Dear Abdullah Zaik,
I’ve been following the curious statements you and your group – Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia – have been making recently on the subject of human liberty, and I thought I’d take the time to address one statement in particular. At the weekend, you said:
“Islam is Islam. Ideologies are not part of Islam and all these ideologies are from the west..liberalism, liberty, equity and human rights are all agenda of the atheist.”
There are so many flaws with this argument, it is difficult to know where to begin, but I’ll give it a try.
Firstly, it seems that you’re confused as to what an ideology actually is. Put simply; if one is to arrange a series of individual thoughts and ideas into a dogmatic framework of political and economic control that seeks to restrict the liberty of the individual, an ideology is born. Thus, to claim ideologies are not a part of Islam, is to insist that political and economic control must not be handed to Islam; which I believe is the exact opposite of your intended goal. You have therefore discredited your own point. Congratulations.
An ideology is a sort of cage, whereby certain freedoms are restricted. Any restriction on human freedom must be rationalised in the context of how that freedom injures the freedom of others. I give up the freedom to murder someone, because I do not wish others the freedom to murder me. Where my liberty is strictly individual, and does not restrict you in the free exercise of your liberty, you have absolutely no inherent right to oppress it. This is how to constitute society. A line of equal protections for all regardless of gender, sexuality, belief, and ethnicity. This ensures a level playing field that allows for the flourishing of individual talents and abilities, on a level that ideological cages – such as the one you wish to throw us all in – just don’t. It is what Bertrand Russell referred to as the reverence for human personality.
Secondly, it is perhaps worth pointing out that the concept of human liberty is not an ‘ideology’. There are no doctrines. You are not born attached to any doctrine. Liberty is a natural human condition before ideology is attached. You are free to speak as you wish, you are free to love whom you choose, you are free to wear whatever you wish to wear, to believe whatever you wish to believe, and act however you wish to act. To restrict any of those freedoms, is to apply ideology. For example, your country’s ‘National Fatwa Council’ (a group of grown men telling others how to live their lives according to the prejudices and beliefs of that particular group of grown men) declared that all Muslim women must not dress like boys, in case it encourages them to be gay. The ignorance of this is astounding – it’s like claiming we green eyed people shouldn’t wear something a blue eyed person wears in case we become blue eyed ourselves – and yet, this ignorance is given a distinctive state privilege to force its moronic rulings upon a population at the point of a gun, restricting freedoms because, well, they want to. This is ideology. It is also completely unable to justify itself, which then leads to ridiculously weak arguments like that which you presented.
So to recap on the first two points; Islam, when used to control the lives of anyone other than an individual who freely chooses to believe and adhere to its principles, becomes ideological and unjustifiable. Liberty is to be free from oppressive ideological structures that seek to restrain us in some capacity. I would argue that liberty should be protected for all. Civil rights equally protecting us all from oppressive structures we do not wish imposed on us, is the vehicle by which liberty is protected. It is a response to oppressive ideologies – such as Islamism. This is significant, because over the course of history we as a species have learnt that without such protections, it would seem the most powerful ideologies seek to grant themselves state privileges used to oppress the rights of those dissenting voices. This appears to be the case in Malaysia.
For example, in your country, a marriage between a Muslim and non-Muslim is not recognised. This is the state granting privileges to your faith only, whilst restricting the same liberty for others. If I, as a non-Muslim fall in love and wish to marry a Muslim, what inherent right do you have to restrict that for me, whilst enjoying it for yourself? This is a case of Malay Muslim supremacists controlling my life. What then should prevent me from controlling your life, according to my beliefs? I believe all members of Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia should be forced to talk in a high pitched Cockney accent, on threat of imprisonment. According to your logic, I am perfectly within my rights to do this, because I believe my individual belief is ordained by my new God.
Malaysia isn’t a Muslim country. Let’s get that cleared up. Malaysia is a country with Muslims, with Christians, with atheists, with Hindus, with Buddhists. For one to claim privileged power to control others – like you did, when you opposed the renovations of Sri Sundaraja Perumal Hindu temple in 2013 because you claim Malaysia is an ‘Islamic country’ – they must provide legitimate reasons for assuming a position of privilege that cannot equally apply to those of other faiths. What you mean when you say that a country is ‘Islamic’ is simply that one faith has successfully forced its way into an illegitimate state of privilege. It’s important to note that a majority of the country being Muslim, does not in any way grant Islam an inherent privilege to state power, in much the same way that a majority of the country having a mustache, does not grant people with mustaches an inherent privilege to state power. To refer to a country as owned by a particular faith, is both ideological and imperialist. You are the very imperialists that you apparently condemn.
