Dr. Asri, peace be with you.
I write to highlight that your recent posting on Facebook about me has instigated many Muslims, especially the young, to be angry and become more radical in their behavior. Initially, as it was posted by an ‘admin’, I did not think that such a posting, which was clearly lacking in context and nuance, was done with your knowledge, let alone approval; given your well-respected position as a Mufti. I waited a day before reacting, writing and sending you a comment, thinking that you will take it down.
Today more than a week later, you have yet to take any action. In fact, you have failed to caution your followers against taking laws into their own hands and to work within the constitution. You have also not taken the initiative to advise them to stay calm and to not post offensive remarks, not just about me, but also about people of other faiths and their religious beliefs. As a result, hundreds of remarks and shares have been recorded. This does not include viral sharing and offshoots that your post has triggered – one of which, Daily News 24h (https://www.facebook.com/dnews.fun/), alleged that I was giving ‘AMARAN’ to Muslims not to use cows as sacrifice this Aidil Adha. This is tantamount to fitnah.
Based on the above, I have come to believe that the posting was done with your consent and authorisation.
Thus, this letter.
There are four main reasons why the Facebook posting have had an instigating effect to anger and radicalise our fellow Muslims, especially the young.
1. The timing of the posting which was right after my appeal to Brother Zakir Naik to voluntarily leave Malaysia, acted as a catalyst to further anger many Muslims who are already unhappy with the appeal. I do wonder what prompted you to post that out of the blue in the first place, or, was this part of an overall plan? I find this as a ‘fitnah’ towards me but that is between you and Allah and the law of the country; as such I do not want to delve deeper into it here.
2. The posting was designed with a malicious insinuation to make readers question my faith.
3. The posting provided an incomplete picture of my article about the subject matter of concern. By not providing the context of the final statement that was derived from my article, the readers could not see the real deeper intentions and were made to feel angrier than they would.
4. You and by extension your followers, have failed to grasp the fact that my article was not about cow’s meat per se. Rather, it is about having empathy while caring about and understanding the sensitivities of others; Muslims included.
IT IS NOT ABOUT COW’S MEAT, BUT BUILDING A BETTER, UNITED AND CARING MALAYSIA
“Who listen [closely] to all that is said, and follow the best of it: [for] it is they whom God has graced with His guidance, and it is they who are [truly] endowed with insight!”
Perhaps it is good if I unpack the posting I wrote in April 2017. The article is not about cows but about having empathy, while caring about and understanding the sensitivities of others. Such tolerance and sensitivities should be extended to all, including our Muslims brethren.
It is just like during Friday Jumaat prayers, Church Sundays, Thaipusam, Wesak day, Chinese Ghost Month festival etc. – when we double or at times triple park, bend traffic laws, allow fellow Malaysians to block our usual traffic paths and so on. In such instances it is not about parking and traffic laws. We do not have to do it that all the time, just at certain times when it is most appropriate. More importantly, it is about finding common ground; allowing one party the space they need during the particular period, without inconveniencing the other too much in the process.
My article was written with the intention of achieving our first and fourth cita-cita Rukun Negara which reads as follow;
· “achieving a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society,” and
· “guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions”
It seeks to help us move closer to our Vision 2020 first goal, “Malaysia can be a united nation, with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, …”
It is about being conscious of the other. It is about doing good; extending common courtesy and sacrificing some minor conveniences. In fact, you can even say that it is a korban in and on itself. Furthermore, the Quran at Al Haj verse 37 reminds us that,
“[But bear in mind:] never does their flesh reach God, and neither their blood: it is only your God-consciousness that reaches Him. It is to this end that We have made them subservient to your needs, so that you might glorify God for all the guidance with which He has graced you. And give thou this glad tiding unto the doers of good”
With that in mind, I hope your followers and you can read the posting, which I am reproducing below, in a new light and with an open heart. Before reading it, let us all be prompted as to who our Prophet was;
“And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.”
