Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Of "ISA=Islam Hadhari" and "Apostasy Is A Free Choice"

In the midst of keris-waving and throwing statistics down the well, here are some of last week's and today's news you might have missed:

"ISA=Islam Hadhari"


Also, more from RPK (in Malay) here and here.

To know more about Islam Hadhari's 10 Principles, visit Wikipedia and its official website.

"Apostasy Is A Free Choice"

'Choice a cornerstone of Islam'
Jacqueline Ann Surin

PETALING JAYA Nov 22, 2006): Islam grants freedom to its adherents because submission to God - which is what "Islam" means in Arabic - cannot take place through force or compulsion, a noted scholar said.

The director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, Dr Azzam Tamimi, said freedom of expression and freedom of choice were the cornerstones of Islam.

He noted that in the early days of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad's freedom of expression was crucial in ensuring that God's message was shared with the people.

At the same time, freedom of choice was essential for the people to choose Islam over existing traditions, he added.

"Submitting to Allah also means not accepting the authority of any human being without questioning," Azzam said on Monday (Nov 20, 2006) at a talk titled "The Concept of Freedom in Islam" at Universiti Malaya's Asia Europe Institute.

"The early part of Islam was about freeing the minds of people so that they would not follow the traditions of their forefathers blindly," he said, noting that after the Prophet Muhammad, all persons are considered fallible.

Azzam was in Malaysia at the invitation of the Muslim Professional Forum to launch his book Hamas, the Unwritten Chapters.

He said because there was no compulsion in Islam, some scholars have argued that it was not right for a Muslim to invite his or her non-Muslim spouse to convert lest it be seen as compulsion.

He added that it was also wrong for someone to convert just to marry a Muslim, adding: "Conversion should be because one believes that Islam is better than other religions, not because one loves someone."

Azzam, the author of several books and a commentator on Al-Jazeera and the BBC, also said Muslims should not make such a big deal of those who chose to leave the religion.

"If submission to Allah involves free choice, then the same principle must apply if one wants to leave the faith," he said.

He noted that the Quran did not stipulate any punishment for apostates at all, and the punishments spelt out by the hadiths had to be contextualised.

"In Islam's formative years, going in and out of Islam was used to sabotage the community, and hence was viewed as treason.

"But if one leaves the religion out of free choice, let them become what they want."

He said Muslims should be more confident. "Nothing will happen to Islam if people leave the religion."

Welcome to Malaysia, Dr. Azzam!

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