February 2011 Archives

The Muslim siege mentality

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Muslim imams sometimes make terrible public relation advocates. They just seem to have a knack of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

During the Friday sermons today at mosques all around KL and Selangor is a poignant example. The imams preached that Valentine's Day is a Christian festival, therefore Muslims, as a protection of their aqidah, should not observe it's celebration. That's fine, and the imams are well within their rights to say so. But what some added on, as reported by the Press, is a real faux pas

"Remember that the Jews and Christians would continue to deceive Muslims. They will do everything undermine the Muslims' belief and personality," said the sermon.

The siege mentality, the us vs them, everyone hates us, sort of thinking. It's disgusting. Why do Muslim leaders feel that they need to create this negative perception of those of other faiths? Do they believe that if they create an artificial belief that Islam is under siege, this will somehow make Muslims more devout?


When the US bombs Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, or supports Israel against the Palestinian Muslims, it's not because the Christian West is "out to oppress" the Muslim world but because that's just what nation states do in order to protect their national interests. We would do the same (and in fact, this is exactly what Muslims did during the expansion of the Caliphate in the 7th and 8th Centuries). It's just politics. Geo-politics. Protection of national assets and interests. It's what countries do. It has nothing to do with the fact that we're Muslims.

Similarly when the rest of the world celebrates Valentine's Day, it's not to "deceive Muslims", to "lead us astray", or to make us apostates. People do what they want to do because they want to do it. They celebrate Valentine's Day because they like the idea of a day dedicated to love, not because they are using it as some covert operation to derail Muslims from our faith.

It makes me wonder why Muslim leaders insist on using this strategy and approach. Is it because when Muslims feel that they are under siege, they will then naturally turn to their leaders to protect and guide them? Is this all just an over-expressed ego-trip as Muslim clerics tenuously grip on to influence over their flock? If there isn't an "enemy", then perhaps we won't need them anymore. It's a nice trick, and something the Catholic Church used to great effect as well in the Middle Ages.

Muslims, being the sensitive bunch of do-gooders that we are, need to get over ourselves. No one cares if we want to celebrate Valentine's Day or not (though it does make for sensational news). Really. But if we go around telling people that we think they are trying to "deceive" us, this creates a truly negative impression. It creates a feeling of ill-will. Not just of us against Them, but eventually of Them against us. Try telling someone, "Stop hating me!" over and over again even though they don't; you'll find them getting sick of you pretty soon.

Muslims don't need the evil West to stop deceiving us. We've got more than enough of that going own in our own ranks as it is.

An Egyptian lesson

I was reading the webnews today, and i came across one particular article that spoke about the human cost of the Egyptian uprising. I found it an interesting analysis that i hadn't considered before.

Mr Umberbi supports his wife and four children, aged 2 to 6, by charging visitors to Giza's pyramids who want to have their photographs taken on his two camels - or at least he did until Egypt's popular uprising and the ensuing violence killed the tourist trade and his business stone dead. Suddenly he had no customers and no money to feed either his family or the hungry camels which live in a tiny stable at the end of the passage.

He wanted the demonstrations to stop, not because he loved Mubarak, or the oppressive Government, but because he loved his family. It seems paradoxical -- you would imagine that a father would want a change of Government so that it can lead to a better future for his family (that always seems to be the buzzphrase for revolutionaries, "Rise up today so that your children can lead a better life!"). But the demonstrations have removed his ability to feed his family by taking away his livelihood, and the repercussions of that are very real, damn the goodness of a free democracy. He isn't alone.

6% of Egypt's GDP is drawn from the tourism industry -- literally overnight, that has gone to 0. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have suddenly evaporated, leaving potentially millions of empty stomachs and hungry voices. The economic repercussions don't stop there, of course. The ripple affect will sweep across multiple industries -- financial markets will be hit, construction, retail -- everyone will feel the pinch. 10-15% contraction of the economy is probably a conservative figure. Millions of people will be left jobless (on top of the already disastrous 25% unemployment rate). 

Where does all of this lead? History tells us that when the chips are down, when people no longer have faith in the Government, or in the rest of the world to help them, they will turn to religion. Iran. Iraq. Afghanistan. Lebanon. Palestine. Will we soon add Egypt to that list? The return of a religiously fundamentalist government, conservative (defiantly so perhaps, as we've seen with Hamas), and fully right wing. Democratically elected, no less. Salvation promised, if not on Earth, but in the Hereafter, insyallah. That's the last thing the Middle East needs. God help them.

There is a lesson in all of this for us here in Malaysia, and it's not the type of lesson that the Opposition would want you to believe. Social uprising, revolution, and political change is a romantic wonder -- we all have something we hate about our lives, and i think it's a convenient out to blame the Government for it. Price of petrol? Rising costs of living? Dead (murdered?) witnesses in custody? The rape of the Sarawak rain forests? Blown up Mongolian models? Stupid price of cars? Unemployment? Racial animosity? Everyone has a beef somewhere, and the cure all solution is a swift change of Government.

I put to you that the easiest thing to do would be to change the Government. As the Egyptian lesson has shown us, changing a Government is just a matter of getting a few hundred thousand people to be upset, bring their grievances to the streets, and try to provoke a Tianamen Square-type incident to gain international sympathy. People will die for their beliefs, but that's collateral costs, and small losses compared to what can be gained. Right? 

Pay heed to Egypt. We will be wise to avoid their mistakes. And i don't mean the demonstrations and riots.

Don't believe everything you read

a Swaledale sheep at Malham Cove, Yorkshire.

Image via Wikipedia

I've been saying it for years on this blog, and also in my private circle of friends, to whomever is willing to listen: don't be a sheep. The world is full of sheep, willing to believe (or disbelieve) anything they read, wherever or whenever they may read it. Like a stalk of grass in the wind, able to change their opinions the moment a half-assed rational thought it put into their head; just like a virgin sophomore, willing to follow the "leader" as long as it makes them feel accepted by the crowd. Eternally afraid of going against the grain, of upsetting the trends, wanting to be a part of the overall whole, these people would rather others do their thinking for them, or even worse, delude themselves that what they are thinking and what they are doing are their own "free will" when it is anything but.

No where is this heard mentality more obvious than on the Internet. And possibly why the Government of Malaysia is thinking about setting up some barriers to police it. Lies and half-truths become the gospel on the Internet. Unblinking sheep repeat the bleetings of other sheeps (and some herd masters) and soon everyone thinks that it is true.

Teoh Beng Hock was murdered. Anwar Ibrahim is a raging homosexual. Najib's wife ordered Altantunyaa's murder. BN buys votes in elections. We've seen it and heard it all and worse on the Internet. And just because it's on the Internet, it must be true, right? Just because a reputable website such as MT or MC reports it, it must be gospel, right? Just because the Facebook page has 100,000 followers, it must be the truth? Just because it was reTweeted thousands of times and is on the Top 10 trending list, it must be right? The herd can't be wrong, can they?

Yes, they can.

But it all can't be wrong, can it? No, not all. Then how do you tell the difference? Try this, i do this when in doubt. If it sounds too convenient to be true, it probably isn't. If it sounds to good to be true, it definitely isn't. If you want to believe it, then before you do, ask yourself why you want to believe it. Challenge yourself, challenge your beliefs, ask the difficult questions that the sheep can't and often won't. Even if you're right today, you might be wrong tomorrow, and vice versa. The only way to keep yourself on an even till is to ensure that there is always someone at the helm. Don't let others steer your boat. 


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This page is an archive of entries from February 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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