Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Islamic State

I know this post is bound to generate some controversy but I think this is an important issue we need to sit down and discuss openly. More so in view of the release of the recent PAS Islamic State Document (Dokumen Negara Islam). I haven't read the document and many of my friends feigned ignorance and some of my Muslim friends even refused to discuss it saying that they were not experts. I guess this is due to the general assumption among common Muslims (read, not Ulama) that questioning anything related to Islam may somehow be wrong.
Well I guess that we had this coming for sometime. One argument I always had with my friends who supported PAS, was that they didn't even have a clear idea what represented an Islamic state even though they always used to harp on the issue. To them Malaysia is not an Islamic country. Of course their usual arguments were that we don't follow Islamic law (completely) and another was that we allowed non-Halal activities like gambling inside the country. However, are these the only criteria for being an Islamic state?
One of my friends (very educated and holding an good position) told me that an Islamic state would be more just (Adil) and there would be no discrimination on basis of race. That's a very nice idea and then I asked him what about religion. Would followers of other religion have the same rights as Muslims? His reply was bit ambiguous but in summary - non-Muslims would be second class citizens in the ideal Islamic state and in the end it would ultimately lead to more people converting to Islam to get the benefits. Also all of them have to follow Islamic laws even though they were not Muslims. But is it just, when you force people of other faiths to pay special form of taxes for living in an Islamic country. Is it also just when you don't allow them to celebrate their own festivals as a public holiday just because Islam is the state religion?
Many of my friends look to the Arabian countries as ideal Islamic states. So which country is an Islamic country? Is it the strict Wahabi monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the Shi'ite Ayatollah led Iran or the military controlled Islamic state of Pakistan. Or is it the Turkish style? Do we calculate how islamic a country is by the number of mosques, or by the number of women wearing veils? I gently remind them that only a few of the countries in that part of the world are democratic, where opposition is little tolerated or completely non-existent. The human rights records of some of these countries, especially with regards to women rights are downright appalling. Some of these countries do not allow women to hold top positions or work outside their homes or even drive, forget the right to vote. Minorities? Just don't start.
Coming back to Malaysia, it has been accepted as an Islamic country by the whole world and has been given the chairmanship by the OIC. But look at the facts. Living standards in Malaysia are quite high even though not to developed nation levels. It has a good standing in the World and even non-Islamic countries pay attention to what its leaders has to say. Muslims are not discriminated against. Everyone has the right to pray with Mosques and Suraus in almost every neighbourhood and workplace. There are Islamic laws (for Muslims) and most important of all, non-Muslims live peacefully and prosper under the leadership of Muslims who are elected democratically. Still my friends argue that it is not an Islamic country.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri

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