By Majidah Hashim
In Surah Al-Hujurat, verse 12, Allah tells us that we must avoid suspicion as much as possible. The reason for this is because there are times when the very act of being suspicious itself is considered to be a sin. The verse goes on to caution us against going behind each other’s backs to find faults [49:12].
Which is why it is quite disheartening to see a Malaysia today where people appear to be increasingly suspicious of each other. In so many politically fuelled speeches, we see the reinforcement of the concept of otherness underpinned by the prospect of loss of cultural identity and, ironically, the betrayal of Malaysian Islam.
It is important to understand that Malaysia’s obsession with the culture of fear did not begin with the Pakatan Harapan win in 2018. We all grew up learning about divide et impera also known as the concept of ‘divide and rule’ from our history books and it really is no secret that it has been a political strategy employed to exert control over the different races well before independence.
What is disconcerting however, is how despite ambitions to break away from the grip of fascism, we are still apprehensive over our democratic liberties.
We are still apprehensive about the strength of our own voices.
We are still apprehensive about the world around us.
We are still apprehensive about each other.
We are still pandering to the racist Bogeyman.
Which is exactly what the people who fan sentiments who divide us want. We need to realise that the ramp up in sentiments fanning suspicion against each other in the recent months is actually not unexpected as certain quarters grapple with political insecurities, and others use these sentiments for political advantage. We must, however, rise above the frivolous name-calling and assumptions that everyone who are different from who we are are out to get us, strip us of our identities, take away our moralities and convert us.
No one out there is trying to erode anyone’s rights – not the Malays, not any other race. In fact, the opposite is true, with efforts to accord more rights to all Malaysians via the opening of spaces for liberties such as Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Media that we never had before. Yes, Malaysia is not perfect even in these areas yet, but we are getting there because for the first time since independence, Malaysians are mature enough to handle them, and we deserve to be respected as such.
No one out there is trying to sabotage the Malays, except maybe some quarters who fan sentiments of suspicion and distrust towards other races. I call this sabotage because this very act of disempowerment creates an invisible wall between friendships, collaborations and other relationships that are essential to grow and prosper into happy, successful people. To insinuate that Malays will perish in a modern and progressive community is frankly mind-boggling. Knowing how historically fluid the Malay tradition has always been, diversity will only enrich the vibrance that the Malay culture has always been proudly known for.
And most of all, at least in Malaysia, no one out there is planning to destroy the faiths of Muslims. People who say things like this are really underestimating the proud resilience of Muslims. We really need to raise and recognise the strength of the faith, stop obsessing over its form i.e. policing women’s clothing, and focus on its function i.e. the creation of a gentle and loving society. Islam is about kindness and compassion, where Allah has decreed that, “My Mercy prevails over My Wrath” (Sahih Bukhari 3022).
Love must therefore triumph over hate and violence. Islam tells us to be kind to neighbours (Sahih Tirmidhi 1944), not to be suspicious of them.
We must not forget that the first to express suspicion over any human being were the Angels. The Holy Quran tells us that when the Angels were doubtful about the creation of Adam, saying that humans will not only be up to mischief, but also shed blood, Allah responded by telling them that “I know what ye know not,” [2:30].
While the Angels placed their trust in Allah, it was Iblis who pledged to continue to mislead humankind as long as their souls are in their bodies (so that they will go to Hell), to which Allah The Most Merciful responded saying, “I will continue to forgive them as long as they seek my forgiveness” (Sahih Musnad Ahmad 27627).
The way I see it, we do have a choice: We can choose to not be suspicious of people who are different, to not live in agonizing fear that this will lead to the corruption of our identities, and to not fuel this political crusade to uphold Islam and the Malay race which is not even under threat in the first place. We can choose to trust in Allah, for Allah loves those who trust in Them [3:159], be kind to everyone, and be people who spread kindness in the world, because Allah is kind and loves kindness in all things (Sahih Bukhari 6024).
The different peoples and tribes created by Allah [49:13] have always coexisted in Malaysia in the most harmonious of ways. Being multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious is what we have been brought up to be most proud of and forms the basis of our friendships and more. Let’s not give these ‘bogeymen with agendas’ any mileage to start ruining what we have built for so long. Let us not succumb to sentiments of hate. Instead, let us join hands and work towards a Malaysia that is for ALL her peoples.
* Majidah Hashim is Communications Manager for Sisters in Islam. She can be contacted via Twitter at @majidahhashim .