Letter on religious unity

Dear all,

I write this letter in response to the Presidential Press Secretary Mr Mohamed Zuhair’s seeming need to justify his position on medicinal drugs using religion.

I feel that when Zuhair needs to bring religion into the picture to justify his position on something, the MDP are going backwards.

I once saw a heavy religious question fired at President Nasheed. ‘Anni’ humbly responded by acknowledging he was not an Alim and therefore did not feel adequate to comment. It was apparent that he would have had an opinion, and that he knows more about Islam than what most people know he does. But as an intelligent thinker, I think, he can see the danger when a President takes the role of religious authority, and chooses to feign ignorance in this area unless he has to offer an opinion.

When a politician must appear to be religious to win respect because the Constitution demands he or she be of a particular religion, religion becomes shallow, meaningful only as a way to win respect.

The competition to appear the most religious in religious-political societies has always involved lies, blackmail, bribery, torture.

Just stating all Maldivians must be Sunni Muslim does not mean the constitution protects Maldives’ religious unity, as was claimed.

Social repression of such nature creates resistance, tyranny, disunity.

Islam itself can be used as a force for disunity just as easily.

If a group wanted to break away from the mainstream government, they could say their separatist cause is an Islamic Jihad. An example? Maumoon was accused of not being a Muslim, therefore, according to very radical militant Hanbali style Zahiri, he and the NSS, if they defended him, were legitimate targets for Jihad.

For Islam to be imposed for unity, it must be controlled and defined by an elite so that contradictory understandings are oppressed. This amounts to putting a mental straitjacket on society, which will provoke a violent resistance from those who have a different understanding of Islam.

I have met Maldivians who detest preachers of Islam because they had been sexually abused by clerics as children. They associate the Qur’an with hypocrisy, oppression and sexual abuse.

Imposing religion via the Constitution and having Islam controlled by headstrong literalists is sure to provoke a sense of violent betrayal and anger against Nasheed’s government.

Imposing religion will divide Maldives, not unify it, as many will rebel, if not openly at least in their hearts. The only way to invite back such people to Islam is to demonstrate that Allah is gentle, Allah is not into forcing himself on people via the Constitution.

This aggressive controlling of human minds and hearts creates frustration, hate, resentment and militant Islam.

Allah is locked in a perpetual, raging power struggle against false representations of himself.

All Maldivians are deeply grateful for the sacrifice of the martyr. But some see their sacrifice as being for the freedom of Maldivians from oppression.

At that time the will to freedom, the strength for dignity was expressed through Islam. But to use Islam now as a force for oppression is against the reason the martyr died.

The dignity and sovereignty of the Dhivehin, for which Thakurufaanu died, has as much to do with pre-Islamic Fanditha type culture as it does Islam. Fanditha culture is as Maldivian as fishing and family, yet “orthodox” Islam is opposed to Fanditha culture.

Nearly 50 per cent of Maldivian tradition, which most Maldivians call “Islamic”, would be considered unorthodox or bida’ (innovation) by the Adhaalaath brothers i.e. Islamic fundamentalism is against Dhivehi culture.

This may seem paradoxical, but freedom of religion improves morality in a society. Religious freedom was fought for in Europe by those who wanted to improve morality, not abandon it.

On the surface the USA looks like the most immoral society on Earth, but dig deeper into Al Mamlaka Al Arabiyya Al Sauddiya and the other religious societies (Vatican, Taliban-led Afghanistan etc…) and you will see these places are morally much worse than America.

I studied Saudi history and I tremble to even think of the activity that goes on there regarding child prostitution amongst the Sheikhs.

When religion does not depend on the state for funding and is not controlled by the state, the religious are free to act as a check and balance against government corruption without fear of retribution or without being silenced.

Majid may be less obliged to remain silent about certain more serious issues than discos and graveyards if he had not climbed to power through the support of some questionable figures.

Religion should not compromise its own values for power.

When religion is not imposed through a constitution, the religious have to work harder to win people over through inspiration rather than through intimidation, as a consequence, their moral standards are elevated and they inspire others moral standards.

I knew a guy who used to refuse to come to discos as he loved the closeness to Allah he felt in the Mosques and this eventually inspired me to follow him.

If he had tried to threaten me into following him, I would have partied at the disco ten times longer.

Furthermore, to get power, even if it’s power to do good, as politicians will begrudgingly concede during rare moments of honesty, a compromise of moral values occurs.

Politicians often think that the few lies and crooked deals will be worth all the good they’ll do once in power, but if a religious leader does it, this sets a bad example.

