Tag Archives: malaysia

A debate on Islam will do us good


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A debate on Islam will do us good
By Zan Azlee

The much-talked about debate between Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah Malaysia (Aswaja) president Zamihan Mat Zin and Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin needs to go on.

It should happen in public and not behind closed doors. Everyone should be invited and, hopefully, it can also be streamed live online and even better, on mainstream television.

As far as I can remember in my short 38 years of life, I have never witnessed a debate based on religion between individuals who are deemed as having the “authority” to do so.

And not only that, these are two individuals who have such opposing views and interpretations of the same religion. It would be interesting to see what the conclusion would be, or if there will even be one.

Malaysians are desperately in need of religious intellectual discourse whether they know it or not. The indicator is that any opposing view that isn’t the mainstream gets rejected and even condemned.

It has come to a point where Malaysian Muslims feel that it is even wrong to question anything that is related to the religion, or what is stated by the official religious authorities.

And for those who do try to question or even explain things from a different perspective, they are told to shut up because they supposedly have no right to do so.

It is dangerous when such a culture of silence and blind faith is allowed to manifest. It will cultivate a society that does not know how to think for themselves.

When that happens, it opens up opportunities for the few who are in power to manipulate the entire society to their benefit and to the detriment of everyone else.

Not only that, this will also lead our society to fast become a backward society which isn’t open to different ways of thought and new methods of interpretation. Basically, stuck in an archaic religious period.

Society stops looking for ways to make religion, in this instance Islam, timeless as it should be. We think that only the old interpretations are how we are suppose to base our modern day life on.

The killing of reasoning and logical thinking has begun and Malaysia already shows signs that we are afraid to use intellectual thought.

The evidence is that when it comes to interpreting religion, because we have been conditioned to think that if we question, then our faith will be affected.

We forget to realise that the intention of questioning is to be able to convince and prove to ourselves why we should have faith in the first place. It is a way for us to understand religion deeper.

But this fear of intellectual thinking and discourse isn’t just a current problem that we face here in Malaysia. In fact, it has been something that has existed for centuries.

In the 8th century, a group of Muslim thinkers known as the Mu’tazilites promoted the use of reasoning and logical thinking to understand Islam better.

Among the famous Mu’tazilites included Muslims who we now revere such as Ibnu Sina, Ibnu Rushd and Al Farabi. But of course, during their day, they were also heavily criticised and condemned.

And those who did the condemning were the supposedly religious authorities who wanted to make sure that there was no challenge or discourse that might bring forward different schools of thought.

So with bated breath, I await the debate between the two religious figures. It would be interesting to see the reaction of society here and how they will accept the discourse and differing opinions.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

Blasphemy is man-made, so question away


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Blasphemy is man-made, so question away
By Zan Azlee

ISLAM is a fairly unique religion in the sense that everyone is considered equal no matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what race or creed, and especially not in rank or position.

It is one of the few faiths where ordinary people have the right to be leaders. For example, any sane adult is allowed to be an imam and lead a congregation in prayers.

And, there is no intermediary between an individual and God. We do not need any religious authority figure in order to pray or to communicate with God. The line between us is always open no matter who you are.

What that means is that there is no one who is above the other when it comes to the religion. And in that sense, Islam is quite democratic, to put it in modern terms.

So when certain quarters say that people should stay silent and not comment about the religion because they are not in the position to do so, I find that highly oppressive.

Any Muslim (or anyone for that matter) should be able to question or even voice out concerns when it comes to Islam because it is their right to do so and no one can take that right away.

And this is especially so when it comes to public matters such as governance and jurisprudence because as it already so obviously states, it has everything to do with the public.

There is such term as Shura in Islamic governance whereby the consultation of the people is obligatory in order for a particular government to function.

The Majlis Shura should also consist of members from all layers of society and not just those deemed to be of authority. Hence, everyone is represented when consultation is made.

This, in essence, already shows that Islam strives to achieve a society that gives equal opportunities to every and any individual to have a voice and to participate in society.

It should also be pointed out that there has never been, in Islam, the concept of blasphemy. This is a concept that was created by those who didn’t want their authority to be questioned.

I truly believe that Islam is a religion that calls for it’s followers to constantly criticise and ask questions in order to gain as much knowledge as possible in order to improve themselves and society.

Society will only be able to open up to intellectual discourse and debate when there exist a culture of constant questioning and criticising, This should definitely be encouraged because only then will we evolve.

We should not be scared to question and discuss things we do not understand because how else will be able to find the answers and to clarify things?

I would like to take a peek into history to see how a civilisation that does not consult the people and denies them the right to question things fared in its survival.

One of the greatest Islamic empires was the Abbasid Empire which ruled their land from 750 to 1517. They ruled all of the Arab peninsular, North Africa and parts of Asia Minor.

But their downfall came when they became too authoritarian. They felt that their rule was bestowed upon hereditary terms and that they were born to do it. Hence, they became more feudal.

They ceased to realise that individuals must have a say in how their lives are governed. And their empire that had lasted for centuries came to an abrupt end.

So let’s encourage constructive criticism, questions, discourse and debates. Everyone has a right to comment. Hopefully, society will benefit and we will evolve into far better people. It’s just the Islamic way.

[This article originally appeared at English.AstroAwani.Com]

And here’s a little #ICYMI!

The Fat Bidin Vlog
Ep 25 – An ancient train ride to Johor Bahru!

Took the overnight train from KL to JB to spend a foodgasmic weekend with the family!

*Pay attention to the video and you might win a free t-shirt and sticker pack!

New vlog episodes are out every Wednesdays!

Subscribe to the Fat Bidin YouTube Channel.

The Fat Bidin Film Club (Ep 40) – Flower In The Pocket


The Fat Bidin Film Club (Ep 40) – Flower In The Pocket

Zan and Aizyl revisit Flower in the Pocket (2007) by Liew Seng Tat, which was recently released online on Vimeo. You can watch it here (but you have to pay a tiny amount): https://vimeo.com/ondemand/57458/146982307

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Listen to more Fat Bidin podcasts here.

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The Minute Men (Ep 80) – Political funding in Malaysia


Fat Bidin presents
The Minute Men (Ep 80) – Political funding in Malaysia

All you need to know about political funding in Malaysia in ONE MINUTE!

New episodes out every Mondays.

Listen to more Fat Bidin Podcasts here.

Subscribe to the Fat Bidin YouTube Channel.