Monday, October 09, 2006


Though I am a Catholic, one magazine I enjoy reading without fail is AL-ISLAM, a monthly current affairs magazine which allows me not only to have a better understanding of Islam but also to obtain the Islamic perspective on various issues. Being a magazine for Muslims it is only natural that the magazine takes an Islamic slant. I have got no complaints with that.

What caught my attention in the October edition of AL-ISLAM was an article at page 29 by by M. Hifzuddin Ikhsan Di Nek Kamal. The title:-

Yahudi dan Nasrani

How’s that for a title which does no good for race relations and inter-religious tolerance in Malaysia ? It wasn’t too long ago when The Sarawak Tribune had its licence revoked while number of newspapers were either censured or suspended for having published an insulting cartoons deemed insulting to Muslims.

I am not a racist or a religious bigot. Again it is not the title of the topic I found distressing but the contents of the article. The article carried extracts of a khutbah given on the 18th August 2006 at Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan, Jalan Duta Kuala Lumpur by Imam Haji Mohammad Mohd Zin.

While the crux of the khutbah was on the holy month of Rejab and the event of Israk and Mikraj, what distressed me was the Imam’s diatribe against the Jews and the Christians. The Imam said and I quote

“ Di dalam al-Quran, berulang kali dinyatakan bahawa bangsa ini merupakan golongan yang ganas dan kerjanya hanya mengajak serta mengajar manusia melanggar ajaran Allah. Tindakan ini di lakukan kerana Yahudi dan Nasrani mahukan kebebasan mutlak dan gemar mengikut hawa nafsu mereka sahaja.”

Di sebabkan itu mereka sanggup membunuh dan membuat kerosakan tanpa ditegur oleh sesiapapun. Oleh itu, hari ini kita melihat keganasan Yahudi serta Nasrani di bumi Palestin dan Lebanon berleluasa dengan mereka terus membunuh kaum wanita dan anak kecil sewenang-wenangnya.

Dengan menjahanamkan Palestine serta Lebanon mereka berharap dapat menundukkan umat Islam dan membangkitkan kebencian dunia kepada kita. Kekejaman serta kerosakan yang dilakukan oleh Yahudi dan Nasrani sejak dulu kini dan selamanya adalah bukti kebenaran al-Quran. Sikap dan akhlak buruk mereka tidak pernah berubah walaupun diutus banyak para anbia pada bangsa mereka.”

Reading the article which is clearly calculated to denigrate and insult Jews and Christians, I cannot but help make comparasion with the Muslim reaction when the Pope quoted a conversation while giving a lecture to Catholic theologians. That quote was deemed offensive and was sufficient to set off fire-storm in the Muslim world. In Malaysia there were groups continuing to protest even after the Pope had apologised.

But here in a multi-racial and multi religious country we have an Imam making an open declaration of hatred. There are only two possibilities to the Imam’s hyper-bole, either it did not occur to the Imam that his Khutbah or extracts of it would be reported or it did not matter to him if others (particularly Christians in Malaysia) would be offended by his khutbah.

Reading the article, it becomes amply clear that the Imam ‘s view is not only offensive and seditious but his contorted logic displays religious bigotry.

For a start the title of the article itself is offensive. It is a flippant and callous statement clearly made with the intention to denigrate the Jews and the Christians. Remember how Muslims get terribly upset when western media potrays Islam and Muslims negatively, tarnishing the whole community simply because of the action of a few. Taking the cue and a similar standpoint, would it be fair if Jews and Christians also equate all Muslims with violence simply because of the actions of 9-11 terrorist, the Bali Bombers, Hamas, Talebans, Laskhar-al-Thoiba, or nearer home Jemaah Islamiah. Definitely not.

I am firmly of the believe that there is no such thing as a destructive race as claimed by the Imam. However in every race and religion and Islam including, there are fringe elements who are evil and destructive and who commits acts of violence in the name of race and religion,

I am also perplexed and stunned by the Imam’s revealation that the holy Quran declares that Jews and Christians are “golongan yang ganas” and that “kerjanya hanya mengajak serta mengajar manusia melanggar ajaran Allah”. This is definitely something I did not know and being a former student in Diploma in Shariah Law and Practice at I.I.U.M, I wonder how come my lecturers like Prof. Qaruffa, Prof Saedon or even the late Prof Ahmad Ibrahim hid this fact from me(if there is).

The good Imam ought to know that it isnt too difficult and doesn’t take too much for one to denigrate another’s religion. Anyone and that includes religious leaders can easily justify their “view” by claiming reference to and quoting from some book or persons that the others religion is viiolent and its faithful adherents evil. One qustion comes to mind, just what benefit would one derive by desecrating or insulting another’s religion.

The Imam’s contorted logic gets darker when he alleges that the Jews and the Christians “ sanggup membunuh dan membuat kerosakan tanpa dapat ditegur oleh sesiapapun”. Such certitude.

If Jews and Christian are ready kilers then what about the Palestinians who equally have a long history of violence against the innocent. What about Palestinians who massacred innocent Jewish athletes, what about the Saudi hijackers who crashed and killed a planeload of innocents passengers ? what about the actions of the Janjawids in Sudan who carried about a systematic killings and massacre against the southern Christians and animist ? what about the Sunnis and the Shiahs in Pakistan and Iraq who are in open conflict and have no qualms about killing each other ?

Syed Akbar Ali in his book To Digress A Little gives a narration about the cycle of violence between the Sunnis and Shiahs in Pakistan. In Iraq the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan does not deter the Sunnis and the Shiahs from continuing to kill each other. The Sunnis and Shiahs in Pakistan and Iraq to quote the Imam ”sanggup bunuh” and even “tanpa dapat di tegur”. Thus it no surprise that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir is quoted as saying that many Muslim nation spent time and energy planning and fighting each other. I am sure Dr Mahathir was refering to the Iran-Iraq war, the Gulf war and the cycle of violence in Afganistan, Pakistan, or Iraq. Muslims against Muslims.

It must be recognised that killing and evil doing are not the characteristic and exclusive domain of any particular religion as wrongly implied by the Imam. But there are many who commit violence in the name of religion and justifies their actions based on their holy book.

Then there is the disparaging assertion that “hari ini keganasan Yahudi serta Nasrani di bumi Palestine dan Lebanon berleluasa.” Admitedly the Israelis and the Palestinians are in open conflict but acts of “keganasan” have been pepertrated by both parties against each other. “Keganasan” have been committed by all parties. Israelis against Palestinians and Palestinians against Israelis. Israelis have shot dead Palestinians and Palestinians have bombed crowded Israeli cafes. In fact there are also ‘keganasan” between the Palestinians themselves .

In Lebanon, the country for long period of time has been wrecked by sectarian violence and killings. The Amal militias, Druze Muslims, Christian Phalangist and even Hamas all have committed acts of violence against one another at one time or another. In the recent conflict in Lebanon, even the Christians were not spared from violence and destruction from the Israelis.

Thus to claim that the Jews and the Christians are solely responsible for the violence is not only misconceived but a calculated lie.

Malaysia a country where all major religions are represented have in recent years seen an accelerated regression. Instead of seeing inter-religious understanding and tolerance, there is now a growing religious polarisation. Religious intolerance is on the rise and it does not help when religious leaders of all people wedge discord by brazenly declaring that another religion or people evil.

Religious leaders and particularly in Malaysia must realise that their position comes with a responsibility and they have an important role to play. They should use the pulpit to preach religious tolerance and understanding and not use their position to sow hatred with their myopic views and contorted logic.

Remember we reap what we sow.