This article is a response to a piece written by Wan Saiful Wan Jan in the opinion column of the Star Online (http://www.thestar.com.my/Opinion/Columnists/Thinking-Liberally/?c=%7B8D7272B2-EBCF-45AB-852B-72F4BD72FCD7%7D). First of all, I would like to thank Wan Saiful for recognizing ISMA’s effective effort in championing for an Islamic state concept in Malaysia. Naturally however, there are a couple of his points that deserve some clarification.
Firstly, Wan Saiful came to the conclusion that ISMA members would most probably only vote for UMNO. This I found to be quite disappointing because he started his article promisingly by categorically stating that he thinks ISMA does not answer to UMNO. Just as there is no proof that ISMA answers to UMNO, he should also refrain from making the assertion that ISMA members would only vote for UMNO due to lack of evidence. If his belief is due to his lack of understanding of ISMA’s political position, then I would like to point out a couple of things.
Prior to the 13th General Elections, ISMA made headlines when it announced that it would send several candidates to participate in GE13 under the Berjasa party. The famous motto that ISMA came up with at the time was: “Undilah Calon Muslim Berwibawa”, which loosely translates into “Vote for the Credible Muslim Candidate”. The point of this motto was to guide muslim voters all across the country who faced the following scenarios:
Case 1: Where there are several muslim candidates, vote for the most islamic muslim candidate
Case 2: Where there is only one muslim candidate and one (or several) non-muslim candidates, vote for the muslim candidate.
Case 3: Where there are no muslim candidates, vote for the non-muslim most open to an Islamic state concept
ISMA was accused of performing a vote-splitting maneuver for UMNO’s interests, but ISMA proved such an accusation to be ridiculous by withdrawing its candidates from P116 Wangsa Maju (UMNO decided to contest the seat held by a non-muslim) and N22 Gurun (PKR ultimately sent a female muslim candidate). In addition, it only contested in 9 malay-dominant areas. Furthermore, in all of these areas, only 1 was won by a Barisan Nasional candidate, whereas all the rest were in general dominantly won by Pakatan. BN were actually worse off by Berjasa’s participation.
All this proves a couple of things:
1 – ISMA lets the people decide between UMNO and PAS/PKR muslim candidates.
2 – ISMA places strong emphasis on muslim MPs and ADUNs in muslim-majority areas in order to have muslim-dominated legislative bodies. This is necessary for parliament to have an islamic agenda.
3 – In areas where non-muslims are the definitive choice, ISMA prefers non-muslims who are more open to the traditional definition of an Islamic state.
If one is still not convinced that ISMA is at least non-partisan, then let us look at some statistics I compiled from http://ismaweb.net, the official online voice of ISMA. If one were to do a search for articles on UMNO and PAS (PKR’s statistics are negligible on ismaweb), the numbers would be something along these lines (assuming a small margin of error with references at the end of the article):
1 – Critical of UMNO [1-19], (19 total)
2 – Supportive of UMNO [20-21], (2 total)
3 – Critical of PAS [22-48], (27 total)
4 – Supportive of PAS [49-64], (16 total)
Now, I don’t know about Wan Saiful, but I think that those collective numbers are pretty inconclusive in terms of bias. If anything, they prove consistent with ISMA’s previously stated political stand. Some people accuse ISMA of bias for UMNO due to the greater number of articles critical of PAS. But ISMA also wrote far more articles that support PAS’s actions than those that support UMNO’s. The only explanation that makes sense of the collective numbers is that ISMA is truly non-partisan and sincerely supports or criticizes any party it wants, especially the ones who have the power to decide the future of Islamic politics in Malaysia. In addition, it will support a candidate based on his or her loyalty to traditional Islam, not based on his or her party. For more information on ISMA’s political stand, please refer to articles [65-103].
Now, we come to the final point that Wan Saiful made, and that is that ISMA has a divisive agenda. For any organized group in the world (NGOs, tribes, peoples, nations, coalitions, etc.), there will always be some common thing that unites them. It could be skin color, imaginary geo-political borders, ideologies, or even political objectives. In the case of ISMA, we want unity based on adherence to a traditional Islamic system (not the quasi-Islamic system proposed by pro-secular and liberal muslims) by muslims and non-muslims alike. Secularists believe in a secular system, democrats believe in a democratic system, communists believe in a communist system, and Islamists believe in an Islamic system. Anyone who does not believe in the ideologies of the countries that adopt them can either try to democratically change them or stay out of the country. One cannot go to a country like America, for example, and then complain and whine when you’re caught disobeying its laws.
Islam is not just a religion. It is a complete way of life that combines religion, politics, economics, culture, etc. This system was first introduced by the Prophet Muhammad PBUH more than 1400 years ago and has been ideologically preserved in the Quran, Sunnah, and traditional Islamic scholarly books. Traditional muslim scholars collectively have knowledge of its practical implementation and that is why it is so important to refer to them and not ignorant muslims when talking about the concept of an Islamic state. ISMA has a Syura council of more than 50 scholars from various backgrounds, and they plot the general policies of ISMA. If one were to ask the question of why ISMA’s scholars are different from other scholars, then one has to ask the simple question of why there are different schools of thought (or madzhabs) in traditional Islam. A common person such as myself would generally tend to choose the ideas of a collective group of scholars (a group of scholars tend to make less mistakes collectively than individual scholars) and then be prepared to answer to God on our choices when we meet Him.
Taking ideas such as liberalism and pluralism from the West does not help a muslim since those ideas were born from a rebellion against an authoritarian Church. In contrast, the Islamic state concept actually gave birth to at least three great civilizations – the Umayyad, Abbasid, and Ottoman empires – all of whom generally respected traditional islamic scholars as the latter encouraged and guided the growth of knowledge throughout the empires. Non-muslims such as Jews and Copts actually prospered and thrived during those periods, as long as they accepted the Islamic state concept. Besides, a true liberal is technically an anarchist by definition, so so-called liberals today are actually selectively and hypocritically liberal. Technically, ISMA is also selectively liberal. It’s just that our standards are based on the Quran and Sunnah, and not faulty human logic.
In conclusion, ISMA will continue to fight peacefully and legally for the concept of an Islamic state. And it will continue to do so even in the face of fierce criticism and social isolation. If liberals want to die one day and explain their cavalier ways to Allah SWT, then good luck to them. But for the rest of us who prefer to be safe rather than sorry, it is either Islam, or death.
And Allah knows best.
Nazif Emran bin Farid
Articles critical of UMNO:
Articles supportive of UMNO:
Articles critical of PAS:
Articles supportive of PAS: