I was recently roped in to support the ‘I Am #26' petition , a subsequent reaction to the letter of the G25, a group of eminent Malays who long for thorough moderation and not just words without action.
Written by a columnist for The Malaysian Insider , it has at the time of my writing this gained 3,760 signatories in the last four days, averaging 1,000 people a day.
And quite wholly, I agree to what the petition stands for, because it is, in fact, what an Islamic society is supposed to be; thorough, enlightened and in the spirit of brotherhood or sisterhood.
Personally, the five points of the petition to the prime minister requires urgent and immediate attention, and as such, I am wondering what the hesitance is about.
Firstly, it urges a review of the Sharia Criminal Offences laws in the country, which make sinning criminal. Is it not in the best interest of the entirety of the Islamic population in Malaysia to see what sins should be criminalised?
Is it not necessary to standardise all these laws in all the states in line with the federal constitution?
For myself, it is. A review would also shed light on a lot of issues that have been plaguing the dual legal system.
The second point in the petition is a clarion call to ensure that parliamentarians and the public know the limitations to the sharia legal system as set by the federal constitution.
This is definitely needed for everyone to note, because there are limits to the state-specific religious legal system as defined by our founding laws. Perhaps this has gone forgotten for far too long, or has been left without clarification for everyone to note.
Perhaps this is the way it is out of ignorance or necessity by people with their own agendas, God only knows.
Shouldn’t we, the public at large, know what limits the religious authorities have?
And since Islam itself promotes speaking from a point of enlightenment and to share knowledge, how can we say this point is an attack on Islam?
The third point is to allow civil society to consult on Islam being used as a source of public law and public policy. Yet again, this is necessary.
As I have mentioned before, Islam has now grown to a point of multiple facets in which everything and anything can be accessed online from multiple sources.
Islam has evolved, and we should evolve with it. In addition to this, how can you do laws and policies without contribution from civil societies?
We do it for everything from economics to education to welfare. When did Islam ever tell us to avoid having intellectual discourses as a basis of law and policy?
Is that not what a syura, or a political congress or a muktamar all about?
How can you not have the same for the government?
Nobody has a monopoly
The fourth point of the “I Am #26” petition is exactly what I just said above. Islam has now evolved to be multifaceted, to the point that nobody truly has a monopoly on which or what the right Islamic laws and policies are.
What was implemented in Turkey and Arab Saudi, to exemplify, are two different brands. Commonalities are abound, true, but they are different, suiting different peoples, cultures and thus, forming different laws and policies.
Similarly, Malaysia and Malaysians should come from the same points of view, since we are equally diverse but united in worshipping one God.
So, how can we not allow the inclusion of all information through the different interpretations and juristic schools of thought?
The final point raised in the petition is leadership, or as I interpret it, a moderator who will allow the intellectual debates on Islamic jurisprudence in the establishment and review of sharia law and policies.
As I read it, we do not expect the prime minister himself to lead this move, but to appoint someone who is knowledgeable enough in both legal systems and intellectual discourse to lead it to fruition.
Is this not what we want?
For too long, Islam and the Malays have been made the boogeyman of Malaysia. We have been made scapegoats to anything and everything - from riots that would cripple the nation to even veiled threats of violence against non-Muslims.
This has never been the Islamic way.
Transparency, moderation, knowledgeable, intellectual discourse; these have been the hallmarks of the best of Islamic governance throughout history. Look at the rich history of Islam and you will find that the intellects in arithmetic and medicine were also the same intellects in philosophy and jurisprudence.
Historically the renaissance men
To be frank, Muslims were historically the renaissance men. This has been historically recognised even since the days of Kublai Khan. How can we ignore knowledge in any form?
With all this in mind, how can Malays reject a petition which truly stands for the best of what Islamic culture has offered in the past?
As such, there is nothing in this petition that is against Islam. In fact, it encourages the best qualities of our religious culture has to offer to combat ignorance and the hijacking of our religion by those who treat it as a monopoly.
These, by and large, are un-Islamic qualities that the petition wants to combat.
And thus, I urge my Muslim brothers and sisters to support it.