12 October 2013

Many Muslims are quick to defend their religion as one of peace, but very often words are not enough because the actions that many Muslims do in the name of Islam are neither peaceful nor just.

WHENEVER Islam is attacked for being violent and oppressive, many Muslims are quick to defend their religion as one of peace.
At each attack, the same words are trotted out as if these alone would be evidence of such truth. In fact, very often the word are not enough because the actions that many Muslims do in the name of Islam are far from being peaceful or just. Worse still, that the injustices and violence are mostly inflicted on other Muslims.
How is it possible to classify the burning of houses of worship of other faiths, or the abuse, and sometimes killing, of people of other faiths or other Muslim denominations as peaceful? How do we classify the rape of Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani woman given to another family because of an alleged wrong done by her brother, as just? Or the shooting of Malala Yousufzai?
Nearer home, how do we proclaim Islam as a just religion when the poor disproportionately are unable to obtain justice in our courts, when women have to spend energy and money they don’t have going in and out of court to get what is rightfully theirs and their children’s from irresponsible husbands?
What sort of justice is it when a woman who, fed-up with the long drawn out process, insists that the court punish her by whipping her is seen as a good Muslim woman, while men who repeatedly ignore court orders are not seen as bad Muslim men?
What sort of justice is it that women are invariably blamed for all of society’s ills but never men?
This week, a gross act of injustice has been done by the Federal Territory syariah court to a young woman who had the misfortune of being female and Muslim when confronted by Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) officials looking for someone to arrest.
They could not arrest her non-Muslim boss nor could they charge her employers.
So they picked on her and subjected her to unabating harassment to this day.
Never mind that the civil courts found that they had no right to raid the bookstore before the book they sought was even banned. Never mind that the civil courts lifted the ban on the book.
If the conditions for her arrest no longer exist, it stands to reason that whatever charges against her must be withdrawn.
After all, the courts have said that the book is not banned, therefore, how can she be charged for selling a banned book?
Here is where hubris trumps justice. Instead of gracefully withdrawing the charges against her, Jawi did a duplicitous thing.
In order not to be cited as being in contempt of the civil High Court’s order to lift the ban, they said they respected the court’s orders.
But then they said that the syariah judge had the power to make his own judgement on the case.
And he duly did, by refusing to withdraw the charge.
In what universe is this justice? In what world does this contribute to the image of Islam as a religion of justice and of peace? And what are the implications of this incredible judgment?
Firstly it means that no bookstore, except perhaps those selling Islamic books, may employ any Muslim at all since they will be held responsible for the content of each and every single book in the inventory that may contradict Islamic teachings. Does this mean that all bookstores must now summarily fire all their Muslim employees?
What about other employers that may have in their workplace things that are also considered unIslamic, such as alcohol?
Does this now mean that no Muslim may be employed in hotels, restaurants, even on our national airline? At a time when jobs are already hard to come by, how do we help anyone with this ridiculous judgment?
And it’s ridiculous because it makes no sense.
The court session was only meant to be a formality to withdraw the charges against the woman, since logically speaking, there is no reason to charge her. But the judge decided to prolong the case, make it even more controversial and perhaps even trigger a constitutional crisis. All for what purpose?
Meanwhile a young woman, who has worked hard to get to where she is, has to continue living with this charge over her head. That she has done so with great equanimity is testimony to her fortitude and courage.
Or perhaps, as a Muslim she knows this verse better than the judge: “Behold, God enjoins justice, and the doing of good, and generosity towards [one’s] fellow-men; and He forbids all that is shameful and all that runs counter to reason, as well as envy; [and] He exhorts you [repeatedly] so that you might bear [all this] in mind.” (Surah An-Nahl, Verse 90, translation by Muhammad Assad).
The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.