| Wednesday, February 21, 2007
| Malaysian Mufti Stirs Taboos Debate
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia's newest and youngest mufti has been making headlines in local media with maverick views over some long-adopted taboos in the Asian Muslim country.
I am not a politician and I don't have any political ambition," Mohamad Asri Zainul Abidin, the newly-appointed mufti of the northernmost state of Perlis, told Reuters on Thursday, January 18.
"I'm just articulating my views on Islam. If politicians feel the views are acceptable, then they should consider them."
"There's nothing wrong with Islam. But what is hurting the image is the interpretations of Islam by Muslims themselves," Asri believes. (Reuters)
Zainul Abidin, 35, disagrees with some long-cherished moral policing in Malaysia and criticizes vice squads raids on couples in the streets and public places, especially if there are non-Muslims.
Under Islamic law, which operates alongside the civil code in multicultural Malaysia, khalwat -- close proximity between a man and a woman who are not married -- is forbidden.
"Going from one hotel room to another and questioning couples is against the concept of Islam that teaches us to promote good feelings, not to snoop on others and publicly humiliating them," insists the young mufti.
A furor has broken out in Malaysia recently over its morality laws, envisaging persecution for people caught in indecent and disorderly behavior.
Nevertheless, the government has assured non-Muslims will not be punished under the morality laws.
Malays, mostly Muslims, make up nearly 60 percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people.
Ethnic Chinese and Indians - most of them Buddhists, Hindus and Christians - make up about 35 percent. The rest are indigenous people and Eurasians.
Mufti Asri, in his dark suit and black songkok, a traditional Malay velvet cap, also speaks his mind out over another sensitive issue as he argues that there shouldn’t be a punishment for apostasy.
"Why should we keep someone who is no longer a Muslim?" he asks.
Abdul Rahman, an Afghani Muslim who converted to Christianity, has recently trigger an international outcry after a court in Afghanistan sentenced him to death over apostasy.
He was eventually freed after interventions from US President George Bush and Pope Benedict XVI of the Vatican.
Prominent Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi says Islam does not execute the apostate who does not proclaim his apostasy or call for it. Rather, it leaves the punishment for the Hereafter if he dies in the state of apostasy.
Mohammad Salim Al-`Awwa, Secretary General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, insists that the Qur'an does not specify a worldly punishment for apostasy.
Qur'anic verses talking about apostasy only warn of a punishment for the apostate in the Hereafter, he said echoing Qaradawi's view.
Mufti Asri insists his ultimate aim is to wash away wrong perceptions about Islam caused by misinterpretations of the Muslim faith.
"The current confusion in the Islamic world that has led to a less attractive image about the religion is because of interpretations by Muslim scholars," he believes.
"Some interpretations are right and some are wrong."
With a doctorate in religious studies, Asri maintains that the true understanding of Islam would prove that the religion is not about the past but how the present and future generations can live and adapt.
"There's nothing wrong with Islam. But what is hurting the image is the interpretations of Islam by Muslims themselves."
He believes his mission is to present Islam in its true a modern face, in order to change the religion's misperceived image for non-Muslims.
"There should not be an Islamic image that creates fear on others."
The young scholar's views have caused ripples in Malaysia.
Some officials and scholars have called him a stooge for those who put national interests ahead of Islam.
But others, including Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, have been appreciative of his approach.
"It's about time the ulamas (scholars) start thinking out of the box."
|posted by drmaza @ 10:18 AM