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Opinion/Editorial: Sticks and Stones Doesn’t Put Food on the Table (20 September 2019)
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In a narration by Anas ibn Malik, it was reported that a man once passed the Prophet and said to him, “Death be upon you!” When the Prophet’s companions heard what happened, they became angry and offered to kill the man. The Prophet however, prevented them from doing so (sahih al-Bukhari 6527).

The Prophet did not harm nor took revenge against those who insulted him.

Closer to home the recent incident with Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah demonstrates just how highly strung certain sensitivities have run - to a point where the police have taken to rounding up people who “insulted” the queen on social media.

In the face of insults, Tunku Azizah gracefully shows how one can easily rise above the negativity simply by reminding herself and others that, “Allah knows who (she) really is.” As such she neither lodged reports on the insults nor had given any direction on any action to be taken by MCMC. Upon hearing that two people had been arrested for insulting comments towards her on social media, she demanded their immediate release.

In the wise words of Tunku Azizah herself, people should really chill. Our country has gotten into the bad habit of getting angry on behalf of others and thinking that punishing them with heavy sentences would teach them a lesson about respect.

In March this year, Ayea Yea was sentenced to ten years and ten months jail, and Mohamad Yazid Kong Abdullah was sentenced seven months jail for insulting the Prophet and Islam via social media.

In the same month, JAKIM announce that they had set up a special hotline to monitor what it deems to be insults against the Prophet and Islam.

This move not only surrendered a golden opportunity to gently educate others about the beauty of Islam, it also opened the floodgates for people to start finding faults in others simply by being offended on behalf of what is actually a truly compassionate and forgiving religion.

According to Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa, the unit sometimes received up to 10,000 complaints a day.

Since March, Malaysia has had multiple arrests, charges and sentences met for “insulting” Islam and the Prophet every month.

The seven-year sentence against 22 year-old Sarawakian Alistair Cogia last week represents the latest in this string on prosecutions.

At least four more are currently awaiting trial. What is more disturbing is how this fear-mongering, silencing of free speech and denial of basic humanity is creating barriers against unity in our country. The most worrying evidence of this growing mistrust has manifested in the form of economic boycotts against non-muslim products.

Sisters in Islam is worried about the deepening economic stress experienced by society today, and how it is caused by social paranoia fanned by political greed. What is more disturbing is how, unless both these tensions are alleviated as soon as possible, they will form a vicious cycle which feeds off one another - a trend that we observe to have already begun to happen in Malaysia.

Urgent policies and reforms are therefore needed in order to ensure that justice is upheld in the best interest of all and that economic accessories provides means for financial independence especially for underprivileged, marginalised and vulnerable communities.

These policies and reforms should also promote unity, understanding, and friendship among all Malaysians.More importantly, they must focus on recognising and restoring the dignity and humanity of all Malaysians.

Surah Al-Araf, verse 199 tells us that we should, ‘show forgiveness, enjoin what is good, and turn away from the ignorant’ [7:199]. While it is easy to demand heavy punishments and put away those who we disagree with, we are reminded to seek the good in all. Respect cannot be forced. Respect must be earned.

Sisters in Islam
20 September 2019

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