“HINDUS, THE COW AND MUSLIMS.
I stopped eating beef in 1985 on my 21st birthday although my favorite makan then was Mc Donalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
I was trying to convince my college to stop serving beef to respect the Hindus as we do not serve pork at the university. Since I did not managed to convince them, I decided I should start with myself. So since then not only I do not eat beef, it is also a policy not to serve them at my office functions, at the office or at home. Since these are within my area of control. I have not taken beef for 32 years.
I have Hindu friends who have many Malay friends who avoid pork too. That is the beauty of Malaysia.
I have many non-Muslims- Chinese and Indian friends who avoids going to non-halal makan places when I am in the picture. That is the beauty of Malaysia.
For Malaysia to succeed we need to practice empathy.
I humbly suggest to all my Muslim brothers and sisters to stop serving beef at all functions within our control even if only one Hindu is present.
We must also try to avoid korban lembu during Raya Haji. Korban other animals.
I do not recommend these across the world. But for Malaysia, this is the way forward.
InshaAllah, both you and your followers will reframe your hearts and minds and see the wisdom of this call.
AN EXAMPLE OF A RADICALISED YOUNG MUSLIM
The misinformation on your post drew hundreds of vile comments not only towards me but also the Hindu community. These can be seen not just on our respective Facebook pages, but also on numerous postings that have gone viral in the last one week. There are those who suggested that I should be beaten up or dealt with in many other appalling ways. There are even calls for Saudara YB Lim Kit Siang and I to be sembelih and used as korban instead – linking your post to the Zakir Naik question.
I do not want to list these angry and hateful comments here, you can read them for yourself. But I would like to give an example that I believe should make us concern about our country and where its heading.
A young man with a small family wrote a warning to me indicating that one of these days I would be walloped by ‘somebody’s’ hands. Not his hands perhaps, but whose hands, we have yet to find out. He mentioned that I should be careful. As I noticed that unlike others, he was using his own account, I decided to engage with him. I asked him to be mindful of his actions and to consider his family and child, as if anything were to happen to him, i.e. if he were jailed, it would be a great loss to his family.
He then wrote a direct personal message inviting me for ‘coffee’. When I suggested he can join any of my future gatherings, like the #LetsReadTheQuran campaign, he declined, saying instead that he will find and give me a ‘surprise gift’ soon.
Now, this is a decent thirty-something Muslim Malaysian, who is likely a loving father and husband who works hard for his family. He is probably someone who will go the extra mile to earn more to buy his daughter better food, books, dresses and take his family on a lovely holiday. He is possibly respectful to his parents and a filial son; a good friend to many and a productive citizen.
Yet, posts such as yours can radicalise him; making him forget what is truly important to him and his family and encouraging him to act in a dysfunctional manner. This is not the behaviour of a real Malaysian. This is not the Malaysian that we want either. Real Malaysians are masters of social cohesion, compromise and understanding.
By putting up such a post, and not stopping nasty and wrongful comments, we are enabling extremism to thrive. We are seen as expressing approval, support for, or use of violence and intimidation as methods of achieving changes in society or encouraging others to perform such acts. Neither you, nor I or anyone for that matter, should post any comments that produce such a culture.
We need to be extremely mindful of our actions on social media. A fitnah or a simple misinformation can go viral and snowball into something even bigger and with stronger consequences. From a religious standpoint, the dosa from one social media fitnah is multiplied by the number of times it is repeated as it goes viral, compounded by the twisting of facts the further the viral information goes. I respectfully suggest, as a Mufti who has considerable influence with the masses, it would be best if you be extremely careful with what is posted on your social media pages or on your behalf.
HOW YOU CAN HELP DERADICALISE THEM AND CALM THE SITUATION
The situation between you and I can be dealt with separately. You will be contacted in due time. A report with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) has also been lodged.
For now, I would like to focus on your followers. In my opinion, you owe it to them to make things right. Although not exhaustive, here are eight (8) recommendations.
