhorrent to even contemplate.
We will never suddenly wake up and mock the Buddha too. We will never, out of the blue, draw stupid cartoons about any of the Hindu idols either. It is simply not in us to mock religious icons.
However, intellectually questioning ideas and concepts within the religion is fair game. I can tolerate that. In fact I welcome it. If someone suddenly comes to me and ask me “I don’t know why you guys should fast in the month of Ramadhan. And by the way, I don’t see why the Muslim ladies should be covered from head to toe. And I don’t understand why pork is so dirty to you etc etc.”….if someone had come to me and say all that, I guarantee you, there will be NO urge whatsoever to punch that person in the face. We have been facing those same questions and attacks in overseas and we do our part in explaining our religion to others. As long as they don’t resort to brainless name-callings and idiotic insults, we have no problem whatsoever with anyone questioning any idea/ concept/ practice within our religion. Those questions are not designed to hurt me; those questions merely attack ideas within my religion, which if I am knowledgeable, I should be able to answer easily enough and IN RETURN, give them a few things to think about THEIR own religion.
My opinion is, if one believes in a certain concept or idea, one should be able to defend it and MOST IMPORTANTLY, one should be prepared to do so.
You see, there’s a difference between mocking a religion and questioning the concepts in the religion. The former is motivated by the desire to hurt; the latter is motivated by the desire to understand.
Since we have established the fact that as a Muslim, our hands are tied and our mouths are sealed from paying back all those stupid taunts in similar colour, so the question arise as to what would our defense be when we have to face these sorts of provocation? What can we say? What can we do to defend ourselves?
The key is proper religious education.
There is no other way around it.
As I have mentioned in previous paragraphs, if one believes in something, one should be able to defend it. And being able to defend Islam requires that one be prepared with proper religious education… not only about Islam but also about other religions as well.
Our only defense is in our ability to defend our creed and the concepts and ideas behind it. If we could provide scientific facts or historical facts in elaboration to that defense, that would be even better.
Furthermore, it is imperative to know the concepts/ideas/histories of OTHER RELIGIONS too. Whenever someone tries to paint Islam as the very picture of terrorism, it should be at the tip of our tongue to remind them of their own bloody history… the Crusades, the bombing of abortion clinics by the Catholics. Let them know that subversive elements exist in ALL religions. So if you want to play that game, bring it on. I know as much dirt about you as you think you know about me. OR, on the other hand, we can play nicely with each other and we can both admit that terrorism in Islam is more of a political issue than that of a religious issue. There are twice as many Muslims in China than there are in Saudi Arabia…how come terrorist attacks only MOSTLY occur in America and Britain? What have these two nations done to Muslims? What part have they played in the suffering of the Palestinians, for example?
When an Australian of Indian origin came to me complaining about how Muslim women are oppressed and some such nonsense, I first tried to explain away the myth propagated by the media and I also enlightened him regarding the position of Islam regarding the rights of women. How revolutionary we have always been about women emancipations. But when he became almost insolent, I turned nasty and reminded him about the caste system and the sati practice (burning of widows). He said “Well I am Indian and I didn’t agree with all those practice.” I gave him a sickly sweet smile and said “Well, I am Malaysian, and neither do I.”
My point is, we should have knowledge so that we can defend our religion with good arguments. And if our opponents are particularly rude and obnoxious, we should be able to give them back as good as we get by pointing out that their own is not that pure.
So it is not enough that we study our own religion. We should know how it compares.
In this age, our religion is being attacked right, left and centre. And we are expected to do nothing about it. We CANNOT mock them the way they mocked us. At the same time, we SHOULD NOT turn to physical violence.
So our only weapon is knowledge. And if we are lacking in this, we will perish!
Do you know that there IS Islamic Study in the Western universities…and the lecturers are non-Muslims. They lecture on Islamic Studies from the point of view of the Orientals and spew out nonsense about our religion that pollute the minds of those who wouldn’t seek any other source. It’s sickening and we just couldn’t do anything about it.
I still remember how my Pendidikan Islam in SPM was formatted. The syllabus did not encourage the young minds to use their critical thinking AT ALL. In fact, Pendidikan Islam was one of those ‘sure dapat A punya’ subject. The students hardly needed to study as hard as they studied Add Maths, Chemistry or Physics.
