Bet­ter to fo­cus on good gov­er­nance

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

A NO­TICE­ABLE trend about re­li­gious lec­tures and pub­lic fo­rums on Is­lam is that they are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in ma­jor cities.

For the English-speak­ing Malays, espe­cially among the younger gen­er­a­tion, their favourite speak­ers are those from the UK and US, per­haps be­cause these schol­ars speak about reli­gion with a prac­ti­cal ap­proach, re­flect­ing their demo­cratic and open so­ci­eties. These speak­ers are highly ed­u­cated sec­ond or third gen­er­a­tion Bri­tish and Amer­i­can Mus­lims whose tol­er­ant view res­onates well with most Mus­lims in Malaysia.

The open­ness of these schol­ars can be seen when they ex­plain the ori­gins of some Is­lamic cus­toms and tra­di­tions. In many cases these were shaped by the in­flu­ence of the an­cient Greek, Ro­man and Per­sian civil­i­sa­tions which were the dom­i­nant cul­tural force in the Mediter­ranean re­gion and Mid­dle East, be­fore the ar­rival of Chris­tian­ity and Is­lam. Our re­li­gious teach­ers tend to ig­nore the ex­ter­nal in­flu­ence and would like us to be­lieve Is­lamic cul­ture grew on its own.

The western Mus­lim schol­ars do not shy away from mak­ing com­par­isons with Chris­tian­ity or the Ju­daism.

For ex­am­ple, the hudud pun­ish­ment for adul­tery is the same in the To­rah and the Bi­ble – death by ston­ing. Me­dieval Chris­tians used to burn sin­ners on the stake. An­cient Jewish laws had se­vere pun­ish­ments for steal­ing like cut­ting off the hand.

Af­ter the Re­nais­sance in Europe, and the Re­for­ma­tion, all these cruel pun­ish­ments were re­garded as bar­baric and abol­ished.

Well-ed­u­cated ulama and preach­ers in­clud­ing our own, when asked about the syariah law of hudud, ex­plain that Mus­lims should look beyond reli­gion to un­der­stand that the greater pri­or­ity for gov­ern­ment in many coun­tries is to pro­vide enough jobs and take care of the poor so that they are not driven into crime to sup­port fam­i­lies. They also ad­vise Mus­lims not to push Is­lam too much into pol­i­tics be­cause that will com­pli­cate ef­forts to ad­dress re­forms that most Mus­lim coun­tries need ur­gently to deal with the so­cial and eco­nomic is­sues. They strongly rec­om­mend to keep reli­gion sep­a­rate from the state so as not to let it be used as an ex­cuse for not im­ple­ment­ing demo­cratic re­forms.

Mod­ern re­forms to cre­ate trust and re­spect for Par­lia­ment, the ju­di­ciary, the civil ser­vice, and the law will have a greater im­pact on cor­rect­ing so­cial ills and im­prov­ing moral be­haviour than re­li­gious pre­scrip­tions.

As proof, the de­vel­oped coun­tries have bet­ter moral stan­dards than Mus­lim coun­tries be­cause they have strong in­sti­tu­tions to en­sure clean gov­ern­ment and em­power their cit­i­zens to act against abuse of au­thor­ity. We can see that there is more Is­lam in the de­vel­oped coun­tries than in the poorly gov­erned Mus­lim coun­tries.

Malaysia wants to be a role model for the Mus­lim world. The best way to do this is to carry out re­forms for a bet­ter sys­tem of gov­er­nance, with em­pha­sis on trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity, the trade mark of suc­cess­ful coun­tries.

Tan Sri Mohd Sher­iff Mohd Kas­sim Kuala Lumpur

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