Because of your faith, the LGBT community of Malaysia are treated as criminals, simply for whom they fall in love with. They are not permitted to appear on state media, nor be depicted in films. Your country’s leaders despicably refer to themselves as moderates on the World stage, whilst in the confines of the four walls of your state of Islamic imperialism, forcing two people in love to live by your soulless religious standards and 7th century dogma. You and your fellow Islamists running Malaysia have no more right to control whom someone else falls in love with, than we non-Muslims have to control whom you fall in love with. You just don’t. Appealing to your faith as justification to abuse others, whilst claiming you’re not promoting an ideology, would be laughable if it wasn’t so grotesquely dangerous.
Thirdly, liberalism, liberty, equity, and human rights are not an ‘atheist agenda’, nor are they western. Indeed, atheism is given no privileged position whatsoever. They simply do not allow you to control me according to your faith. We are considered equal. If you don’t like this, you’re going to have to inform the rest of us why it is you believe you should be afforded a place of authority over the rest of us. Why do you think you are better than us?
Liberty, and human rights are not ‘atheist’ values. They are universal values that protect you as equally as they protect me. They are simply not Theocratic values. They are a response to Theocratic values. They break the religious cage and free the prisoner. Liberalism and secularism benefit religious minorities by protecting the right to inquire, to speak freely, and to believe according to one’s own conscience without force. In your country, non-Sunni interpretations of Islam are illegal. Ahmadiyyah, Islamailiah and Shia are all banned. They are not allowed to speak freely about their beliefs. Thus, one sect of one religion controls what opinions are ‘acceptable’. This, again, is oppression. John Stuart Mill in his essay ‘Of the liberty of thought and discussion’ notes:
“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”
– Therefore, there appears no reason to ban other beliefs or opinions, except through fear that you may lose your privileged position that you cannot justify through reason, and so resort to force and threats. This is your sect enforcing its views upon others, and so it is the very definition of imperialism and oppression. Why then do you believe that one interpretation of one faith (coincidentally, yours) is to be considered uniquely predisposed to state privilege? What if a Shia uprising one day replaced that Sunni-only interpretation, with a Shia-only interpretation? Would you accept that as legitimate and thus bow to its demands? Would you remain silent and climb in the cage whilst the new master whips you every time you question their unjustifiable privilege over your life? Secularism and liberalism trusts you as an individual to come to your own conclusions and beliefs freely and without fear. What don’t you like about this?
If a constitution and law – like that of Malaysia – threatens to withdraw the ethnic status of an individual simply for leaving Islam, that constitution enshrines oppression and supremacy of the beliefs of one section of society above all others, at the point of a gun. An individual’s very identity is thus handed over and controlled by one sect of one faith, without any consent and any justification. Indeed, basic rights thus become dependent on belief. I think it wise to quote Thomas Jefferson at this point:
“Our civil rights have no dependence upon our religious opinions more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”
– With this in mind, perhaps you could inform us why you believe our civil rights should depend entirely on our adhering to your personal religious opinions?
It should be obvious to all that a faith, or an interpretation of a faith enhances its integrity if those who find it, find it through their own free inquiry and will, rather than indoctrination and threat. Mr Zaik, you appear to be appealing to indoctrination and threat, rather than free inquiry and will. What a terribly insecure belief you must have.
Your argument, Mr Zaik appears to be focused upon trying to convince the rest of us that we’re all much better off giving up our freedom, our equal rights, to abandon reason, and to be forced to live in your cage, by the dictates of your faith, with you as our Master, and beaten if we disobey. For this, your sales pitch is going to have to be quite extraordinary. I wish you all the luck in the World with that.
So let’s be honest Mr Zaik, you just wish the freedom to control the lives of others, according to your beliefs, without anyone fighting back. I have seen you refer to liberalism, feminism and human rights as Christian and Zionist conspiracies. This is simply a way to scare Muslims away from questioning the authority of one sect of one faith that seeks complete domination over their lives. You understand as well as I do that liberalism, feminism, and human rights secularised Christianity, and culled it of its overbearing and unjustifiable supremacy, and you fear the same will happen across the Muslim World. You mask this fear, with weak and incoherent arguments. But the mask is thin and it is clear that you simply wish the unjustifiable freedom to cage those who don’t believe exactly what you believe, for the sake of power, and you’re currently having a bit of a child-like tantrum at the fact that if you force human beings into your cage, and demand they live by your dictates, eventually they will fight their way free from it.
To those who follow you; I’d urge you to put down the ideological dogma, and pick up John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’, and we’ll all benefit.