Islamophobia: Tackle it with knowledge

26 Aug


source of article : Islamophobia: Tackle it with knowledge

I READ with interest the letter “Man’s own doing” by Arif Shah R.K. (NST, Aug 19) and the letter “Accept diversity and live in peace with others” by Faiz Azizan (NST, Aug 7), to which he was responding.

Arif mentions people like Osama bin Laden and Norwegian Andres Behring Breivik, but what most of us fail to see are the erroneous interpretations of religious scholars and false ideologues motivating them to commit terror acts in the first place, and also ignorant people who support such men.

Incorrect religious interpretations can only give rise to confusion, which leads to misconduct and injustice. This happens when society fails to recognise and acknowledge the proper authorities in knowledge and, instead, relies on dubious interpretations of confused individuals.

Therefore, I think it is naive to first portray Islamophobia as a consequence of man’s own doing and proceed to offer the simplistic solution that love is all it takes to solve all the conflicts of the world.

On the contrary, it is correct and proper knowledge that is needed, indeed more important than mere, blind, superficial love.

For example, it is simply not enough that in order to solve a conflict stemming from, say racism, we try to erase any reference to skin colour. It does not also solve the problem of religious hatred by simply treating every religion as equal.

Instead, these problems can be settled by having the knowledge that God “has created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” (Quran, 49:13).

By having the correct interpretations, one can begin to understand the proper places of things as intended by God and reconcile these differences.

Such is the purpose of this verse that it later states: “Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”

The problem arises from incorrect interpretations of religious beliefs, often caused by unqualified individuals who lack the mastery of various disciplines, understanding and proper guidance from tradition. They issue decrees based on ignorance.

A friend pointed out that in a recent book by Charles Kurzman, it was mentioned that only 40 people had perished because of terrorism in the United States since the 9/11 attacks, compared with 140,000 murders in the US in that time.

He added: “Kurzman also offers a provocative argument that is sure to set the jihad-hunters’ hair on fire — that there are actually very few Islamic terrorists in the world today.”

Another friend, who is an expert in international political relations, in making connections to Islamophobic attitudes, Norwegian killings and recent riots in the United Kingdom, offered an unapologetic comment on Western hypocrisy towards Islam: “When accused of terrorism, we are Muslims, but when killed by looters, we become Asians…”

Can such blatant hypocrisy be forgiven?

Most of the time, it is not until the offending party offers to make amends and reparations, because this is what justice entails. But how can we achieve justice from a myopic or distorted idea of it?

Injustices occur because of the loss of ability to recognise legitimate authority in religion and knowledge.

Such failure to recognise is apparent when one assumes that everybody possesses the same capacity to achieve true knowledge and, thus, commits “the levelling of knowledge”.

It is manifested when, for instance, a leader comes seeking advice from a very wise scholar but upon receiving the best counsel, chooses not to act upon it. Instead, he follows his whims and desires.

Erudite scholar and philosopher Tan Sri Prof Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas has diagnosed the malaise that is affecting the Muslims and the source of injustice to be “the loss of adab” stemming from “error and confusion in knowledge”.

Naquib defined adab as not merely “good manners” or “etiquette” but “recognition and acknowledgement of the right and proper place, station and condition in life, and to self-discipline in positive and willing participation in enacting one’s role in accordance with that recognition and acknowledgement”.

In his book Islam and Secularism, he states that “loss of adab implies loss of justice” and this leads to “the rise of leaders who are not qualified” which, in turn, perpetuates the vicious cycle of ignorance.

Under such conditions, it becomes impossible to establish justice in the Islamic sense.

“Recognition and acknowledgement of the right and proper place” cannot happen while we still subscribe to the “levelling of knowledge” disguised with a trendy name like democratisation of knowledge which presupposes that just everyone can talk about a subject as important as religion without basing it on true knowledge.

It also cannot be achieved by merely parroting the Western notion of liberty and justice.

I agree with Arif when he mentioned Salahuddin al-Ayyubi and the need for good Muslims to emulate his virtuous conduct and character.

In his book Hakadza Zhahara Jil Shalahidin wa hakadza ‘adat al Quds (This is how the Salahuddin generation appears and the return of al Quds), Dr Majid Irsan al-Kailani provided an insightful analysis that such an excellent character as Salahuddin did not simply arise from endless politicking, empty sloganeering or that thing simply called “love, fostered and spread”; instead, he was the pinnacle of a 50-year carefully planned education programme (ta’dib) and socio-religious engineering, starting with Imam al-Ghazali and carried on by Sufi masters like Shaykh Abdul Qadir al-Jilani, to reconstruct good morals and spiritual values in society.

This was done by correct interpretations of religion and the practice of tasawwuf; the spiritual practice of invocations to God and good behaviour towards others in order to cleanse one’s soul of blameworthy qualities.

As recognising adab becomes a crucial part of good morals and spiritual reconstruction in society, one must go back to those vested in authority in religious matters and those who are grounded in proper worldview of Islam and understanding in religion.

Only when we begin to recognise the need for adab can we begin to cure Islamophobia.


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