THE recent wave of Muslim bigotry is due to how Islam is taught and controlled in the country, said progressive Muslim think tank Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF).
“The way that our authorities monopolise religion has made us into stupid Muslims,” said IRF chairman Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa.
This was his description of the undercurrents behind the recent spate of incidents that have shocked the nation.
They ranged from the detention of a renown Turkish author Mustafa Akyol for giving a talk on Islam, a Muslim-only launderette in Muar, Johor, and a man being fined for wearing shorts to play futsal in Kelantan.
The problem with the way Islam is taught to Malaysian Muslims is its strict, top-down interpretation that cannot be questioned, said Dr Farouk.
There is also the misconception that the interpretation of Islam and Islamic law from a government-mandated agency is God’s own word and this makes it even harder to question the authority.
“When Malaysians learn something in Islam from their ustaz (religious teachers), no one asks what is the basis for this or that rule in the Quran?
“They just accept everything as the gospel truth,” he said.
Dr Farouk used the example of the man who was told to go for counselling or be fined by the Kelantan religious police for wearing shorts, to illustrate the dangers of a monopoly on the interpretation of Islam.
Throughout Islam’s history, scholars had differed on what was considered “aurat” or parts of the body that must be concealed for men and women, he said.
These scholars created many schools of Islamic jurisprudence called ‘mazhab’, and they were considered equal in terms of validity, he added.
“The founder of the Maliki school, Malik ibn Anas (in 8th century Arabia) was famous for defying his caliph, who wanted to make his interpretation the official interpretation.
“Imam Malik said, ‘No’, because like many scholars of that time, they believed no interpretation was perfect.
“The problem is when modern religious authorities in Muslim countries such as Malaysia adopt one school as the ‘official interpretation’ and forbids the other schools.”
Since Malaysian religious authorities had adopted the Shafie school of jurisprudence, all Muslims were forced to follow it, said Dr Farouk.
“But if the authorities did not monopolise the interpretation of Islam and accepted that there are many different mazhab and interpretations throughout Islamic history, then we would not have these problems.”
The launderette that wanted to exclude non-Muslims, said Dr Farouk, was mind-boggling.
“It’s the silliest thing Muslims have done. Segregating the clothes of Muslims and non-Muslims. It reminds me of an issue two years ago about chocolates.”
In 2014, Malaysian Muslims were in an uproar after Cadbury chocolates tested positive for traces of pig DNA. The company and Federal Religious Development Department (Jakim) soon verified that the chocolates were halal.
“At the time, one Muslim group said that in order to cleanse themselves if they had eaten Cadbury chocolates, they had to get a complete blood transfusion. (The launderette issue) is that stupid.
“(Albert) Einstein once said ‘there are only two things which are infinite, the universe and stupidity. But I am not certain about the former.”