These past few months have seen very little progress and sadly, so much regress.  Just like those fickle-minded politicians who find themselves ensconced in political correctness with lack, or worse, zero regard to the actual need of the masses so long as votes are secured, the potential impacts on violence in our lives are equally alarming with its damaging effects writ large. Imbued with hatred and steep in paranoia, it will not be a surprise that one simply forgets and forsakes the essence of peace in a heartbeat.

It is terribly horrifying and everyone is terribly horrified. It is horrifying not just because we are constantly fearful for the next violent attack that could happen in our own backyard. It is horrifying because of the never ending confusion on the causes of the said violence which we are too scared to carefully study them, let alone courageously attempt to address them.  

Rarely do we hear occasions where authorities or individuals with political influence denounce violence erupted in the name of Islam by specifically asserting strong condemnations, not just on the violent attack per se, but also on any existing theological suggestions that stand in support of these violent attacks, directly or indirectly, in their speeches or statements. Stands are often shakily taken and questions very craftily evaded.

First of all, let us all agree that violence does not just mean an engagement in a non-consensual physical force. It can also happen mentally, sexually, or psychologically in the subtlest of ways so long as there is a non-consenting party to the transaction. Quite apart from the kind of violence that we have seen in London recently, marital violence, for instance, can happen where a wife is refused her sexual needs by her husband or a daughter her educational rights by her parents. It varies along the continuum and the only nexus that unites them are the sheer absence of approbation.

Have we ever paused and thus begun a self-reflective endeavour to understand why these kinds of violence exist and why they still continue to exist? Series of violence keep happening and despite strong worded statements against them, we still find ourselves flailing helplessly to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ever wonder why?

It is because condemning alone is not enough. Condemning without acting on the pith so condemned is self-defeating. We all know that. We cannot afford to keep flashing the peace card times and again as a reminder that Islam has no relation to this each time violence is sought to be sanctified in its name.

Because indeed, it is.

We must stop pussyfooting around and start to admit that Islam is accessory to the perpetuating violence in major respects. Interpretational reading of the holy scripture done by Muslims alone is not the primary cause. It only catalyses the canonical subtext found in the book that is inherently violent, irrespective of the contexts on which these verses are based, which in turns, galvanises it into action we see today.  

It is not just the works of Muslims. We must accede to the fact that it is also the encouragement derived from Islam itself, through Koran and various prophetic traditions which many are conditioned into silence. Terrorists on the other hand use this to their advantage by citing these as an inspiration to secure the heavenly rewards.

How do we maintain the essence of peace in Islam when we have a decree in At-Tawbah which enjoins us to fight against those who do not obey Allah and do not believe in Allah or the Last Day and do not forbid what has been forbidden by Allah and His messenger even if they are of the People of the Book until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued?

Also, another suggestion is found in a verse of the same Chapter asking us to kill the Musyrikeen wherever one is sighted. It goes on to command us to capture them, besiege them, and then lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. However, if they prove repentance, perform the prayers, and pay the Zakat then they are freemen.

Dissidents will argue that these two examples above, amongst others, were not revealed without reasons and that a clearer and better sight of their contextual canvass onto which the verses were painted so as to enable a visible background is of crucial importance. Indeed it is. However, the ability to appreciate such identified contexts notwithstanding, the fact still remains that violence is the epicentre of the decree.

We cannot deny that whatever outcome we discover from its historical context, at the end of the day, violence is sought as an end result. Justifying an ecclesiastical decree by virtue of the context that it provides at a given time is akin to tacitly acknowledging its permissibility and by extension, to overtly accepting that it forms part of Islam.

Reform is a key to untangle this theological labyrinth. We must first acknowledge that there are overtones of violence within Islam as evidenced by various traditions of the past. We must also acknowledge that the way that some people are using Islam is that they are inspired by religion through the scriptural texts to commit such violence.

Only when these are firmly acknowledged can we then move on to decide which theological traditions need expunging.

Why can we not simply decline and denounce a text which is violent and brutal as much as we accept and celebrate the same which celebrates the message of compassion and love?

Likewise, the plain reading of any theological sources which bespeaks encouragement to kill for whatever reasons must be rejected in as an honest manner as we should honestly adopt the one which urges no compulsion in religion.

While we earnestly maintain that everything is honky-dory and that there appears no lacuna in God’s commands found through Her book, we must never forget that such assertion alone does not absolve us of any responsibility to mean it.

As much as we want to maintain that everything is as straight as an arrow, our action shows that everything is only just about as straight as the figure 8.

Islam and Muslims, and perhaps to a slightly lesser extent, history, in the fashion of Cerberus, the mythological three-headed hound guarding the gates of Hell, virtually guide the destinies of the faith and hold sway of the voices of confidence in their hands.

The analogy is perhaps not inappropriate in view of the canine element injected into the situation at hand, with references to the toothless, barkless, spineless, all chained-up Muslims in deciding what is actually right rather than what is expected to be right.

If Islam is truly a religion of peace, then we must all put our heads together and embark on our spiritual journey to reform the way Islam can be better pictured as, not just by non-Muslims but also Muslims themselves.

Otherwise, these seeds of violence and malignant intent will continue to give birth to yet another violent attack. When it happens, one will have no occasion anymore to bemoan the total loss in faith even amongst the fellow adherents.

We do not want another attack in London. We just want to pop the kettle on and peacefully enjoy our tea.

It is time for all of us to tell it as it is. Let’s call a spade a spade. Let peace mean peace.

 

By Azlan Abdul Razak, an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya

 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.