Jakim’s ‘war on Isis’ is not a real war if a good foundation is not laid in education and prayer, says Ravinder Singh.
If Jakim’s ‘all-out war’ against Isis is just about explaining the concept of jihad, then it is not a real war against extremism.
Extremism is not merely the taking up of arms and killing the innocent, even those of one’s own race and religion.
Extremism is much more than that. For example, in today’s context, when someone labels non-Muslims as kafirs, that amounts to extremism. Even if the word ‘kafir’ was used during the time of the Prophet, the socio-political-economic context today is not the same as it was then.
Words don’t only have meanings. They also carry connotations. In today’s world, calling someone kafir is akin to saying that person does not deserve a place in this world. Thus calling others ‘kafir’ can sow the seeds of dislike for those others or even hatred of them.
Jakim Director General Othman Mustapha has rightly observed that “without a good religious foundation, no matter how successful they become in life, it will be futile as their contribution to society will only bring more harm than good”.
So what is a good religious foundation?
Religious education has been a part of our mainstream education since independence. It was taught in rural pondoks at one time and now there are fully-fledged religious schools. Why did we not have radical, extremist Muslims in Malaysia 50 years ago like the kind we have today? What went wrong in giving them “a good religious education”?
It is good for Jakim to realise the importance of “a good religious foundation”. Besides the question of what is a good religious foundation would be the question how to instil good religious values in those who are taught religious education so that they do not look upon others as inferior beings compared to themselves?
How to ensure that innocent, easily impressionable children are not given the message that they are superior beings compared to others?
Any words or acts that sow the seeds of the thought that one is a superior being compared to others is at the root of racial extremism. Thus when schools devise ways to keep non-Muslim children out of the view of fasting Muslim children during Ramadan, what is the message that is being very subtly implanted in the minds of the Muslim children?
Similarly when teachers openly tell children to “balik China” or “balik India”, what is the message that is understood by the Muslim children?
Or what was the motive behind the introduction of the Malay literature book “Interlok” with the p….h word when there are hundreds of other books?
What would Muslim children who read the articles of Ridhuan Tee or hear the speeches of Perkasa to burn bibles or even follow debates on the prohibition of the use of certain words by non-Muslims, think of themselves? Are seeds of “a good religious foundation” being sown by all this?
True, education has much, if not everything, to do with all the negative beliefs that go into the minds and sit there, waiting to explode like fireworks in their packaging. Neutralising the packets alone will not solve the problem, although it is a necessary measure in critical situations. The production of the explosives must be stopped. Is there a will to do this?
If Jakim is serious about ensuring that “a good religious foundation” is given to people, it must, besides its campaign to explain the true meaning of jihad, look at what is being put into the minds of innocent children, whether directly or indirectly.
I don’t think extremists are made overnight. It is minds that have been indoctrinated by certain ideas over a period of time (e.g. having more right to exist in this world because others are ‘kafir’) that jump at the chance of cleansing the world or proving something else.
One other matter that I want to mention, without malice towards anyone, is the fact that the way we worship has a profound influence on impressionable minds.
I have been to the houses of prayer of the Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and other faiths of minority groups. Prayer congregations are not subjected to fiery speeches that have political tones. Prayer is always a solemn affair, though it may be noisy in some cases e.g. the bells and drums in Hindu temples. Even advice from the holy books is not delivered in aggressive tones.
Could Jakim please look into this so that prayers are conducted solemnly in prayer houses which are very important places to get “a good religious foundation”. Congregations in prayer houses (and people outside who can also hear) should hear soothing words to be at peace with God.
Could Jakim also stop politicians from hijacking religion for political purposes as it leads to radicalism and extremism? Hudud, for example, was relevant during that time over a thousand years ago when there was no equivalent of a Penal Code. The Prophet did not command that hudud must remain in force till the end of time. So why create so much discord by dragging it into politics? Have the PDRM in the first place explained why they cannot control rising crime among the Muslims in Kelantan when they can do so in the rest of the country?
While trying to extinguish the fires of Isis, Jakim must also look at the overall issue of ensuring “a good religious foundation” starting from childhood so that today’s children will grow up learning “to do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, for the one and only God created all beings, be they of whatever colour, creed or religion.
Thus, if teachings that one race or religion is superior to others do not stop, there will never be peace.