THE call made by Professor Dr Din Syamsuddin for the G25 to shed its elitist image and reach out to all levels of society must be heeded if the group is serious about its vision which is:
To support an environment for the codification and application of shariah laws that:
» upholds the principles of justice, equality, compassion and mercy as enjoined in the Quran, and conforms with the Federal Constitution and its prescribed fundamental liberties
» ensures they are implemented with fairness and wisdom
» protects the individual's right to privacy and human dignity
» promotes mutual respect for and understanding of Malaysia's diverse cultural and religious traditions as enshrined in the Rukun Negara
As chairman of the largest Muslim movement in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsuddin is well qualified to make this call in his keynote address on Sunday. An international Islamic scholar with a wealth of knowledge and experience in establishing a progressive brand of Islam, he told the group in no uncertain terms that it must quickly morph into a civil society organisation with mass appeal. Only by engaging with other Muslim organisations and with people on the ground can G25 hope to convey its objectives and extend its influence to win the hearts and minds of empathetic fellow Muslims.
As a loosely organised group formed exactly one year ago, G25 has dared to challenge the substance of the country's shariah and civil laws as well as the judgments of their courts, to ensure they are in line with the provisions of the Federal Constitution. This was the group's stated objectives and vision both in the open letter to the prime minister published on Dec 7, 2014 and in its well-crafted vision statement.
It is commendable that one year later the group's pledge was realised in the G25 forum last weekend and the launch of the G25 book, both themed "Islam In a Constitutional Democracy". Scholars, academicians, shariah and constitutional law experts as well as socio-political commentators have contributed to this important cause of examining some of the many issues that plague our nation, not least of which is the fast-growing incursion of a brand of Islam that is threatening the citizen's privacy and civil rights guaranteed by the constitution.
In questioning Islamic legal, ethical and moral principles and the work of the Islamic agencies which promote them, G25 will be facing a formidable task. In order to be credible G25 must boast of having the best-trained Islamic minds among its members and associates so that when they present their proposals and recommendations for the setting up of a consultative council of experts, they must indeed have expert knowledge and experience.
And when they go to the ground to promote a progressive brand of Islam, they must convince the people that it is indeed better and more relevant to their lives than the orthodox, conservative brand they have grown up with and which is concertedly and consistently propounded by the ustaz, ustazah, imam, mufti and other ulama in the Malay Muslim kampung and communities. An insurmountable task for some!
I wish the group well because we see a degree of sincerity in their efforts. Like Din Syamsuddin, I would urge them to register as a civil society and define their goals. Hopefully, they will manage to attract more than the 50 members the group now has, among whom will be people with in-depth knowledge of the Quran and Hadith for therein lie the substance of Islam, the shariah and its precepts.
They should also stop positioning themselves as moderate Muslims with the implication that other Muslims in the country are not. The oft-asked question is "Does it mean other Malaysian Muslims are extremists?" Perhaps it is also wise for G25 to free itself from the "liberal" label as the word has a host of meanings and connotations which can jar their image.