Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election and Ahok: Racial and Religious Battles

If you’re a politician, a racist, a xenophobic, a bigot, a zealot or happen to be all of them please don’t read this article. If somehow you don’t know which one you are please proceed with caution and when you find yourself strongly disagree with or rather offended by what I write or cursing me to hell the chance is it’s because you are either a politician (don’t despise politicians), a racist (have a tendency towards racism), a bigot (have zero ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes) or a zealot (have no desire to think deeply because you believe that faith doesn’t require brains and love to blindly follow something or under the illusion that the more extreme stand you take the better you are in religious matters).

I’ll assume that you have read the warning and know what you get yourself into by reading this article which is written because I’m extremely concerned and appalled by how the fights between the supporters of the candidates for the number one position in Jakarta have evolved.

The election of a mere Governor is supposed to be a boring albeit costly democratic process and not ends up as alarming political, racial and religious battles that expose the ugly underbelly of our society.  

It all started when the incumbent Basuki Cahaya Purnama or Ahok – as he is called by most friends and foes – wants to run for his second term. Unfortunately, his candidacy ruffles many feathers in the political sphere and flames the desire of his haters to bar his entry into the race.

There is nothing wrong in opposing someone when you know that person is bad or when you disagree with his disastrous policies. What is troubling me is how Ahok’s haters’ stand against Ahok is mostly driven by the fact that he is of a Chinese descent and partly because he is a Christian. And their desire to oppose Ahok does not seem that simple. They seem to have a different agenda that makes me uneasy.
We’ve been very understanding of our politicians’ dubious characters and integrity but as a community we should draw the line on those who feel no qualm in tapping into hatred, racism and bigotry to achieve their goals. We should know that a racist, a bigot or a zealot should never ever be elected to govern and lead our very diverse community.

We should be alarmed by those who openly use racial and religious issues to further their own agenda or to oppress and discriminate others. We should be sensitive enough to detect any show of hatred or contempt towards particular groups in our society because no matter how small those groups are, they are part of us. They have the same rights as we do and deserve to be treated justly and fairly like everyone else.

Our community is like one big family where everyone in it is family. There are no outsiders in a family even if there are step daughters, step sons, step father, step mother or even if there are adoptive family members. Every single person in the family deserves equal love and respect. It is not okay for a father to treat one of his children unfairly just because that child is not of his flesh and blood.

If one of the children feels an exclusive sense of ownership of his parent’s love it is okay, but it is not okay for that child to set his parents against the other children in order to preserve what he thinks is only his. A child should be taught to share, to understand what it means to be part of a family. A child should be taught to solve any disputes, grudges or problems within family through amicable way with loving spirit and not hatred.

People are entitled to have their own thoughts, opinions, views and feelings no matter how negative and destructive they are as long as they keep it private. But once those negative and destructive sentiments are being spread out to influence other people they become a problem because they incite hatred towards a certain group of people and promote discord and division among people.

The notion that it is okay to be exclusionary and discriminatory is simply wrong not to mention extremely dangerous. There are many examples to point out the long term disastrous impacts of these policies. The most current ones are Syria and Iraq. You might want to argue that what happens in Iraq and Syria is the fault of the USA, but still the injustices against the minority within those countries were the main factor that fuelled the tragedies that we have to witness now.

Regardless whether you’re born with a hatred towards a certain group of people or whether your hatred is the result of circumstances around you, it is imperative to understand that no country could be fully developed by alienating parts of its own community.

It scares me to see that people who support these divisive and discriminatory ideas are not in hiding. However, the scariest part is in knowing that many ordinary people, people that I know, my own friends seem to think that it’s okay to feel hatred and suspicion towards the people of Chinese descent (Chinese people). They truly believe that there is nothing wrong with discriminating against the Chinese and that discrimination is actually a very sound and an effective policy to save guard the supremacy of the ‘natives’.

There are politicians and groups of people who publicly declare their sentiments regarding the Chinese and the Christians. They seem to feel pride in announcing their intention to change our Constitution to bar any Chinese and perhaps even Christians from occupying the highest seat in this country.

I’m not a Chinese nor am I a Christian. I’m what might be acknowledged as a native – as long as their definition of native goes hundreds of years back for my ancestor were also originated from China – and a Muslim. But as a native and a Muslim I feel upset by the unsightly pictures which have unfolded right in front of my eyes.

I don’t understand why nobody wants to acknowledge that championing the major ethnic group (the natives) over the ethnic minority is a discrimination. It bothers me that no actions are taken against people who in broad day light proudly, loudly and openly promoting racism and religious discrimination. It is depressing to see that the level of hatred and distrust towards the Chinese people is so deep rooted that I’m not sure whether another century would be enough to eradicate it.

