There have been a few hot topics in the social media that I am personally interested in and have been following for the past few weeks.
- Polio virus made a comeback after 27 years of eradication in Malaysia. (heartbreaking, really)
- A famous da’i who had previously rejected 18 proposals from other women finally could not resist the aura of the 19th woman and got married to her, who also happened to be a fake doctor, before divorcing his pregnant first wife. (#DramaSangat)
- The (old) news regarding the change in the landscape of HIV transmission in Malaysia received a lot of emotionally-charged comments on the social media.
Do let me know if you have any opinion to share on these topics. I have personally shared my opinion on these in my Facebook and I don’t feel like repeating myself in my blog.
The Conversational Impasse
The Atheist: Why are Muslims against LGBT? They are very nice people. It’s just that they have different sexual orientation. They don’t harm other people. As long as they don’t harm others, let them do whatever they want.
The Believer: Who told you that? Who told you that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?”
The Atheist: Memang macam tu pun. Why should we curb other people’s freedom to do what they want when they don’t harm others? I don’t believe in your religion, so I am not going to follow what your religion says about LGBT being haram and all.
The Believer: I repeat, who told you that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?” I assume, you believe there is no objective truth… no absolute right or wrong in this world?
The Atheist: Stealing is wrong. It harms others; taking the rights of other people is wrong. Murder is wrong…. It takes life away from others. But in things that don’t harm others…. Why should we bother to push our religious beliefs onto other people?
The Believer: How did you KNOW that “it is okay to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm others?” Was it something you read? Was it an opinion of an author you had read? Which philosopher told you that? Or is it just your opinion?
The Atheist: What are you getting at?
The Believer: There is NO OBJECTIVE TRUTH to your statement that it is okay for us to do anything as long as we don’t harm others. In fact, you are pushing YOUR OPINION, YOUR IDEOLOGY, YOUR WORLDVIEW on me. I don’t believe that we can do everything that don’t harm others. I believe that in certain things there are clear-cut rightness and wrongness. Yes, I call them good deeds and sinful deeds… but that’s just words and semantics. You have your own internal bias that clashes with mine. You believe that people can do anything that don’t harm others. I don’t believe that.
The Atheist: But I don’t believe in your religion. So don’t push your religious values on me.
The Believer: And I don’t believe in your opinion. Why are you pushing it on me?
The Atheist: I am not pushing my opinion on you. I am saying, be free to do anything that don’t harm others.
The Believer: And I am saying, that there are certain things that we should NOT do even if it doesn’t harm people. Not all sinful things harm others… but I don’t believe it is okay to do it. Because things that you do that don’t harm others may actually harm yourself. Religion is not meant to just protect others around you but also to protect yourself. Things that you do that don’t harm others but harm yourself is still wrong. You want to indulge in alternative sexual lifestyle… go ahead. But if you ask for my opinion, I am not going to lie and pretend that I don’t think it is wrong. Am I not free to state my opinion? How does my opinion harm you? Why am I not free to state my religious belief as long as, ehem, it doesn’t harm others?
The Atheist: But your religious opinion harm others!
The Believer: Says you! I think, your opinion harms others too. Impressionable Muslims/Christians/Jewish kids, for example. It confuses their minds. They will start doing dangerous things that harm themselves…maybe take drugs/indulge in extramarital sex leading to teenage pregnancy for example… because they don’t believe they are harming anyone by doing it. They are just harming themselves and destroying their own future…. but to you, that is okay? It’s funny! You think your opinion doesn’t harm others… but you think MY opinion based on my religious values harms others?
The Atheist: Your opinion causes others to discriminate LGBT people. You call them deviants, deny them their rights to marriage, destroy their political careers and their reputation. Is that okay?
The Believer: Your opinion causes others to discriminate religious people. You call them backwards, orthodox, kampung, and distort other people’s impression of their intellect by labelling them religious bigots. Is that okay?
The Atheist: It seems like we are at an impasse. You don’t believe in freedom.
