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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Reply to Hadi Awang’s open letter

Dear PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang,
This is my response to your open letter to Malaysians. Truth be told it was either responding to your open letter or answering Fa Abdul’s question as to why people have sex in public. The more I thought about it - your open letter that is and not Fa Abdul’s question - the more I realised that I really do not know much about why people have sex in public because whenever I read the news, I read of religious officials breaking down doors to arrest people for having sex in private. But I digress.
Now I know what you are thinking. S Thayaparan is one of those enemies of Islam as evidenced by the numerous articles he writes about Islam and your honourable person. I can understand that. Sometimes, I ask myself why I write about Islam when there are so many other issues to write about.
Everyone else seems obsessed with 1MDB but clearly, you, like I, are not. You could say that your honourable self and I are the few people who actually care how Islam is practised in this country and not about large-scale corruption that seems to be taking place in a country, which depending on who you ask, is an “Islamic state”.
Like you, I also have friends in Umno, some of whom I would even vote for. I suppose this is why some people in the opposition do not like us very much. So contrary to public perception, we do have some things in common.
I was thinking about your question as to why non-Muslims could give Adam Smith and Karl Marx (amongst others) a chance and not “Islam”. First, I thought who do you mean by non-Muslims? The letter opens with a broadside against a certain party that is the enemy of Islam, that monopolises the vote of a certain community, and cheats the said community and Muslims in general.
At first, I thought why are you disparaging “Umno”? After all, for years PAS was going on about how Umno were the real enemies of Islam who monopolised the vote (though gerrymandering, etc) of the Malay polity, cheat (corruption) and lie (propaganda) to the Muslim community.
Then I realised that you probably meant DAP and the Chinese community, and it made sense. Whenever Malay/Muslim power brokers talk about Malaysians, they really mean the Malay and Chinese community because the Indian community does not really count unless you mistake the Bangladeshis as “Indian”, which makes sense too since their demographic is probably larger than the Indian Malaysian demographic.
They (Bangladeshis) were “Indian” at one time too but this is history and since you have a particular starting point of what actually constitutes history (more of this later), I will refrain from discussing this any further.
Then I thought why Adam Smith and Karl Marx? Suddenly it occurred to me that Marx was a Jew and Smith a Christian, so the subtext is, the Jew and Christian had their chance, why not Islam? I know, I know, that is probably not what you meant but I just cannot help thinking this way because all some Muslims do is talk about Jews and Christians, and about how either they run the world by proxy or they are attempting to subvert Muslim values through evangelism.
Then I thought, okay well yes, Smith and Marx are problematic but could you give me an Islamic economic theory or philosophy to compare with. I am not boasting when I say I have read a few but a little something from the Islamic canon to highlight the difference with the two “Western” ones mentioned could give me something to go on.
Unfortunately, all I got was verses from the Quran. I am not complaining, it is just that, well, this is really just a small point but essentially, what you quoted and said was there could be no compromise when it comes to Islamic values in the various spheres of society, politics and economics. When there is no compromise, there can be no discussion and when there is no discussion, there is only authority and tyranny.
Now me, I get it. I really do. I remember when you said that all others must be “pak turut” when it comes to Islam, so I totally get where you are coming from. However, some other people, those “liberals” - you know of whom I am referring to - they always claim that Islam is inclusive and they have the nerve to quote from the Quran too. Of course, I do not take them seriously because they are not scholars and their interpretations mean very little as you often tell Malaysians. 
Those “liberal” Muslims politicians are the worse. First, they challenge your interpretation, then they mock you but ultimately, they more or less vote the way how Islam (as promulgated by the likes of your good self) tells them to. This is extremely hypocritical.
Talking about hypocrisy, I sometimes get confused. In your open letter, you claimed that Muslims must hold true to the principle that there must be no compulsion in religion. However, in the same sentence, you also talk about the fact that Islam has an elevated position in the constitution and this must be defended.
I do not understand what you mean. If there is no compulsion in Islam, why is there apostasy laws? Why are there laws prohibiting Muslims from doing certain things? Why are there religious police monitoring the faith of believers? Why are there groups labelled deviant? Why are there sectarian conflicts in Islam? Why are women prohibited from doing certain things in Islam?
If Islam is all justice and fairness, why is there unilateral conversion but more importantly, why do many Muslim politicians object to any form of remedy to correct this injustice? Why does the state security apparatus take sides and Muslims warn their non-Muslim brethren to be mindful of their subservient position in society?
While I understand the position of Islam in the state and constitution, what I find troubling is the dissonance of your claim of there being no compulsion in the religion and the codified Islamic laws that contradict this. Is this why non-Muslims are warned not to interfere in Islam because our non-Muslims minds would always be wrapped up in attempting to rationalise this dissonance?
I will give you another example. You start with the premise that the history and civilisations of this country begin with Islam. But in order to believe your claim, we have to ignore history. This again creates a dissonance because obviously Malay culture has many influences beyond “Islam” and because concerned Wahhabis have spent a great deal of money, time and effort attempting to erase such cultural and religious influences. Again, this may be my non-Muslim mind attempting to grapple with complexities far beyond my meagre abilities.
Reading your open letter, I cannot help but feel you are being a little mendacious. Okay, that is a bit harsh. I know you truly believe what you say you believe in, but the problem is that I do not believe you when you say you believe in what you say you believe in.
Does this make sense?
Or is this an example of non-Muslim thinking some Muslims find difficult to understand?
Please consider this response as one from a fellow Malaysian who is just as concerned about Islam in this country as you are.
Thank you for your time and patience.
S Thayaparan
Commander (Rtd)
Royal Malaysian Navy 

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