It says the end justifies the means. People don’t strive to be as moral as possible as a consequence of the ‘amorality’ of their role models.

Ben ‘Abdul-Rahman’ Plewright


11 thoughts on “Letter on religious unity”

  1. Crazy mental Ben is back. But I have to say this time I agree with your article. The best way to keep religious harmony is to keep the religious freedom. If we force any religion on people, they try to move away from it instead of accepting it. But one thing I want to tell you here is Islam or for any other religion, we cannot blame the religion for the acts of the people. Islam and Quran are not bad or wrong. Its the people who are wrong. I have seen priests and monks from Vatican been arrested for child molestation and this is now growing concern in Italy. We can blame Christianity for such action, but its the people who have been forced to live a hidden life under those brown or white costumes named as priests who are to be blamed. I have seen the orthodox jews in north london hunting for prostitutes in the night time because according to their religion they cant have sex on satudary (sabath). Again we cant blame the jewish religion for such actions, infact its the people themselves who singularly shouldbe responsible for such acts. Similarly we cant blame islam or quran if the edhurube or imam or the scholar molests a child or anyone. Its just his actions and he should be accountable for it. Religious freedon should actually be enforced in Maldives because I dont see our society moving in very god loving direction. The reason been we try to force them do things. Instead we should nake them think themselves why they have to follow a religion and then their belief will be more stronger. And to achieve this, we should place infront of them other religions so that they know how to chose the best. Prophet Muhammad (saw) also managed to convince people to accept his new religion from among the odds of ignorants and kafirs.

  2. Good point.

    The only problem is, we have seen through experience, that our society is clearly yet not at a level of maturity and awareness to accept pluralism in any aspect of life.

    Some efforts at changing attitudes, knowledge-bases and behavior must be made before pluralism, whether political or otherwise is introduced to this society.

    Ignoring this reality is the greatest and most selfish mistake made by President Nasheed in securing the dictatorship of this country for his clan.

  3. @tsk tsk: YOU ARE CORRECT about the need for attitude changes.

    These are the attitudes that need to be changed.

    The first thing is that whether Maldivians like it or not, Maldivians will, at times, leave Islam, and attempts to force them into Islam through force will turn them into a liar and a socially alienated, angry or depressed person. It will create pain for everyone to force them back into the Ummah.

    The second thing that Maldivian people have to learn is that freedom of thought is an essential part of Islam.

    The freedom promoting essence of Islam has been well documented by many Maldivians. See the essay by Mr. Ali Ahsan on http://minivannewsarchive.com/politics/comment-islam-is-for-tolerance-of-the-other-20471) for an example. This view is growing, and will someday be accepted by the mainstream. Thank you to all who are spreading this view.

    What I don’t see enough of is refutation of the texts which, if taken out of context, do seem to imply that Islam requires repression of conscience. The Hadith, “Whoever changes his religion, kill him (Bukhari)has been used to justify punishing apostasy. If the literal meaning of this were applied, I should have been killed by the Muslims when I left Christianity to join islam, because I left my religion! Liberal scholars argue that other Hadith stating the same and ending with …”And join the other...” or “and go against the Muslims” indicate that only an Apostate who joined an attacking army was to be killed. They highlight the fact that at the time, to be a Muslim was to be attacked by the Pagans and Christians, and so, the seemingly co-ercive scriptures are not to be applied if the apostate is not a threat.

    The third thing which Maldivians have to learn is that, if a Maldivian leaves Islam, they would not stop loving their Maldivian people, so long as they are accepted for who they are. Being a non-Muslim does not stop one from loving, fighting for Muslims, and being nationalistic in a Muslim country. For example I recently read a beautiful article where it said that when the Muslims were praying in the recent Egyptian protest, the Christians surrounded them, joined hands with each other to protect them, to form a human shield around them. A Maldivian Christian said that being a Christian makes him more nationalistic than ever. I heard similar sentiments from a Maldivian Atheist.

    Maldives will probably always retain its Islamic identity politically and otherwise. But for the sake of all, Maldivian apostates need understanding and freedom, socially, and eventually, constitutionally.

  4. Dear Abdul-Rahman, 🙂

    I like your article. You made some good points and I agree with what you said.

    "I recently read a beautiful article where it said that when the Muslims were praying in the recent Egyptian protest, the Christians surrounded them, joined hands with each other to protect them, to form a human shield around them."
    I think I saw this on youtube. Or may be it was on CNN. Can't remember exactly where.

    "Maldives will probably always retain its Islamic identity politically and otherwise. But for the sake of all, Maldivian apostates need understanding and freedom, socially, and eventually, constitutionally."
    Please elaborate. I think the two sentences contradict each other.

