LETTER

JIM's approach to 'dakwah' in line with Constitution

M Zulkarnain Hamzah

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

I wish to clear up the issues Helen Ang raised in her long write-up, JIM involved in 'dakwah' activities .

Helen Ang's accusation of Pertubuhan Jamaah Islam Malaysia's (JIM) sail being blown by the same wind that leads to the creeping of the current government's "Islamisation" blunders through her cut-and-paste research and has presented an even more distorted and angular picture of JIM to Malaysiakini readers.

No, Helen, JIM's calls for the betterment of society does not originate from the so-called "full-speed Islamisation" by the government, which she associates with the recently un-Islamic forceful destruction of other religious members' house of worship. Whether "Islamisation" exists or not, whatever it is supposed to mean, JIM has never been a part of "Islamisation", depicted by Helen as an institutionalised tool to marginalise non-Muslims.

Dakwah , literally means persuading others to one's point of view. By no means are JIM and other Muslim NGOs monopolising the Malaysian dakwah scene. Helen's reasoning of the Malaysian Constitution's Article 11(4) which prohibits proselytising to Muslims as being an unfair advantage to Muslim-based dakwah bodies cannot hold any ground because dakwah means much more than to proselytise. Other civil societies, lobbyists and political bodies have their role in establishing their kinds of dakwahs and certain disagreements and overlaps can be found among these dakwahs .

Contrary to Helen's assumption that Muslim NGOs are well-networked, most Muslim NGOs are heterogeneous in grassroots' activities and donors' demographics. This is in stark contrast with some homogenous civil societies in Malaysia which are often funded by similar foreign philanthropic bodies.

Part of JIM's universal dakwah includes airing of disagreement towards Pak Lah's gag order on Article 11 (in which only Malaysiakini published, Muslim NGOs laud PM's call to zip up on Islam ), positive engagement with other Muslim NGOs united against the usage of ISA to curb apostasy, solid emergency response efforts to victims of the recent Johor flooding, charity events for Palestine and continuous emphasis on strengthening family institution through various engagements with local and international civil rights and governmental bodies, including the United Nations. The fruits of these efforts are returned to the society in a wholesome manner, without excluding one group or the other.

I wish to strongly assert that JIM's approach to dakwah is perfectly in accordance with the constitutional rights granted to other civil organisations. I am confident Malaysiakini readers will not view JIM's efforts, in using universal Islamic principles to garner public opinion among the various strata of the Malaysian community, as "proselytising".

Dakwah within JIM's activism context is way beyond the "proselytising" scope that Helen Ang tried to portray through several hand-picked events which, unfortunately, have been generalised out of context. For example, the Aug 31 Stadium Merdeka dakwah pamphlets was distributed to send a message to Malay youths of universal Islamic creed to foster their own self-prevention initiatives against social malaises such as alcoholism, gangsterism and sexual promiscuity that the society usually expects during mass celebrations.

Helen Ang should get a copy of the handout before juxtaposing the bulletin message with other cut-and-paste JIM events in order to misguide JIM to Malaysiakini readers to view it as an organisation out to convert non-Muslims.

Indirect and subtle proselytising activities, which prey on people with limited choices to make independent and informed decisions, harm the ties between religious communities. The purpose of Article 11(4), as mentioned by Prof Shad Saleem Faruqi in the Sun newspaper quite a while ago, is not to restrict the right of reciprocity for the non-Muslims to be given protection from inter-religious preaching. It is to insulate underprivileged Malays (Islam is one of the defining features of a "Malay" in Article 160(2)) against internationally-funded and powerful proselytising forces that have become entrenched in the country due to official support from giant Western missionaries.

Where there are non-confrontational JIM events calling non-Muslims to Islam, absolute discretion has always been taken to ensure that invitees attend the events on their own free will and they have been properly informed, ahead of time, of the purpose of the invitation. Hidayah Center has been set up not only to provide accurate information on Islam to non-Muslims, but to serve the underprivileged Muslim converts who have been estranged and sidelined by their previous family and community support systems.

The strong community support for new Muslims are needed more than ever due to the lack of continuous educational and emotional support from religious departments, which according to the Perlis mufti only serve new converts on rigid, ritualistic aspects of conversions, births, weddings and burials.

On Helen's contention that other missionaries are not allowed to proselytise to Malays, it has been an open secret among active Muslim NGO volunteers that punitive action has never been taken against overt missionary activities to rural and even urban Malays.

I was one of few Muslims among Buddhist guests of a previous Christmas eve "open house" dinner at a Subang Jaya church. What looked liked an ordinary dinner in the spirit of mutual respect turned into more like an entrapment when all attendees found themselves spoon-fed with hymns, sermons and stage acts calling the attendees to worship Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). That is a clear sign that there is no system in place to prevent Muslims from being proselytised to.

I don't really mind undergoing the same proselytisation experience in the future to please my close Christian friends, but I am dissatisfied with Helen's unfounded claim that Muslim bodies are the ones monopolising the proselytisation activities in Malaysia.

I do not see the point of the YouTube link or the connection to Helen Ang's original point of contention. At most, it is an attempt to paint JIM as another 'Islamist' organisation with 'Islamic state' agenda, cashing in on the misinformation most non-Muslims have towards syariah.

Contrary to popular belief, syariah is not a penal code per se. It is a little ironic that the term syariah (straight, clear path to waterhole in Arabic), which has the idea of fluidity and mobility as part of its very structure should become the symbol of rigid and unchanging laws to so many Muslims in the world. Thus, I cannot blame Helen for her misinterpretations.

I kindly urge Helen Ang to get in touch with several of JIM's activists whom she directly mentioned in her article in order to learn about the organisation rather than making quick guesses from vague online bulletin posts. After all, some, if not all of Helen Ang's democratic views in Malaysiakini go in parallel with the universal justice of Islam that JIM promotes.

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