The Muslims should not be the ones to incite hatred and discrimination against others. We have brothers and sisters who face hatred and discrimination on daily basis. The fact that the westerners and the non-Muslims around the world do exactly the same thing towards the Muslims minority in their community is beside the point. A wrong doesn’t turn into a right just because millions are doing it.

The most ridiculous argument I’ve heard when I tried to argue that it’s not right to treat the minority this way was that if the Chinese and the Christians are in power we would be the one being oppressed and discriminated against.

So, are we supposed to oppress and discriminate against others in order not to be oppressed and discriminated against by them? How about eliminating oppression and discrimination for once and for all? How about not doing something wrong because it’s wrong? How about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do?

If we hate seeing our brothers and sisters being discriminated against by others because of their religion and because they are not the natives of the country that has become their second home why do we do exactly the same thing to others?

If we hate being treated that way why do we want to treat others like that? The most simple and honest answer is because we are not a good person or at the very least not as good as we think ourselves to be, at worst? We are a hypocrite which is the worst kind of human being. In case you don’t know what a hypocrite is, it is someone whose action belies his stated beliefs.

Someone who really hates discrimination would never discriminate against others. Someone who really believes in equality would never disrespect others or demand privileges over others because of his race, colour, or religion. Someone who really loves justice would never treat others unfairly. Someone who is a genuinely good person would love to do a good thing.

Preferential treatment and privileges could and should be given to those who deserve them, but never because of their races, colours or religious beliefs. They should be given to outstanding people who stand up above and beyond races, colours and religious beliefs. They should be given to people who are worthy of it through their own merits and accomplishment.  

I could turn a blind eye and pretend that politicians are really serving our interests. But I could not pretend that a racist or a bigot is going to be a good leader as both of them would be incapable of delivering justice for everyone which is ones of my bottom lines for a leader.

Leadership should not be restricted by the words ‘native, ‘Muslim’ or ‘man’. We had already had a sequence of native Muslim men as the Governors of Jakarta and how did they do?

Even if they did an amazing job – which they didn’t – it doesn’t negate the fact that a Chinese, a Christian or a woman would be able to accomplish an equally amazing job.

Frankly, I find it quite offensive if someone expects me to choose him over others just because he is a Muslim and a man.

For those who feel their blood boiled with all due respect please refrain yourself from throwing out Ayat or Hadiths to justify your feelings. We’ll come to the religious teaching point of view in a second.

Meanwhile, I’ll let you know that if we’re talking about doing something related to religious matters I would choose you over other non-Muslim, no question asked. But if we’re talking about specific jobs that require certain qualifications and skills which don’t include being a Muslim in order to be done perfectly, than being a Muslim is not going to score high on my check list.

Only the incapable and incompetent losers will demand respects and privileges by using God’s name and only the other losers and fools will listen.

Will you listen to someone who never goes to a medical school or will you listen to a doctor with 30 years of practical experiences when it comes to your health issues? You don’t go to a cleric to ask what’s wrong with your body when you’re sick do you? Don’t tell me you choose to follow your cleric’s advice against your doctor’s advice when it comes to bypass surgery?

The same principle applies to other jobs that require specific skills. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad had advised his close companions and followers to designate positions and jobs to those who were good at it. To give jobs not to the most pious or closest to you but to those who were good at it. The stressing was on qualification.

How about those who hate Ahok because he is a Chinese? They don’t care whether Ahok is doing a good job or not. They don’t care whether Ahok has the capability needed for the job or not. All they really care about is his race. They don’t want a Chinese man in the position of power. Period. They might be able to tolerate a Christian but not a Chinese Christian who acts like Ahok.

Don’t they know that neither Allah nor Prophet Muhammad cursed or condemned the Chinese because they are Chinese? Don’t they know that hatred in Islam should never come from personal feelings? Prophet Muhammad taught us to be just. When the good things come from those you hate you need to acknowledge it and when the bad things come from those you love you need to stand up against them. 

Our beloved Prophet had urged his followers to pursue their study to China despite the fact that China is not an Islamic country. Why? Because our Prophet saw education with the utmost importance. Education, knowledge and skills are necessary for the Muslim community to reach their fullest potential.

Those who insist that the Muslims should only choose another Muslim over non-Muslim are undermining the importance of knowledge, skills and capabilities. This very attitude will not promote the growth of Islam nor the Muslim community itself.

The Muslims men who are supposed to be more superior than women and the non-Muslims use Islam to defend their incompetency and lack of drive to be the best. Instead of bringing in the irrefutable proof of their superiority against the non-Muslims and women they try to intimidate others to hand over what they want just because they think Allah gives them a blank cheque.