Some people might say “Kalau kamu nak study agama in detail, pi lah masuk sekolah agama.” But that’s a WRONG concept to propagate. Everyone who calls herself a Muslim should know that religious education is something that you have to go ALL OUT to acquire…that it is ONLY NATURAL to know as much as possible of anything there is to know about Islam. As a Muslim, this is what your life is all about; yet you didn’t give it the proper attention that it is due.
So, how would I design our religious syllabus at school?
I will introduce Arabic language as a compulsory subject for all Muslims to pass in exam, regardless of whether or not the students are from sekolah agama or otherwise. Arabic should be introduced as a very important subject since Year 1 of school; not just an additional/optional subject that you don’t really have to be good at. You have to study this language the way you study your English. By the end of your schooling years, you should be able to read it, speak it, and write essays in it. You should read Arabic literature. You should be able to write good intellectual articles in Arabic. You should be able to write poetries in it and come up with literary quotations in Arabic.
I will introduce comparative religion. The exam must be in essays…not dotted points that can be memorized with no critical thinking at all. Examples of the exam question will be something like this;
It has been a widely popularized propaganda that Islam was spread through the edge of the sword. By using your knowledge of the Quran, your knowledge of the world history and the Islamic History, write a CONVINCING commentary to dispute this preposterous libel. (Not less than 500 words, bonus points awarded if the essay could be done in EXCELLENT Arabic).
-this question requires the student not only to know the Quran alone, or the history alone. It requires the student to know BOTH; and then to integrate those different knowledge and connect them together to produce a good essay.
By using your knowledge of The Quran, The Bible and the History of Pre- and Post- Council of Nicaea, discuss the concept of trinity in Christianity.
-the question makes it clear that the students need to know some basic knowledge regarding what trinity is all about; what the Quran says about Trinity (this requires the student to know specific Quranic verses that talk about trinity); what the Bible says about Trinity (that means the student must memorize some biblical quotations allegedly alluding to trinity); and what happens during Council of Nicaea.
-After knowing the basic knowledge, the students then need to apply those knowledge and try to connect them together and arrange them into points of natural sequence so that the essay would look good and professional.
-In short, it requires application of knowledge and critical thinking! Not simply memorize and vomit the memory into paper.
An Atheist came to you and declared his conviction that there is no life after death. How do you convince this atheist to the contrary? You are allowed to use your knowledge of The Evolution Theory, your knowledge of biological science and your knowledge of philosophy to produce your argument in not less than 1000 words.
-Whoa. Imagine if religion is being taught this way at school. The ustaz/ustazah will give you this question for homework with next week as a deadline. So, students are required to do proper research into Evolution, other aspects of biology as well as philosophy….and the challenge is how to connect all these knowledge into a religious article. The students actually have to put serious hard work and energy in researching and then thinking about these topics in order to produce a good essay.
-The ustazah can discuss the answers to this essay in a very interesting lesson. For example, she may invite the school biology teacher (preferably Ketua Jabatan) or a philosophy lecturer from outside to sit in the class and discuss all the points together.
-How INTERESTING Pendidikan Islam would be if it is being taught this way, can you imagine?
We have to revolutionize our education system of memorizing without thinking. It is imperative for Muslims to recognize that we should change; and it has to be done from NOW, starting from the teaching of our youngsters at school.
It’s time we begin a much-needed paradigm shift.
I am speaking the truth when I said I learned more about Islam and other religions in Newcastle than I ever did in Malaysia. If I love Newcastle, it is NOT because I gravitate towards everything western or anything foreign. Wallahi, no!
The Malays have a very precise adage that says “Tempat jatuh lagikan dikenang”. Even though my physical growth had occurred in Malaysia, my emotional and mental faculties had lagged a thousand miles behind, back then. My whole world at that time revolved around getting straight As and having a lot of fun.
The fact is such that my emotional and mental growth spurt occurred in Newcastle.
I miss Newcastle not because I had spent 5 years of my life over there.
I miss Newcastle because that was the place I survived my mental and emotional roller coaster. Tempat jatuh lagikan dikenang, remember?
It’s funny what kind of experience life throws you. You find the unexpected in the strangest of place. And for each and every moment of your rich consequential life, never ever forget to look up into the sky and mouth a silent prayer of thanks to THE ONE who has been gently and silently guiding you on.