A cogitation on the politicization of Islam in the country – what spurned its coming to being, it’s manifestation and how it is adversely affecting Malaysia and her citizens, in particular the ordinary Muslim citizen – in 4 parts.
The politicization of Islam in the country has actually taken away the liberty of the ordinary Muslim citizen to practice the faith peacefully and as he understands it. The demands of politico-Islamisation on the ordinary Muslim is not only onerous but even to the point of being oppressive.
Islam is not a law that can to be imposed by compulsion (I will touch on the effect of fiqh subsequently). Islam may also be looked upon as a “religion”, a faith, a “spirituality”, an “all encompassing way of Life ordained by the Maker”. The foundation of acceptance of Islam is faith and not mere physical submission. Once there is faith founded on the knowledge from the Maker, that is the Quran, then the person considers himself a Muslim. This is a stage by stage process that the person will have to go through all his life and not something that can be manufactured overnight like mass producing products in a factory. That is how faith works.
Those who reject Faith say: Why is not the Qur’an revealed to him all at once? Thus (is it revealed), that We may strengthen your heart thereby, and We have rehearsed it to you in slow, well-arranged stages, gradually. Quran: 25:32
No laws can make a person believe something that he does not believe. Compelling someone to believe something is indoctrination or the encouragement of hypocrisy and not education of the soul. It may even turn the ignorant, impatient persons away from the faith.
“As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe.” Quran: 2:6
Politico-Islamisation requires every State defined Muslim to submit to the State defined religious laws under pain of punishment. In Malaysia, a person is a Muslim as defined by each of the State as “Islam” is a State matter with each of the Malay Ruler as the “Head of Islam.”
Hence, the practice of Islam in Malaysia is not simply a private matter of faith between him and God but a legal matter between him and the State in which he lives. It is for this reason that each State has its own religious authorities to regulate and control “religious behaviour” as provided for by the respective State Syariah enactments. For example, while fasting is one of the important articles of faith in Islam, it is equally an offence for a State defined Muslim to eat in public during the fasting months. The law prohibits a public display of non-fasting and ignores the fact of God’s omnipresence which can only be inculcated through education and faith.
Since Islam in Malaysia is so much identified with law or shariah due to the fact that most of the Islamic scholars in the country are juristic or fiqhi, it is not surprising that there has been very little emphasis on the greater aspects of the Islamic teachings, including its values.
Since the religious laws are passed by Assemblymen who are politicians, politics play a vital role. Politics has to do with the pursuance of power by pandering to the sentiments of the voters. In Malaysia, the voters are largely Malays and who vide Article 160 of the Federal Constitution, are automatically legal Muslims. Malays have high sentiments towards their religion like most others have towards theirs. (In India, the RSS politicizes Hinduism and panders to the Hindu sentiments for votes).
Each State also has its own religious council and this is where the role of the Islamic scholars appointed or employed by the State in the politico-Islamisation process comes into play.
It is important to understand the equation or link between religious laws-politics-Islamic scholars in order to properly analyse the politico-Islamisation process and how it impacts on the Muslim’s personal liberty to practice and profess his faith as he understands it. It is a complex web.
To be continued… Peace !
Loyarburok Editorial Note: This post originally appears in the author’s blog, Rapera.