Since when has “liberal” and “pluralism” been considered bad words by Islam? This is quite surprising for me since I consider myself to have traits of both these words, and yet I consider myself a Muslim.
It was reported in the media recently that certain Islamic authorities in Malaysia are of the belief that thoughts relating to liberalism and pluralism has the potential of being radicalised, and hence, is a threat.
As far as I can observe, there are yet to be any person or groups of people who picked up arms and acted violently and also considered themselves liberals or pluralists.
But please do let me know if you have evidence otherwise because I could be biased since I identify with these thoughts. Then I would need a light to be shone down on me.
This is extremely disturbing, especially when Islam is facing extreme challenges (with the likes of Islamic State). Radicalisation is a serious problem and it should be dealt with accordingly.
We need Islamic leaders who are forward-thinking and not those who have an archaic perspective on life and of the religion. Because what is radicalisation if not the rejection of contemporary ideas?
I used to think that those who were attracted to Islamic radicalism were those who were uneducated and lacked knowledge. Hence, it would be easy to manipulate and fool these people.
But I think I may be wrong since it seems that there is an increasing number of people with high formal education joining the ranks of the Islamic State (Isis) in the Middle-East as well as in Southeast Asia.
Another thought that I had is that extreme poverty would cause people to be desperate enough to join a cause that took extreme measures in order to justify the desperate times.
But again, I think I may be wrong. There is evidence that shows that many of those with respected and professional jobs are leaving their comfort zones to join Isis as well.
Then I heard something that made sense. A professor of foreign policy at Georgetown University in Washington DC, Haroon Ullah, said that mainly well-read and well-fed people of the middle-class were attracted to radicalism.
In a short video, Haroon, who also works with the US State Department, explained that these people craved for order and wanted a stop to inefficient governance and corruption. And Islamic radicals offer these, even if it is at a high cost.
If you think about it, out of all the different countries that are trying to battle radicalisation, Malaysia, although wanting to battle it as well, seems to be the only one that is actually embracing it.
The Pew Research Centre recently conducted a survey and it said that 11% of Malaysians actually have a favourable view of Isis and another 25% more say they don’t know.
More shocking is that 80% of Malaysian Muslims also think that suicide bombings are justified. Now this is a very scary thought indeed for me. I don’t know about you!
The one thing people need to do is to show that Isis and similar militant groups actually do not bring about change. What they do bring is more violence and deaths and this cannot be glorified.
The political leaders in Malaysia also have to stop the politicisation of Islam because it could well be that it is one of the reasons that is conditioning such thoughts to develop among Malaysian Muslims.
And definitely the government has to address the fact that people are desperate for change. Hence, they need to make sure that there is efficient and clean governance.
The recent attacks by Isis in Jakarta and the arrests in Malaysia show that the situation is critical in this part of the world. Maybe it’s time to really do something about it.