Tuesday, 15 April 2014

When making assumptions becomes a sin

Brave New World (The Star)
16 April 2014

From learning comes understanding and knowledge. Knowledge sets us free, for it is ignorance that keeps people fearful.


THERE is a chapter in the Quran which I particularly like. It is Chapter 49, also known as “The Private Rooms”.
I like it for several reasons. It opens with an admonishment to the believers for not behaving respectfully towards the Prophet. This includes things like shouting when talking to him.
But I especially like verses four and five where God tells the believers off for yelling for the Prophet from outside his private rooms instead of waiting patiently for him to come out on his own accord.
This verse humanises the Prophet for surely it shows that he is a man like any other man and he would like some quiet “me time” thank you very much.
When you are God’s messenger, then one can imagine that your followers could get a bit irritating with their constant demands on you, up to the point of going to your home and yelling for you to come out and speak to them. I picture seventh century Medinans could get pretty boisterous.
The chapter goes on about how one group of Muslims should not act as though they are better than another and certainly there should not be any oppression of those who disagree with you.
But the verses I would like to highlight here are verses twelve and thirteen.
Verse twelve warns against the making of assumptions as some assumptions are sinful. Verse thirteen reminds people of their same source, coming as they do from the one man and the one woman and it also states that humans were created of differing tribes and races so that we might know one another.
A stronger call for mutual respect and understanding would be hard to come by.
Which brings me to the Easter Musical advertisements in Seremban.
They are in Bahasa Malaysia (which the last time I checked is the national language and therefore is for all of us), and some groups have said that this is a plot to entice Malays (ie Muslims) to the event and, I suppose, once there; convert them en masse or something equally nefarious.
That is a pretty strong accusation to make; and it is based on an assumption, which as is said in the Quran, could very well be a sinful thing to do.
Furthermore, what is wrong if someone wants to go to an Easter Musical, or any other religious celebration? Are we also not encouraged to “know one another”?
How does one know about other people without learning about what they do? From such learning, there will come understanding and knowledge.
Knowledge sets us free, for it is ignorance that keeps people fearful as there is nothing quite as scary as the unknown. And if we fear others, that is when evil deeds come bubbling up.
Oppression and suppression are cousins to ignorance and fear.
But then, who am I to speak, eh? I am not a graduate from Al-Azhar and I can’t speak Arabic. All I have is a God-given brain and a translation of my Holy Book.
To many people that is simply not good enough. Right then, let’s do this from a secular perspective, shall we?
Firstly, using our national language is not a crime. Secondly, it is a group’s right to advertise their event in whatever language that they want.
Thirdly, it is utterly and completely insulting to people of Malay ethnicity to suggest that they are so simple-minded that they could be enticed to an event simply because it is advertised in Bahasa Malaysia.
To me, whichever way you look at it, religious or secular, this recent example of paranoia is obtuse to the extreme.

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