Monday, 21 December 2009

Muftis, Grand Mooftis, Malays, Bengalis and the Umayyad Caliphate

I confess to being an imposter. Singapore's genuine Mufti is Syed Isa Semait. He is tasked with leading Singapore's faithful into the next decade.
Me, I only have my blog with which to pontificate. And, I am grateful that you take the time from your busy schedule to read my posts!

The Mufti and the Islamic Religious Council (MUIS) of Singapore have all the instruments of the state at their disposal, including imposing the Official Secrets Act on emails when they disagree with the content.
It is unlikely you will find the texts of any Friday sermons here. That is, unless a hacker breaks through Google's extensive security measures surrounding my blog and posts a few as a practical joke.
I may not be a genuine Mufti, but any Grand Moofti worth his salt must share observations on some recent news items.
A few days ago MUIS made a call to Muslim community leaders to be 'inclusive' in their approach towards non-Malay Muslims. "We have encouraged local Muslims to contemplate this matter and avoid taking a fanatical, dogmatic or intolerant attitude towards differences within the Muslim community," said the MUIS President.
By contrast, the Straits Times carried an article a day earlier (December 17) entitled, "New, young leaders for Muslim professionals grouping." The text of the article refers substantively and exclusively to the Malay community. The word 'Muslim' is essentially dropped from the article, after its use in the title.
"But getting more young Malay professionals to serve the community is an uphill struggle because many do not feel committed to the community, observed Mr. Mohd Nizam [New Chairman of the Association of Muslim Professionals]."
It is difficult to expect non-Malays to feel a part of such a professional grouping. By the sound of it, the organization may just as well be named the Association of Malay Professionals.

Mosques, large or small, play a pivotal role in Muslim communities. The picture depicts a small mosque in Mubarak Village, Sindh, Pakistan

Recent press reports indicate that twenty percent of Singapore's Muslims are 'newcomers.' (I assume that means non-Malay.) Twenty percent is a significant minority. It cannot be wished away.
It will take time for the Singaporean Muslim community to come to terms with the changing demographics. It took the Arabs several centuries before they accepted non-Arab Muslims into the fold. In fact, the schism between Arab and non-Arab Muslims or mawali was a key factor in the downfall of the Umayyad Caliphate in the eighth century.
The admission by MUIS that there exists a plurality within Singaporean Islam is a welcome step forward.
Nevertheless, Singaporean lawmakers must demonstrate the intellectual courage to revisit the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA). In the context of the dynamic, civil society which Singapore has developed in the last four decades, a 'one-size fits all' religiously inspired legislative act is an anachronism.

The boundaries of the Republic's secularism are broached by the Administration of Muslim Law Act

As an open and tolerant society, Singapore's Muslims do not need reminding of Surah 2, verse 256, "Let there be no compulsion in religion." Religion depends upon faith and will.
Religious practices induced by legal coercion are meaningless. (Yes, I have informed the Taliban about verse 2:256 but they don't seem to listen. In fact, they don't much care for the rest of my blog either.)
As for me, I want to be able to write a Will; and know whether I should turn to MUIS or the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) for help in case of need!

No comments:

Post a Comment