LETTER | Religious authorities must take heed of the various concerns raised by the Malay rulers, the latest being from Perak ruler Sultan Nazrin Shah.
The Sultan's "titah" is a reminder to us all that their Royal Highnesses the Rulers are the heads of religion in their respective states. As such, the implementation of Islam by religious authorities must be done with due respect for the rights of citizens to justice, as any injustice will reflect badly not only on the integrity of their sultans but also on the reputation of Islam itself as a religion of peace and harmony for all Malaysians.
The caution from the Perak sultan comes at the most appropriate time as the world celebrates history’s most influential messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
We at G25 are in full agreement with the sultan and consider his speech as a stern warning, issued in the most diplomatic way, which epitomises the sultan’s graciousness and wisdom.
Creation of discord and tension amongst race and religion by the way Islam is administered and controlled by some of the overzealous officers, sets a dangerous precedent for the country and for the Muslims.
Although it is human that religious officials can also make mistakes in the course of performing their duties, the public expects that as these officials are civil servants paid from taxpayers' money, their mistakes must be openly acknowledged, with apologies for the injustice, even though it is not intentional.
Religious authorities should not hide behind the special status of Islam as the religion of the federation to dismiss every public comment as an insult to Muslims and Islamic institutions.
Such intimidating behaviour is not only bad for the image of Islam, it also increases further the public concerns regarding the rule of law in the country and the supremacy of the constitution in protecting the fundamental liberties of the people, irrespective of race and religion.
Religious leaders must develop the maturity of thought to show greater tolerance for diversity of views among Muslims.
Intellectual discourse, open discussions and exchange of views are even more needed now with the advent of social media and technology and their impact on modern living in an increasingly globalised environment.
Should not let discord and hatred rule
As Malaysia has become a highly urbanised society with more Muslims moving up in their standards of living, their social values are bound to change with the times.
Syariah laws must reflect the changing character of Muslim life so that Islam will remain relevant in the life of our youths wherever they go for studies, work or business.
We fully agree with Sultan Nazrin that Islam should be safeguarded and promoted through a prudent, polite and honourable approach in its implementation, without the coercion, pressure, violence and disgraceful acts that have so often put the country on the world news for the wrong reason.
All parties and sections of the population must work together to give true meaning to the concept of moderation or wassatiyah so that Malaysia can be a role model in the eyes of the world as a highly respectable Muslim majority country.
We may have differences of opinions and arguments; even Islamic scholars then and now are not spared of having differences on interpretations of the religious doctrines.
We need to be reminded that whatever differences we have, we should not let discord and hatred rule.
People who are involved in creating seeds of discord, bigotry and hatred should have no place to sit on, even less so lead, religious bodies and think tanks.
We urge everyone to uphold the Federal Constitution and the position of the Malay Rulers.
These two institutions must never be used for the pursuit of any political or religious agenda that would undermine our Malay rulers and the Federal Constitution.
G25 is a group of retired Malay top senior civil servants.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.