Opinion

A haram book? What next?

Zan Azlee

Zan Azlee is a documentary filmmaker, journalist, writer, New Media practitioner and lecturer. He runs Fat Bidin Media www.fatbidin.com

DEC 9 — Do not eat the book. Do not drink the book. Do not touch the book. Do not use any kitchen utensils that have been used with the book. Because it is haram.

The book that I am referring to is “Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going”, which has been declared haram by our Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).

I find the decision utterly ridiculous. Apparently, Lee mentions that Muslims in Singapore are “socially distinct and separate” and should “be less strict on Islamic observances” to aid integration and the city-state’s nation-building process.

In my opinion, I see the act by Jakim as an act that clearly defies the teachings of the Quran as it obstructs the quest for knowledge.

I have written about Islam’s fierce encouragement to seek out knowledge time and again, and I find that I quote the same verses every time.

Surah Al-Alaq states:

“Read! Read in the name of your Lord who has created (all that exists). He has created man from a clod. Read! And your Lord is the most generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen. He has taught man that which he knew not.”

I liken the haram declaration of Lee Kuan Yew’s book (and any book for that matter, even the Obedient Wives Club’ sex guide) to the disgusting act of book burning.

The Nazis burned books. The Khmer Rouge burned books. Terry Jones burned books (he burned the Quran last year in Florida).

It is so obvious that it is a repulsive act committed by repulsive people.

To seek knowledge does not only mean we are allowed to obtain it from kosher sources. Many times we also gain knowledge from negative sources.

What I’m trying to say here is that it does not matter whether the ideas in a book are wrong or right. It should be made available anyway.

I’m sure everyone would agree that we learn to do good from good examples and we learn to stay away from wrong by the bad examples.

Society should have access to it in order to process it and decide for themselves whether to accept it or not. Either way, people will gain knowledge from it.

Don’t be afraid of being blasphemous. In fact, Islam doesn’t even recognise the concept of blasphemy as it has never been mentioned in the Quran or Hadith.

Blasphemy is really a concept that was developed in the Middle Ages to stop the masses from questioning and challenging authority.

Islam realises that if you stop a Muslim from questioning, then you stop him from gaining knowledge. And that is a big no-no according to Prophet Muhammad.

Prophet Muhammad once stressed (yet another quote that I am constantly forced to repeat):

“Whoever conceals knowledge would be muzzled on the Day of Resurrection with a muzzle of fire.”

If Jakim is afraid that certain books have wrong teachings in them, then by all means, instead of declaring them haram just write your own books to counter the teachings of these books.

Only then will society progress to a higher and more mature level where intellectual discourse becomes a normal practice.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

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