The danger of the words ‘Muslim Ummah’

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Folks, I am back. Quite a hiatus.

And what a tabling of Abdul Hadi Awang’s motion on the proposed amendments to the Syariah Court (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 it was, I saw on YouTube. It was a good early morning speech made in Parliament while the roosters and the frogs and the cuckoos in the village were sleeping.

First Hadi Awang made his presentation and then all of a sudden there was no debate. Maybe people were dying for a teh tarik and nasi kandar kaw kaw breakfast that the debate had to be postponed to July. It was then that the opposition roared, “Takut... Takut... Takut...” (loosely translated as “Chicken Out... Chicken Out... Chicken Out...” in gangsta English). The power of the Malaysian power breakfast for champions.

Then I thought what’s going to be the shape of Malaysian Parliament to come circa 2050. The year of the new slogan for TN50.

At the rate of Parliament having marathon 20-hour sittings till the wee, wee hours of the morning, past midnight, past bedtime, past teh tarik session time, way past futsal, Malaysians are going to have politicians and lawmakers able to work at night and sleep in the day.

The next breed of parliamentarians will come from the children of Dracula, Batman, Night Watchmen, Mat and Minah Rempit Johor, Pontianak, and also members of the Rukun Tetangga - those who are friends of the night. Unless debate sessions that must happen after two in the morning are held in a different time zone - New York City at 1pm daylight saving time.

Cost will be an issue. Unless we use the government’s private jet. Maybe the next hudud debate session can be held in Uganda? Or Transylvania - home of Count Dracula?

In tabling the hudud bill, Hadi used the words ‘Umat Islam’ a lot. Here is why the words are dangerous from a Platonic and Socratic point of view. Or even commonsensically.

‘Umat Islam’ or the ‘Muslim Ummah’?

Dangerous words used liberally and carelessly, isn’t it? A universalising third person pronoun used by preachers, Islamic religion teachers, and even by imam and politicians.

‘Umat Islam’ connotes and denotes the one-dimensional and one-lump-sum thinking of all Muslims - from the believers of the coming of the mythical al Mahdi, of Gog and Magog and the Dajjal, the Taliban, the Boko Haram, al Shabaab, the IS and of Muslims everywhere in all four corners of the world.

It assumes that all Muslims think the same in all issues and ought to be following the same set of teachings, the Sunnah, the Hadith, and believing in the same story and the same political ideology of we versus them, of the Muslims vs the Infidels and the we versus the enemies.

Because the idea of an ‘ummah’ is a millenaristic-supranationalistic concept of global-political implications, PAS and others use it alike to coerce and force other Muslims to agree to whatever that needs to be agreed upon. No room for critical thinking, No room for questions. The ‘Umat Islam’ must agree because the ‘ummah’ is even higher in status that the nation state.

Hegemonising, generalising and colonising a word it is. The words ‘Umat Islam’, used by political parties the species of PAS and the like.

Every Muslim is different. Each does not belong to an ‘ummah’. To each Islam his/her own. Not PAS-Islam; an Islam that is failing, holding on to the rhetoric of ‘Umat Islam’. Revise your rhetorical device, if you understand what it means.

Remember - Islamic State (IS) used the words ‘Islamic State’ and al Mahdi and umat Islam successfully. The power of generalising. The power of rhetoric...

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