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No one has any right to offend others’ religion

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It is a civilized expectation that no one has any right to offend others’ religion, planned or accidental (Ashkan Forouzani - Unsplash)

By: Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

The world has witnessed episodes of burning the Noble Quran, making caricatures of Prophet Mohammad, and above all labelling Islam as a religion of terrorism.

Prof. Dr. Mohammad Tariqur Rahman

Only a few days ago a policeman was kicking Muslims praying Jumaa by the roadside in Delhi. Students who were praying Tarabi (prayer during the fasting month) were attacked in a university hostel in Gujrat. The predicaments of Muslims in Myanmar, Uyghur, Gaza, and many other places did not go unnoticed. What did they all do to be tortured, expelled from their lands, or murdered?

And now, socks allegedly made in China that are printed with “Allah” have reached KK Mart’s shelves in Malaysia for sale. Albeit it is not a “controversial” issue as the Star (20 March 2024) labelled it.

Rightly so, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim, King of Malaysia, called for stern action to be taken by the authorities against those responsible. His Majesty wrote on his FaceBook on 19 March 2024 “Whether this was intentional or otherwise, whether the socks were imported or produced by local factories, I want the authorities to investigate and take stern action in accordance with the law so that such matters are not repeated.”

While the KK Mart’s authority apologized – many unresolved questions remain.

Putting those events in plain words raises a simple question – why do people go so readily and easily against Islam and its followers? Are those only a few sporadic mistakes or misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims?

Islam or its followers are not taken mistakenly by all non-Muslims in India, China, Israel, Myanmar, and the rest of the world. Yet, those incidents do not sound like sporadic events that erupted overnight.

Theologically, one might find the root of all those so-called mistakes or misunderstandings lies with the creation of mankind – as the Noble Quran describes the refusal of Iblis to bow down to Adam (may Allah be pleased with him). Instead, Iblis declared to mislead Prophet Adam and his descendants – Muslims and non-Muslims alike – from their front, their back, their right, and their left (The Noble Quran, 7:11-17).

Iblis not only promised to mislead men to stay away from worshiping Allah but also spread corruption and mischief on Earth. Ironically, it is both Muslims and non-Muslims who might have their fair share – following the footsteps of Iblis – in spreading corruption and mischief on Earth.

Albeit, neither Allah does force anyone to embrace Islam nor Muslims are asked to force anyone to do the same. In other words, there is no compulsion in religion (The Noble Quran, 2:256). Besides, Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) by the command of Allah said, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion” (The Noble Quran,109:6).

Hence, whether anyone wants to embrace Islam – it is their choice. But it is not a choice that anyone can mock, ridicule, or condemn the religion of others. Yet it happens – it happens more often than seldom. And it is Islam and Muslims that come to the forefront of that resentment.

In the end, such corruption and mischief go beyond a sporadic event. Those become political issues. On either side of such an issue, there are politicians who want to achieve their political mileage either by creating or by using the resulting predicaments. 

Thus those sporadic mistakes become part of a regional or even a “global” political game. Not unlikely – that game helps to lead (read control) people in a group, a state, or the world. In the current world, that game of control for regional or geo-political dominance is an open secret.

Ironically, despite having the democratic principle as a universal norm in politics, there seems no universal norm in politics to inherit that dominance. Searching for a universal set of values in that race for dominance is rather foolish where vulnerable groups become easy prey.

However, it is a civilized expectation that no one has any right to offend others’ religion be it planned or accidental. Hence, it is more than a democratic right of Muslims that their faith and rituals need to be allowed and respected.

No doubt, following the footsteps of Iblis to spread corruption and mischief could be politically enjoyable for the time being but the intolerance that it incubates against each other is detrimental to the democratic commitment of any civilized nation.

……

The author is the Associate Dean (Continuing Education), Faculty of Dentistry, and Associate Member, UM LEAD, Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He may be reached at tarique@um.edu.my

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