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“What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.”

- Robert F Kennedy

COMMENT | To be clear as someone who values concepts like free speech, I do not really care what people like Muslim preacher Syakir Nasoha says about non-Muslims.

What I do find objectionable is the way how the state sanctions speech by non-Muslims who say things that are objectionable about Muslims and Islam like the way how this preacher did with non-Muslims.

The insidious component of these unequal sanctions by the state is that non-Muslims not only have to show restraint when engaging in the religious discourse but there is always an element of self-censorship when it comes to discussing Islam in this country, and this includes progressive Muslims.

The designation of non-Muslims as “kafirs” is in itself a bigoted concept and one that is mainstream in this country. Various religions contextualising non-believers with specific terms are not uncommon.

However, in this country, where anti-non-Muslims narratives are hardwired into the political system and policy and where the religious establishment controls the belief systems of the majority, demonising non-Muslims has serious repercussions.

The interesting part of Syakir’s defence of his statements is this – “…. Islam encourages its followers to be on good terms with kafir zimmi and does not prohibit Muslims from engaging them in managing worldly affairs, as long as...

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