The faithful should address bigger things like climate change, environmental degradation and corruption instead of being obsessed with trivial issues, writes Mustafa K Anuar.
In this contemporary world of ours, challenges of various complexities require our attention and action as they have serious implications in politics, economics, the environment, cultural diversity, human relationships and, above all, our survival as a species on Earth.
It is against this backdrop that Amanah president Mohamad Sabu’s criticism becomes fitting and desirable: he lashed out at Muslims who are easily consumed by all things trivial such as the brouhaha about the return of Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng’s ashes to his homeland.
In his speech at Amanah’s fourth national convention recently, he rightly pointed out that there are bigger things that Muslims need to address, such as climate change, which affects everyone.
Incidentally, the Indonesian Ulema Council, for example, has already delved into the issue of climate change, taking cognisance of the fact that Islam regards humans, including Muslims, as a collective steward or khalifa of the earth, who should be sensitive to and concerned about ecological sustainability.
Mohamad was equally right in reprimanding local religious leaders who seemed to be unperturbed about massive corruption, which is a serious social disease that has occurred in our midst. It should have been repulsive enough to prompt the religious collective to say or do something, especially when such corrupt practices involved Muslims themselves. Keeping mum about such misdeeds can – horror of horrors – imply acquiescence.
Race – which has become an integral part of the playbook of certain ethnic-based political parties and civil society organisations – is a factor that has developed into a manic obsession among Malaysians, including Malay-Muslims, to the extent of drowning out other issues or concerns much more worthy of our collective attention.
While we can take pride in our ethnicity and assume a rightful sense of belonging, it should not, however, engulf us to the point of harbouring ethnocentrism and, worse, racial bigotry that is destructive to ethnic relations and national harmony.
Those who are quick to express utter contempt for ethnic communities other than theirs should remember that being part of a particular ethnic community is not by choice but is divinely ordained, if you like. You are what you are by accident of birth and thus, being a member of the human race shouldn’t be frowned upon.
It should be a bigger challenge for Muslims and non-Muslims alike to accept and even celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity that exists in our society.
There are other challenges that deserve the attention and concern of particularly Muslims in the country: environmental degradation, dumping of toxic wastes, social injustice, economic disparities and violations of minority rights, among others. Taking up causes such as these would help enhance the public image of the Muslim community; it would also give them the opportunity to play a vital role in making a meaningful difference in society.
To take a simple example, one can imagine the significant impact on youth and the larger society if vigilante groups, such as the self-styled moral police Badar squad were to volunteer to monitor toxic waste dumping in Sungai Petani, instead of passionately spying on young people said to be sexually promiscuous. Reformed Badar members could serve as a role model for young people to fill their spare time by contributing usefully to society.
In the larger scheme of things, the concerns for such bigger issues by Muslims would go a long way towards reducing and challenging Islamophobia.