The Believer: You are wrong! I believe in the freedom to do what is right. I don’t believe in the freedom to do what is wrong… to lie, to cheat or to distort truth! I believe there are things that are right and things that are wrong… and at the same time, there are things that we are free to do because they are neither right nor wrong and God simply left it to our own preferences and discretion. In Islam, we call it halal, haram and harus. If two adult siblings engaged in sex consensually, it is STILL wrong even if they don’t harm others. If a parent and his/her adult child choose to have sex with each other even when they don’t harm others, it is STILL wrong! And when it comes to homosexuality, my opinion is that it is wrong and I am not going to change my opinion. I don’t go around shouting my opinion to others unnecessarily… but if anyone specifically asked me for my view on homosexuality, I am not going to lie and pretend that I think it is okay just to please them. As a Muslim, I CANNOT say it is okay… and forcing me to say things I couldn’t say as a Muslim does not reconcile with your concept of freedom of speech, does it? My worldview will always clash with yours but it doesn’t mean I am pushing my worldview on you…. because then, I can also say that you too are pushing your worldview on me. See? Truth is not objective because none of us can agree on one similar worldview. In this world, where no one can agree on what is the truth… what is right becomes debatable to the public.
The Atheist: Yes, we cannot agree on what is the truth. I will continue to say what I say. And you religious zealots will continue to say what you say.
The Believer: And each of us will continue to propagate what we believe as right. Each of us will try to gain followers for our cause, influence public opinion, lobby our MPs to change laws in the parliament! In this world, the truth is acknowledged by the law because everyone in that particular place will have to follow the law. And the law in Malaysia says that homosexuality is wrong, period. In fact homosexuality was wrong even in the West not so many decades ago! Because in this world… we can never agree on what is the truth. We can’t even agree if there is a God. And even among those who agree that God exist… they couldn’t agree on which is the right religion… and among those who can agree which one is the right religion, they could not agree on which mazhab/sect within that religion is the correct one. But if you change the law, you can change the truth as it is perceived in this world.
The Atheist: I guess, the word ‘truth’ becomes a study in grey. Nuanced. Uncertain.
The Believer : That’s why various groups from different ideologies will continue to push their opinions on others… will continue to try to influence public opinion and public policy. People go to war to champion their ideologies until now! In this world… what is the truth is best determined by policies and laws. If your country approves LGBT and creates pro-LGBT policy… that is the truth of what is accepted in your country. But in Muslim-majority countries, we have a different truth. Likewise, I cannot go to the Western countries demanding my idea of the truth to be upheld there until I can change the law there. Just like you cannot demand your idea of the truth to be upheld in Muslim-majority countries until you can change the law here. Our truths are reflected by the law. You change the law, you change the truth. That is kind of sad for the truth but that is how it is. In the West, LGBT is winning and the laws are gradually changing in their favour. Isn’t it funny how what used to be wrong is now right? Isn’t it sad how subjective truth can be in the hands of human beings who are always at the mercy of their conflict of interests? Over time, I wonder if consensual incest can be made right too as long as they, ehem, “don’t harm others”.
That Atheist: So we are engaged in an ideological war? Where truth is subjective and whoever can influence the public opinion more and whoever can cause the law to change in their favour will win?
The Believer: Exactly! It’s been like that since time immemorial. Didn’t you notice? May the best propagator win! To you is your belief. To me is mine. And we will see which one of us can influence the society more. And which one of us can cause the law to swing in our favour.
“Doing the right things start with knowing the right things.” In what way does responsible action depend on sound critical thinking?
That was my Theory of Knowledge essay question that I had to answer as an IB student back in 2005. I got an A in that essay, Alhamdulillah. And since then, I do believe that Pendidikan Islam must be taught this way. Ask the students to write an essay, UTILIZING and APPLYING their knowledge.
