The hazards to Islamic NGOs

The following is my brief response to the piece ‘Reclaiming higher moral ground‘:

The PEMBELA event on 7 May 2011 was held on a moderate scale. Unlike the ‘Shariah & Isu Semasa” forum back in July 2006 at Masjid Wilayah, which drew huge attendance of the public, the conservative target of the recent occasion was about 300 attendees (at least 150 turned up.) The recent gathering provided an occasion for the organizers to touch base with the leaders of Islamic NGOs while expanding our network base and to remind them of the long struggle that we must continue in light of the emerging issues, especially the ‘Al Kitab’ controversy.

But as anticipated,  a firestorm of press briefly flared, with the usual hate mongers jumping on the bandwagon, including among Muslims, demonizing PEMBELA among others;  as an initiative ‘associated with lies and deception’, and ‘a pliant political accomplice of an ailing and desperate ruling regime’; and therefore casting doubt on PEMBELA’s continued relevance. Indeed, it is very convenient to blame rather than to take responsibility. It is the easy way out. It also contributes to the public developing a false sense of reality.

PEMBELA is not PERKASA. The latter is obviously an UMNO outfit, most of whose leaders are either frustrated or aspiring politicians. Further information on the PERKASA stand can be found here. Reading the website should make it clear that it is unfair to equate PERKASA with anything other than UMNO, to whom it is ‘a pliant political accomplice’. PEMBELA’s leaders, on the other hand, are representatives of Islamic NGOs. No one can prove that PEMBELA is an accomplice to any political parties.

PEMBELA’s stance on the Utusan Malaysia stories was certainly not defensive. PEMBELA had, in fact, urged the relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the unsubstantiated and overblown reportage by Utusan. For us, the Christians pose a threat only as far as their excessive demands and apostasy cases are concerned, whom it is our duty as Muslims to defend. Our conscience remains clear. Our self-confidence is not affected. Through the Muslim Lawyers Association, we have also been consistent in addressing court cases which have the tendency to emasculate the position of Islam as represented in the Federal Constitution.

Those who have naively equated Utusan’s stand with that of PEMBELA are obviously ignorant of PEMBELA’s key resolutions below, none of which were published in Utusan Malaysia or tied PEMBELA’s fate in any way to Utusan’s fulminations. These are the issues we feel urgent to bring to the attention of the Malaysian people, on behalf of PEMBELA, whose sole initiative is to protect Islam’s unique standing in the Federal Constitution here in Malaysia.

And this, in turn, is the point on which so many so-called “Islamic” NGO’s fail to function properly within the Malaysian perspective. They are, in fact, corrupted by a variety of outside sources, all of whom would like to see Islam secularized so as to join the other communities of the world as consumer products that may be freely chosen (or rejected) off the ideological supermarket shelf. Or perhaps a few among us Muslims have fallen into unethical obsession, which appears to be the cult of personality. This ignorance of ethics has caused us to lose our objectivity.

Or some well-meaning NGOs may actually be serving political agendas that are not, in themselves, Islamic. As an example of such corruption, at least one aspiring Islamic NGO was bankrupted by throwing all its funds in the wrong direction, to people who are not legal recipients of helping donations. The corruption lies in a political will for Malaysia to “appear” as good and helpful neighbors to those who are apparent in incidents of corruption yet appear to be in great financial assistance.

The following are some key issues recorded as resolutions of a gathering of leaders of Malaysian Islamic organizations at Dewan Muktamar Pusat Islam, Kuala Lumpur on 07 May 2011. Their intent and purpose is to help Islamic NGOs to remain, indeed, Islamic, and not be co-opted by the hugely powerful secularizing forces of the world:

  • Re-emphasize that fatwa institutions must be respected by all, including Malaysian non-Muslims who are not bound to those institutions. Fatwa institutions are one of the avenues sanctioned by the Federal Legislature to formulate laws pertaining to Islam.

  • Emphasize that to assure racial harmony, laws enacted and promulgated by the rulers to protect the interests of Muslims must be respected and fully obeyed. Ignoring these laws demonstrates a lack of respect for the Malay rulers and their institutions.

  • Demand that Christian groups stop drawing Muslims to confrontation in one way and another, and instead use existing means of communication such as the government-appointed Working Committee Promoting Understanding and Harmony between Adherents of various Religions (JKMPKAPA), in which we participate.

  • Emphasize to leaders of all political parties never to surrender the pre-eminence of Islam to obtain political support. Even if bowing to political pressure brings short term gains, the long-term result will be collapse of the distinctively Malaysian social contract and loss to all parties, including the National Identity.

  • Escalate nation-wide the synergy among Muslim missionary and welfare organizations by outlining a strategy for working together. Muslim NGO’s must bravely adopt working together, following the example of PEMBELA, ACCIN and others, to be the third (apolitical) voice for Muslims, in addition to the voices of Muslims on both sides of the political divide.

  • Reinforce the agreements of Muslims across political parties. Muslims cannot pin all their hopes on one political party to defend the position of Islam. It is essential to have agreement amongst all Islamic parties to ensure that principles related to religion are not politicized or surrendered in the heat of the elections which will always be shortly upon us.”

We can only pray to Allah the Most Exalted that these and all relevant measures be taken soon among the Muslims of Malaysia, whatever their race may be. Malaysia as a true leader of the Muslim Ummah can strive for no less.

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