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Saturday, September 13, 2008

A plea for dialogue and free speech by Azril Mohd Amin

Sep 13, 08 12:39pm

There have recently been innumerable public statements, from the ministerial level to the general public, which assert that various people - or everyone in the case of the most recent statement from our Deputy Inspector-General of Police - should stop discussing various subjects deemed inappropriate and dangerous.

The ambiguity of these statements casts doubt on Malaysian understanding of the principles involved in free speech.

Free speech cannot be either legislated or regulated by such terminology as 'responsible', 'non-divisive' or 'sensitive'. 

The public relations effect of government officers attempting to forbid discussion of certain topics is basically dangerous and most likely counter-productive because it only encourages people to rebel against control.

Police especially should never be put in the position of enforcing notions of 'divisiveness' or 'non-divisiveness' without proper, detailed rules with review by competent authorities, assuming that expression needs to be regulated to this degree in our society.

As Thomas Jefferson so eloquently put it, government has no authority over the thoughts of the citizenry. 

It is only when such thoughts are expressed in actions, deleterious to the public good - either by direct physical confrontation or 'inciting' words which may probably result in such action - that government can take action.

And in order to guarantee that this fundamental principle of free speech is secured, we must promote an effective and respectful network of communications among the major races and religions residing in this nation. 

ISA detentions destroy public trust

Until such time as Muslims can produce an acceptable model of Islamic governance, the government should not even try to regulate and discipline what we citizens are thinking, or even saying.

The definition of sedition has little meaning in a society in which so many thoughts and sayings are pronounced seditious by officials who may feel threatened by such talk; the word becomes political-speak for "you are dangerous to us and our established order". ISA detentions can be particularly destructive of public trust by the very virtue of this component.

Inter-faith dialogue in the service of 'common cause' is always welcome to Muslims so long as it does not intrude upon matters of faith or rituals. 

This is because the differences between Islam and other religions, as for example glossed over by the principles of secularised Islam, are very difficult to reconcile, but by discussion, understanding evolves and respect for the beliefs of others grows.

Inter-racial dialogue, on the other hand, comes much closer to fulfilling the Quranic verse which explains creation of the different races and ethnic groups as a means of interest to each other and learning from one another, rather than confrontation. 

Malaysia must prove Samuel Huntington wrong in his thesis of 'civilisational clash'.

Inter-faith diologue more difficult

Nowadays, individual identity relates primarily to culture, whereas religious belief constantly crosses cultural lines. Therefore, dialogue among the cultures here in Malaysia should be organised and promoted according to ethnicity rather than religiosity.

We should have no shame in relating to others from the viewpoint of our culture, whereas inter-faith dialogue is very much more difficult and must be approached more delicately and with both faith in your beliefs and openness to respect the faith of others.

The rules of courtesy should regulate our inter-ethnic relations precisely because almost no one can agree about the various priorities followed in the name of religion. If government does not wish to follow a policy of "forced assimilation", it must promote inter-racial dialogue at every opportunity, in order to avoid degeneration into religious conflict.

It must also have a similar strategy on religious issues to encourage an understanding of this component of the different cultures. 

We do not interfere with each other's religion, and we follow our Quranic admonition to approach each other with sincere interest, which especially implies full personal security. There is no other way to achieve civilised life.

AZRIL MOHD AMIN is a Kuala Lumpur-based lawyer and the Vice-President of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim). The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the institution to which he is affiliated.

Brother Azril Mohd Amin is also a member of The Muslim Bloggers Alliance.

4 comments:

wong said...

the erosion of public trust are no relevant.desperate men does desperate things..i suppose we have more to witness the ugliness of these people so few yet rule the majority.

MAHAGURU58 said...

Dear Miss Wong,

This episode will only reaffirm the commitment of all those who are looking forward to change.

Our nation is going through a metamorphosis.

Malaysians are starting to wake up to the reality that life is what we make it to be?

It's all a matter of standing up for one's beliefs and principles.

'The test of tolerance comes when we are in a majority; the test of courage comes when we are in a minority.' Ralph W.Sockman.

Revert said...

salam
Whose notion of free speech? Secular liberalists, anti-Islam extremists and the like hiding under the guise of democracy and free speech. Pray, what kind of freedom they desire?Freedom to ridicule and slander Islam in comments and blogposts. Freedom to taunt Muslims on their faith? freedom to unhinge Islam from the Muslim soul under the guise of religious freedom. And the article has the gall to state this:

Until such time as Muslims can produce an acceptable model of Islamic governance,.....

Pandering to the Kaffir's sensitivities, I suppose!
Funny,the Islam I know is syumul(perfect) and the model of governance for all time is manifested in the Madinah experience and contitution. If there are situations that were hitherto unknown, the recourse is to establish the principle behind the problem and resolving it via reference to past precedents in Islamic jurispredence or in the Quran/Hadith. this principle of precedence is nothing new. It is the same that underlies that stuff the White Man called Common Law.

So its time Muslims stop dilly dallying over the implementation of the syariah and implement in its totality immediately without anyone's else's assent for they will never assent to it.. subvert yes!.

Plus, forget about bringing about change through the opposition as they are using the same tools manufactured by the same machines in the same old workshop. A paradigm shift is needed amongst Muslim participants in the great democratic debate and the faster the better!

Revert(http://syamil-revert.blogspot.com/

MAHAGURU58 said...

Wa'alaikumsalam 'revert'.

Very deeply thought I must say!

You have very good observations of the ground situation and speak from your heart.

Alhamdulillah. Your points ought to be considered by our Ikhwanul Muslimin here in Bolehland. Syabas.

May Allah SWT Mercy be upon you bro.

Wassalamualaikum wr wb.