There is no blank cheque in Islam. Although your fortune has been determined before you were born, you still have to work for it. Although Islam advises to give priority to men over women and to the Muslims over the non-Muslims, the men need to show that they are really a better choice than the women, and likewise the Muslims need to show that they are better than the non-Muslims.

Those who are anti Ahok have their own sentiment. Their dislike of the incumbent Governor of Jakarta is personal which is not surprising considering Ahok with his potty mouth and brass attitude had offended people left and right. But to bring Islam when he finally offended the Muslims?  

As a Muslim myself I understand why people are angry. What I don’t like however was how this anger was being stoked then used by those who hate Ahok’s guts because he is a Chinese and a Christian.

These people turn ordinary Muslims who are upset by what Ahok said into a bully. A bully who bullies other Muslims and even the Government into doing what they want. The Muslims are not bullies. We never did and we should never be.

Do you still unclear as to why Islam is a blessing and mercy to mankind and the universe? Because we are guided to be just, we are guided to be merciful to those who wronged us and to turn away from the ignorant. We are guided to take the high road. Our akhlaq is supposed to be the best among mankind.

To my brothers and sisters who are offended by Ahok:

‘I understand that you’re angry and I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be angry, but how could you be this angry over things that were said by a non-Muslim? They would of course say offensive things about our religion, our God and our Prophet, they are non-Muslims after all. If you want to be angry to express your love for Islam and to contribute to Islam, don’t you think it’s better to direct your anger at other Muslims who kill and harm their own brothers and sisters, twist the teaching of our Prophet and destroy the good name of Islam? Why being this vicious against an ignorant? Is it because it’s not really about religion after all? Don’t tell me that it’s actually not even about Ahok per se but because you were trying to hit the current President?

Our Prophet had reminded his close companions that the Muslims were to follow their leader even when they disagreed with him as long as that leader didn’t prohibit them from doing what God and his Messenger had told them to do and he didn’t do them any harm.

Narrated by Umar, Prophet Muhammad SAW said:
‘Listening to and obeying the leader is an obligation upon a Muslim whether he likes it or dislikes it as long as he is not commanded to disobey Allah. If he is commanded to disobey Allah then there is no listening or obedience.’

The religious leaders were told to advise the ruler whenever he acted against Allah’s orders while the ordinary citizens were told to pray for that leader so that he could become a better leader. Disrupting a civil society in Islam is not allowed. A coup is not allowed. An impeachment is not allowed.

A demonstration which is seen as a sign of democracy is not known in the Islamic tradition. Freedom of speech in Islam has a different form and purpose.

QS. 4:59
‘O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those of you who are in authority. If you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger if you believe in Allah and in the Last Day. That is better and more suitable for final determination.’

Dear brothers and sisters, do you still not understand what are the biggest differences between our religion and others? Everything in Islam is being counted base on our intention. Yes, you’ll definitely score a good deed by wanting to defend Islam.

But, Islam is never really about just the results. If you have a good intention, then you need to use a good and honourable method to reach the result that you want. If you do everything in accordance with the guidance of Allah and His Messenger insya Allah you’ll be rewarded for your efforts.

If we have a ruler that we don’t like and he did something wrong we could try to remind him. But the purpose of that reminder is not to pressure or to humiliate him or worse to overthrow him. In Islam the purpose of a reminder or an advice for a ruler is to make him a better ruler. If he refuses to listen our next step is to pray that Allah will soften his heart and guides him into the right path. Overthrowing a leader in Islam is only permitted under the circumstances mentioned above.

We should reflect back on our history.

Not long after our beloved Prophet passed away the Muslims community were fighting for power. They even fought against and murdered our beloved Prophet’s close companions. They refused to listen to their ruler then revolted and amidst all those fights they even killed the beloved grandson of our beloved Prophet.

Their disobedience had resulted in the division of the Muslim community into Sunni and Shiah. The Muslims were destroyed not by the non-Muslims but by their own greed. Prophet Muhammad once told his companions that the Muslims community would be divided into numerous factions and all of them were the dwellers of Hell except for one.  

I’m extremely disturbed seeing how some of my brothers and sisters seem to be possessed by their desire to crucify Ahok and undermine the current Government. They accuse other Muslims who disagree with them as a bad Muslim. They mock, ridicule and bully their own brothers and sisters who feel uncomfortable by their action.

Dear brothers and sisters don’t you realize that right now you are turning into a racist and a bigot? Don’t you realize that you’re not really fighting for Islam, but you’re using Islam to defend your racism and bigotry!

Do you want to tell me that you genuinely believe that Islam supports racism and bigotry? When Allah clearly says what differentiates one human from another is their deeds?