  5. @Rocket: I guess, what I was thinking was, I imagine that the majority of Maldivians will probably stay Muslims even IF freedom of conscience were allowed. Also, I imagine that the instututional symbols in your nation would remain Islamic. For example here in Australia, some of our Institutional symmbols are Christian, but that does not mean that Australians who leave Christianity will be forced back into it through the law, though their families may try. For example, our flag has the British Union Jack on it which is a union of the Crosses of St. George the 'Dragon Slayer' Roman soldier who is a symbol of courage against oppression because he stood up to a Roman Emperor in refusal to deny Christianity and was killed for doing so, St. Patrick who willingly returned to 'slavery to Ireland' to show the true meaning of leadership, and St. Andrew the Fisherman embodying a humble work ethic and willingnness to go into the deep. Also, in our schools and parliament up until I was in school thirty years back, once a week a Christian Prayer was said. YET all this, our flag being Christian and our schools reciting Christian prayers, did not mean that if one of our politicians or students announced that they were not a Christian he would go to jail for it.

    So, in this sense, though I imagine that your symbols would always be Muslim, and they are beautiful symbols (the martyr's and the moon and the colour green etc...) but that even though this were the case, that the law may oneday be changed so that those who choose NOT to be a Muslim would not be forced back into Islam.

  6. Minivan, any chance you guys could release a transcript of the speech on Democracy in Islam with Syrian-born scholar Imam Mohamed Bashar Arafat.

    It is sad that this guy, although a million times more educated and knowledgable about Islam than Bilal Phillips or Naik for example, gets a much smaller audience. Liberal Islam requires so much depth of study into the context of SEEMINGLY oppressive Islamic Texts, and so much in depth understanding of the etymological construction of the Arabic terms used to convey the true essence of Islam, that it is sadly, alien to most people who only have time to take what is said at in Qur’an, Ayat at face value. Liberal Islam, although intended to set the people free from tyranny, develops into a sort of an elitist culture of its own, where as fundamentalism tends to appeal to the masses. The demagogic nature of literalist, fundamentalist Islam is apparent, it FEEDS the vengeance of the oppressed against beauty, art, reason and poetry, seems, these seem like luxuries to those who have to work twenty four seven to earn enough bread and water to keep their families alive.

    For example, in the Mosques, one will find a lot of literature about Hadith, Sirah, and the like all written in Madinah. Yet if you want to get books on Islamic Philosphy and what is called liberal Islam, you go into a University library. I found five books by Prof. Abdullah saeed in Curtin and UWA. each brilliant. He is far more brilliant than anyone in Adhalaath or fareed, his Ilm is way deeper, yet, if he gave a public lecture, one might be lucky to get say, 5oo ppl there! THAT is a disgrace!

    Somehow, I want to build a bridge between Liberal Islam (and its appeals to reason, poetry, art, science, mercy and social justice) and the poor, the oppressed. I have written a heap of stuff on liberal Islam but I am afraid that it is all so jargonny that most people would think it was a total head wank! When I have time I am going to rewrite it all and explain the jargon clearly, so that, abstract concepts in interpreting, applying Islamic text can be accessible to everyone.

    If there were social justice, liberal Islam would spread, not fundamentalism, because poverty and injustice feed the fundamentalist impulse.

  7. there have been hundreds of thousands of religions in the world till now

    there still exists hundreds of religions, each claiming, my religion is the truth

    religions have been created to brainwash and control people

    as long as the people are too dumb to understand this....parasites will rule!

  8. Observer has a point, all religions claim to be the one true word of god.
    Religion sprang from the need of primitive people to want someone/something to protect them from the noises in the dark, and the wish to be reunited with dead loved ones.
    It was taken over by States & rulers as a way to control populations, by instructing them how to behave.
    In other words - at their root, all religions are superstitions and have no place in politics or governments.
    Unless you want to be told how to think and how to behave.....

  9. The Book of God is being sold to Buruma by Adhaalath beard wallas to benefit from his wealth.
    They consume drinks prohibited by religion, they run public massage centers for the young,they eat riba and yet they call on the general public to adhere to the teachings of Islam.This is really a group of evil doers disguised as angles.They want nothing but wealth.

  10. How can man take unto himself the responsibility of protecting Islam? Man cannot! God Himself took that responsibility even before the univers and Adam were created, instead of asking man to do it because He knows that man are weak. But yet these beard wallas were confidently calling on the public to do so.The intention is to mislead them.


Comments are closed.