I have spoken about this before, how very unsatisfied I was when ustazah and ustaz gave me half-baked answers and an incomplete picture of a story. “What do you mean Al-Quran is a miracle? What do you mean gaya Bahasa Al-Quran tak ada siapa boleh tanding? Ada judge ke yang come up with who is the winner? Ada pertandingan gaya bahasa ke zaman Nabi dulu? Give me examples of the Quranic verses that are so miraculous that the Arab poets were stunned speechless? Who were the poets involved? I am thirsty for details! Give me some details!” Don’t simply give me simple one liners in answering things like this! Because my default mode would be to question and question and question… until I am satisfied. And I am glad I did that… because now that I have found the answer, I am a confident Muslim and I know that Islam is the truth. But there are SO MANY people… even dah adults…. who STILL had no idea how to answer basic questions of creed like this! Tapi ada hati nak jadi ustazah/ustaz ajar impressionable kids and the gullible public! We have people with questionable intellect and dubious honour being a loud self-proclaimed spokesperson for our religion (And they are products of reality TV competition with titles like Da’i and Pencetus Ummah. Gosh!) #18/19Aura anyone?
Why can’t we have more Malay Muslims like Dr. MAZA or Dr. Rozaimi to make up the majority of our religious leaders? Why do I have to turn to International speakers or revert Muslims in order to gain more knowledge about Islam? Why do we make reality TV personalities famous when they usually smear the beauty of our religion? There will be no market for mindless poor-quality entertainment if the majority of Muslims in this country are serious-minded and demand more thought-provoking TV programs.
As Muslims, we should really work on our critical thinking. We should really hone our ability for clarity of thoughts. We should practice how to vocalize our point of view so that truth would resonate from every single syllable of our words. Because as we all probably realize now… truth can be buried under false propaganda when the said false propaganda has the ability to gain more public favour. So it is our responsibility to be a competent propagator. Because at the the end of the day, the best propagator wins. Remember?
This is the fact that most men are ethnocentric. They believe there is only one true morality and it is their own. It makes it difficult for people to know what is right and what is wrong.
But if you CARE enough….if you REALLY want to know the truth, you would have found it. Eventually.
Take the picture above as an example. People love to reference this situational picture to show others of how every perspective, every point of view can be right or wrong depending on which angle you see things. As though there is no absolute truth in anything in this world.
Well, I beg to differ.
In real life situation, depending on criteria and the weightage of the criteria, you can always come up with what decision is more right to be done. For example, there are ways we can know whether the number should be 9 or 6. I would resolve the situation by hearing the arguments on each side of the party…. why he says it is 6, and why the other party says it is 9. Perhaps, a few metres down the road, there was another number carved on the road as 7… and therefore it makes sense that this one should be 6. Find out la! Jangan malas! Hear all arguments…. Hear everything. If things are still blurry, I would find out who wrote that number 6/9 and I would search for that person, call him up and ask him myself, “What did you mean to write, actually? 6 or 9? Why did you write that number in the first place? Was there a purpose to the writing of the number?”
The thing is, when something is important enough to me, I want to know everything there is to know about the answer to that particular question! I want to be convinced. I am not easily satisfied by people’s laziness in answering “Bergantung kepada situasi. Bergantung kepada factor-faktor tertentu.” Aduh! You should elaborate and tell me “Bergantung kepada situasi yang macam mana? Faktor yang macam mana? In what way would things change if the situation or the factors change?” Don’t give me half-assed answers that satisfies no one. At least have the honesty to admit that you don’t know and you too would love to explore further. Admit your ignorance and vow to find out the truth and clarify the matter.
There are ALWAYS ways we can find out the truth! Either you want to go through that effort or not… is up to you. So in trivial things like the picture above (6 or 9), I might not go to the trouble of finding the person who wrote the number because it just wasn’t important enough to me. Effort should be proportionate to the significance of the expected outcome. Our time in this world is limited. Choose where we put our effort accordingly.
