Thursday, August 8, 2013

SIS warns Jakim against claiming to be voice of God

Malaysia’s religious authorities risk the sin of “shirik” (idolatry) after seemingly speaking for God in judging an online video deemed offensive to Islam, Muslim women’s group Sisters in Islam (SIS) warned yesterday.

On Friday, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) adjudged a video made by dog trainer Maznah Mohd Yusof, which shows her walking and bathing her dogs, to be an insult to Islam and resulted in the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) pursuing investigations against her.

“What differentiates Jakim’s opinion from that of the lay person is that Jakim’s views are backed up by enforcement powers of the state,” SIS programme manager Suri Kempe told The Malay Mail Online via email yesterday.

“Anybody who questions and challenges the injustice of these views and actions is accused of being against Islam and God,” she said. “This is tantamount to claiming to be the embodiment of God, and Jakim should be very careful as it could be a form of shirik.”

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Shirik, which means setting up rivals or peers with God, is one of the gravest sins in Islam.

Suri pointed out that understandings of Islam and the Quran are “partial, limited and humble” and cannot be considered “perfect or free from error”.

“The great ulama (clerics) of the classical period were very humble and conscious of this,” said Suri.

“Imam Shafie is reported to have said, ‘I believe my opinion is right with the possibility that it is wrong and I believe the opinion of those who disagree with me is wrong with the possibility of that being correct.’ And only God knows best,” she added. Imam Shafie is regarded as the founder of Islamic jurispudence.

The Muslim women’s rights activist also said that SIS did not find Maznah’s video insulting.

“We do, however, find it troubling that Jakim claims to ― and is recognised by other actors within government (such as MCMC) ― speak for Islam and for God,” said Suri.

“To us, the video simply shows somebody who loves her dogs, and respects dogs as one of Allah’s creations, and who emphasises cleanliness,” she added.

In a 105-second video reposted on YouTube on Tuesday, Maznah is seen walking and bathing her three dogs as the “Takbir Raya”, or Muslim call to prayer traditionally reserved for the first day of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, plays in the background.

The juxtaposition appeared to be a reference to the wudhu, or ablution performed by Muslims before prayer; dogs are also considered ritually unclean by adherents of the predominant faith in Malaysia.

Following the uproar over the 2010 video, Maznah was arrested and subsequently released from remand in Johor last Friday on a court bond.

The 38-year-old dog trainer, better known as Chetz Yusof, is being investigated under the Sedition Act and Section 298A of the Penal Code that includes offences of causing disunity on religious grounds.

SIS speaks out regularly against some actions by Malaysia’s Islamic authorities. Just last month, it criticised the dropping of four Muslim finalists from the Miss Malaysia World 2013 beauty pageant after the Federal Territory Mufti said the female contestants had purportedly violated a 1996 fatwa that deems Muslim participation in beauty contests sinful.

The NGO said that fatwa, or religious edicts, should be deliberated by a legislative body like Parliament or a state assembly before they are made binding on Muslims, noting that the current procedure was “un-Islamic and undemocratic”.

Incidents deemed insulting to Islam by local religious authorities have become more regular of late.

Aside from Maznah, the four Muslim Miss Malaysia World contestants are also being investigated by the Federal Territory Federal Territory Islamic Affairs Department (JAWI) for voicing their disappointment at the fatwa that led to their disqualification.

Previously, two sex bloggers were charged recently under the Penal Code and Sedition Act, for posting a mock “Selamat Berbuka Puasa” (breaking of fast) greeting on their Facebook page that showed them eating “bak kut teh”, a soupy pork dish. Muslims are prohibited from eating pork.

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