The fire of race and religion has been recently inflamed by many parties, creating a worrying challenge in Malaysia’s journey to regain the nation’s status as an Asian Tiger and a model Muslim-majority nation. To maintain our nation’s peace and harmony, fire cannot be fought with fire, but rather by taking the higher moral ground to ensure sustainable reforms will take place.
There is no greater need than now for a reform in the governance of Islamic administration in Malaysia. A shift from punitive to reformative forms of Syariah judgment combined with holistic education that espouses the just, progressive, and compassionate nature of Islam for the greater benefit of all citizens of Malaysia should be given priority.
G25 Malaysia has long advocated for this moderate nature of Islam to counteract radicalism, Islamophobia and extremist ideologues. We are emboldened that our Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Religious Affairs, YB Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof, is of the same mind, and wish to encourage many more Malaysian Muslims to support the principle of Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin (Mercy to All Creation).
In his maiden speech as Minister for Religious Affairs, he summarized the three main policy goals of Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin. These include:
To promote Islam as a religion of compassion based on an inclusive approach and where personal sins remain personal. Religious authorities should only act on sins that bring harm to life and property.
Ensuring Maqasid Al Syariah, where good governance will ensure citizens have equal opportunity to reach their greatest potential. The concept of Maslahah, that is having laws and policies preserving a person’s religion, life, intellect, progeny and property, not only forms the foundation of Maqasid Al Syariah but is also aligned with universal human rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the global level.
To establish Malaysia as a model nation of Islam. Recent events have exposed the failure of Arab States, where their high levels of corruption, poor democratic governance, and their harsh implementation of Islamic laws contributed to Islamophobia and impede economic growth. Malaysia will carry out institutional reforms based on the concept of Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin, which will be able to provide growth, employment and income opportunities, thus providing economic justice and fairness for all Malaysians.
The road towards a ‘Malaysia Baharu’ has only just been paved. Many more reforms need to take place, most importantly in civic and political freedoms.
Ensuring the sanctity of Islam should not mean denigrating other religious beliefs nor should it deny criticism towards Islamic governance and administration. Freedom of expression need to be upheld, where a critical and analytical society is encouraged.
Books must no longer be banned, instead promote a thinking society where Quran and its translations, hadiths and publications by scholars are readily available to deepen our understanding of Islam further than merely reciting or even memorizing the Quran. Friday sermons must shift from espousing hellfire and brimstone to calling for acceptance of differences within a multi-faith society, more so for a Muslim society that is charitable, inclusive, just, and compassionate.
Only through such reforms can we truly see a Malaysia based on the concept of Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin. We hope that many more Malaysians will stand together to ensure a Malaysia that is given an opportunity to reach her highest potential, not only among Muslim-majority nations, but also to join the ranks of the Asian Tigers.