But in finding out about whether or not you are following the right way of life, in finding out whether or not your worldview is right (your religion/ your life philosophy/ your political ideology) I believe you have to go ALL OUT and search for the truth until you find it! It is worth finding. If you can invest so many years of your life to become a doctor, why can’t you spend some time just reading on philosophy, World Religions, comparative religions, watching philosophical and religious lectures on You Tube. This is only a very small effort on our part. It amazes me that people can be satisfied when things don’t click! It amazes me that people are not bothered by contradictory facts that don’t connect. It amazes me that people can live with cognitive dissonance and continue to believe things that they doubt deep inside. And they can brush off their worries and concerns that they might be wrong… just because they have been brought up with an unconscious internal bias.
Examine your mind properly… how did you come up with that opinion? Is there an objective truth to it? Or does it ‘seem’ to be the truth because it is the law of the country or the sentiments of the majority of the people in your circle?
I hope my readers will do one thing in their life whenever they are confronted with a new information, a new thought, a novel ideology. Always question and verify that information! Ask them… how did you know that information? How did you come up with that opinion? Do you have a reference? Do you have a book I can read on that topic myself? Is there another possible explanation? (Even in learning worldly matters like psychiatry… I am like that. For example, don’t be offended if I question some stuff in Psychoanalysis. To question is to learn. Be worried if your students don’t question everything you said. How interested are they in learning what you have taught them if they don’t have ANY question and ANY doubt at all?)
Al-Hasan al-Basri said: “The believer reserves judgment until the matter is proven.”
Book Of The Month
I have decided to end all my future blog posts with books that I had read in the previous month. I have been reading 2-4 books per month since I started working as a doctor (previously when I was a student, I was able to read 2 books per week. Those were the good old days when I still had the energy and the luxury of time to indulge in my hobby). But I rarely shared with my readers about my thoughts of the books I had read. I think this should change. Reading is a large and important part of my life and by sharing my thoughts on books that I read, I hope to inspire you guys to read them as well. It would be a shame not to tell you guys about books that you might possibly enjoy reading too.
So from now on I would end all my blog post with the section of Book of The Month. And if you are not fond of reading, you can simply skip this section in my future blog post.
So in November, I had read Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Silence of The Lambs by Thomas Harris. You guys are probably familiar with the film version of The Silence of The Lambs, featuring Hannibal Lecter as the genius psychopathic psychiatrist. So, I don’t think I should say anything more about the book. It was not a bad book, but it wasn’t exactly awesome.
But I am more impressed with Animal Farm.
I recommend Animal Farm to all my readers because it is a very thought-provoking satire on politics and society. The plot is a thinly-disguised political criticism of Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. To those who don’t know about The Russian Revolution, Vladimir Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution who had chased away Tsar Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor. Vladimir Lenin then passed away and Joseph Stalin took over the leadership of the Revolution. Joseph Stalin had used a lot of unscrupulous methods and various propaganda to eventually betray the ideals of the deceased Vladimir Lenin in The Russian Revolution.
It taught me that people tend to distort truth (in the novel: the truth is dubbed as ‘commandments’) with the passing of the time in order to justify the conflict of interests of the society leaders. Animal Farm is only a thin novella… but it is one of the greatest books in history and arguably Orwell’s finest work. So, if you are interested, do check it out.
I also recommend you guys to read 1984, also by George Orwell. But if you are new to political satire, you might have more tolerance and patience to read Animal Farm first before you move on to read 1984. (In my case, I read 1984 first… and became interested with George Orwell afterwards. And only recently did I have the opportunity to read Animal Farm.)
If you guys have any book recommendation for me, do let me know. I always appreciate people recommending me a good book to read. After all, I was told that “seeing someone reading a book that you love is like seeing a book recommending a person,” I think that this is quite accurate. I can make an educated guess of what sort of person you are just by knowing what is your favourite book.
Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us with knowledge of the truth. And may Allah give us the strength to be steadfast in practicing the truth and speaking the truth that we had painstakingly found. Amin.