1. Immediately take down the post and advise all your followers who have copied and shared it to do the same. Ask, advice and plead to all others like the news media and social media who piggy-ride on the misinformation from your post to follow suit. I.e. Daily News 24h.
2. Admit that you were wrong to allow the post and those terrible comments and for going along with them for more than a week, causing it to go viral and snowball into an even deeper fitnah – instigating them to be angry and getting some to be radicalised.
3. Impress upon them that violence is not our way. Request with all your heart that they must not take laws into their own hands and avoid ill-mannered, rude and threatening comments not just at this instance, but at all times.
4. Agree that my message could have been better read and understood as it is not about cow’s meat but about empathy, understanding, being sensitive to one another in order to build a more inclusive and united Malaysian society. Promote give and take, not just from Muslims to Muslims but Muslims to Non-Muslims too.
5. Apologise for making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Even if my article was about cow’s meat, ‘dari segi hukum Islam” I did not do anything wrong and there is no need to go to the point of questioning my faith. “Dari segi hukum” I did not mengharamkan apa yang halal in any way– beef, but suggested that we avoid serving them at certain occasions only. Tell them, dari segi hukum it is not a must to korban only cows, we can and are allowed to use other animals, too. And stressed that, dari segi hukum, what I have suggested is in no way haram. There is absolutely not a need to say that I am not Muslim for this recommendation.
6. One of the main backlashes from your post is that your followers are infuriated that I wanted to ‘please’ the non-Muslims instead of the other way around – due to the incomplete picture painted by your post. Explain to them that if we are serious about following the Prophet, we need to recognise, celebrate and accept unreservedly that in the Medina Charter, non-Muslims are considered “Ummah Wahidah” or “One Single Community” with the Muslims. This Charter was formalised after the emigration to Medina, when the Prophet entered into a peaceful agreement with various non-Muslim Arab tribes. The Prophet maintained his commitment to the philosophy of “Ummah Wahidah” with non-Muslims and stayed true to the agreement until his death.
Similarly, in our Malaysian constitution, we are Ummah Wahidah with all the non-Muslims Malaysian citizens and we must see them as equally important, equally Malaysian. You may want to add that in keeping true to his pledge, the Prophet launch a punitive military operation against the Meccans which led to the fall of Mecca. This was a reaction to the Meccans attacking a non-Muslim tribal ally in blatant violation of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah.
7. Impress upon them that our Prophet is a Prophet of Peace. Tell them that according to historians, in his 23 years of Prophethood, actual fighting was only 3 days. That should give us an indication about the Quran and the Prophet’s position on fighting. The Prophet avoided the opportunity to fight at every instance possible to keep peace and minimise the loss of lives. He is willing to sign a one-sided agreement that favours the other side in order to secure peace. It is ok to give in a little for the greater goal of peace. His focus was on building people, the economy and the nation. Getting violent, beating up people and acting in a threatening way should not be an option.
8. Last but not least, apologize to your followers for allowing your social media platform to lead them astray. Convince them that you will be more careful next time.
“Our future depends on how well many different kinds of people can live and work together”
“We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation”
Tunku Abdul Rahman, Bapa Malaysia
As a Muslim with high hopes in Islam and a Muslim renewal, I respectfully urge you to reframe your role of Mufti as one of the strongest catalysts and leader in achieving the cita-cita Rukun Negara. I know and hear many of your brother Muftis are working hard to help bring not just Muslims together but also the nation as a whole; bridging people of various faith and background as Malaysians.
But to unite everyone regardless of race, background and faith, we must trust the Quran and the Prophet with all our hearts and minds. We must follow the Prophet’s example and be one with our non-Muslim brethren as “Ummah Wahidah”.
That should be our first step. We can do this. But first, we must not radicalize our young.
Malaysian Movement for Moderates
NOTE : A BM VERSION WILL BE OUT SOON