Yes, Islam states that we should not choose a non-Muslim or a woman as our leader. However this guidance is not to be taken merely at its face value and certainly not to be applied wherever or whenever indiscriminately.

The refusal to use one’s brains in religion might lead us to a completely wrong path and do more harm than good. We might end up believing in things that are totally against Islamic values and principles.

We should understand and never ever forget that the underlying principle of Islam is that it is here to bring goodness to all, not only to the Muslims. Every action we take, every decision we make must ensure that they will bring goodness to all not to a particular group or the Muslims only.

Whenever we are in power the Muslims should be merciful to those under them regardless of their religions and ethnicities. The Muslims are strictly forbidden to create destruction on the face of this earth and in the universe which have been created by Allah for them.

Bigotry, prejudice, injustice, intolerance, oppression, extremism and destruction are things that should never be promoted let alone acknowledged in the name of Islam.

When Islam states that the Muslims should not choose a non-Muslim as their leader one of the most important messages that should be grasped by us is that we have to be more qualified than non-Muslims. The same thing goes for not choosing a woman over a man. Instead of discriminating against women men should try their hardest to show that they are indeed better than their sisters.

Like I said above only the incapable and incompetent losers will demand respects and privileges by using God’s name.

We don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand why Islam guides the Muslims not to choose the non-Muslim as their leader. There are many examples to point out.

The Muslims in China are forbidden to fast during Ramadan. They are not allowed to practice their religion which is their fundamental right. The non-Muslim leader has treated the Muslims unjustly and discriminated against them.

France could also be used as a very good example to illustrate why the Muslims need to have a Muslim leader so that their right to practice their religion could be protected.

Nevertheless, the injustices experience by the Muslims under the non-Muslim leaders should never be used to incite hatred towards the non-Muslims who live peacefully among us. The discrimination experience by our brothers and sisters worldwide should never be used as a reason to discriminate against our own non-Muslim fellow citizens.

That is not how our beloved Prophet taught us. He repeatedly warned us to never make life difficult for the non-Muslims living among us. He strictly warned us against discriminating against them.

Narrated by Abu Dawud Prophet Muhammad warned:
‘Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, curtails their rights, burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I Muhammad will complain against that person on the Day of Judgment.’

The Jews which some people would love to eradicate from the face of the earth were treated with respect during the life of Prophet Muhammad. He made sure that their synagogue and learning centre in his beloved city Madinah were preserved and protected. 

The Prophet also treated the Christians with equally great respect if not even more so than the Jews. When the Christians from Yemen came to visit him in Madinah, he let them prayed in his own mosque.

During his life time Prophet Muhammad personally chose a Christian as an Ambassador for the Muslims. After he passed away Umar also appointed few non-Muslims as part of his administration. When some Muslims appropriated a piece of land belong to a Jew and built a mosque on that land, Umar ordered that mosque to be demolished and the land to be returned to the Jew.

That was how Prophet Muhammad and his closest companions behaved towards the non-Muslims.

Where do you think you have the right to bully the Chinese Christian Ahok for his blasphemy? Don’t you know how our Prophet Muhammad acted against those who humiliated and insulted him? Don’t you know how Allah orders us to act against those who insult our religion?

Allah forbids us from engaging with them.

Prophet Muhammad showed us that when he faced an ignorant and got insulted by him he turned away from him. When the Muslims learned about it, they got so angry (I bet more angry than you are right now and theirs was a genuine anger that had nothing to do with politics) and wanted the Prophet to order them to chop that man head off.

Our beloved Prophet refused and said that we the Muslims were supposed to be the blessing for mankind. We were supposed to treat others with the best of manner. Only through an impeccable akhlaq would the ignorant learn the truth of Islam and only through kindness and good words would they listen. Throwing insults would only demean ourselves and our religion while using violence would only make them hate us more.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we really love Islam, if we really love our beloved Prophet, why don’t we listen to him? Why don’t we follow his perfect example of applying Islam into our daily lives?

Although I think Ahok is just about perfect for Jakarta, this article is not intended as an endorsement for Ahok. This article is written because I’m beyond disturbed by what I see. I’m extremely concerned when I see Islam is being used to justify your hatred towards a minority who is also our fellow citizen.

You and I are brothers and sisters because of our religion but we are also brothers and sisters with the non-Muslims because they are our country men. Be afraid of treating them unjustly for we had been strictly warned not to do so.

If you hate Ahok because he is a bad leader and his leadership style makes you want to puke that is your right. But, if the real reason why you hate him so is because he is of a Chinese descent and happens to be a Christian please do not bring Islam into this bigotry and racism. 

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