JULY 13 — I could kick myself for missing Tariq Ramadan’s talk in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday but I had just started a new job and I’ve been too engrossed in that.
But no worries. He is going to be in town for a week and is scheduled to make a slew of appearances around the country. Rest assured I will be attending at least one of it.
One thing that I have to say I admire about Tariq Ramadan is that he is not afraid to support religion and be called an extremist when he is, in fact, quite liberal.
Let me explain this in simpler terms.
Many modern and so-called moderate Muslims these days are quick to condemn and disassociate themselves from hudud laws because they consider them barbaric and archaic.
A person is a thief? Chop off his hands!
That woman committed adultery? Stone her to death!
It definitely does sound barbaric, doesn’t it? I myself am not too fond of laws and punishment such as these which I think gives Islam a bad image in this day and age.
Tariq Ramadan, however, defends hudud laws since, according to him, it is in fact based on religious scripts and as a faithful Muslim, he cannot deny it.
However, he is quick to point out that he does not support it. What he does support is discourse and debate on the issues so that it can be contextualised and people can understand it better.
Condemning acts such as hudud punishment alone isn’t enough and won’t do or achieve anything at all. And unfortunately, many people, including Muslims, do just that.
How many times have we heard this NGO or that human rights activist condemn this act and that decision made by religious authorities?
Albeit, it isn’t hard to do so in Malaysia when decisions made by the religious authorities are just too easily brushed off as ridiculous, and sometimes outright comedic!
But very rarely do we hear people calling for a discussion on these matters in an attempt to understand them better and to see if these decisions and actions are being done appropriately.
There is nothing in Islam that forbids what is known as a moratorium, a decision taken to suspend or delay any act of law in order for research to be done and a challenge to be made against it.
Tariq Ramadan believes that through discourse and debate, and once matters are understood clearly and interpreted contextually, barbaric and archaic laws like hudud would most probably be rejected anyway.
This culture of discourse and questioning of things that we don’t understand needs to be cultivated if Muslim society (or really, the entire human race!) wants to progress and mature.
I have repeated myself many times, but I will disregard my annoyance and repeat it again now when I say that the concept of blasphemy has no basis in Islam, or in any of the Abrahamic faiths.
Blasphemy, this concept invented by men who were afraid to lose their power and influence hundreds of years ago, is the true blasphemy! Ha... now think about that!
So rise up, question, discuss, debate and even argue (but of course, violence is not an option!). There is no other way to create a knowledgeable and educated society without any of this.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.