True story: in sekolah menengah I was very, very good in Pendidikan Islam. But not because I was smart. I just found out that for any subjective question that I didn’t know the answer, I could put a variation of “untuk kebaikan/kemajuan ummah”, “untuk mempertahankan Islam” or “bertentangan dengan nilai-nilai Islam” and I would get some easy points.
And I have a feeling that some people in the National Fatwa Council operate using the same answers I’ve been taught.
The heuristics to ban things seems to go like this:
Step 1: Does it kinda sorta looks Christian/Buddhist/Hindu/non-Islam ish? If Yes, go to Step 4. If No, go to Step 2.
Step 2: Will this destroy the paper thin iman of Muslims? If Yes, go to step 4. If No, go to step 3.
Step 3: Yes it will. Go to step 4.
Step 4: Choose a reason: “untuk mempertahankan iman ummah”, “kerana bertentangan nilai-nilai syariah” etc
Step 5: Rubber stamp the fatwa.
Step 6: ???
Step 7: Fatwa.
Maybe that’s why despite the good intentions of the National Fatwa Council, who I always imagined as a Jedi council wielding official rubber stamps, sometimes you’d read the latest fatwa and just go, ‘Eh? That also want to ban ar?’
But sometimes common sense does prevail. Early this week, the Court of Appeal laid down the law and declared that Negri Sembilan’s Shariah law criminalising cross-dressing as inconsistent with the Federal Constitution. This was celebrated by Malaysians, as this was considered a win for human rights issue in Malaysia. The Negri Sembilan government, however, are not very happy with the ruling and are looking to file an appeal against it.
But despite this ruling, there are still other fatwas in Malaysia that make you wonder how it even happened in the first place.
Last October, the National Fatwa Council has released a fatwa prohibiting Muslim’s from celebrating Halloween. The council categorised Halloween as a Christian celebration of the dead and against Islamic teachings.
Okay, so maybe like Christmas la. But still can visit friends during Christmas, right?
But they also added that Halloween is also said to be influenced by ancient pagan traditions and linked to the devil, sorcery, ghosts and scary mythological creatures.
Wait, which one is this?
And then, Isma (Ikatan Muslim Malaysia) has also chipped in, claiming it was likely that atheists were behind the events, and that Halloween celebrations were also intended to spread atheism.
Whoa there buddy. Whoa.
So Halloween is not only a Christian celebration, it also has pagan roots, and is most likely organised by atheists??? So if I’m reading this right, not only will it sesatkan the Muslims, it will also sesatkan the Christians due to its pagan roots.
And if you follow the Western tradition of giving out candies, you’re also promoting diabetes.
That’s like 5 levels of sesat already, with health issues thrown in the mix. So if I’m reading this right, we need to stop this atheist-Christian-pagan-diabetes-distributor-party-planner from ruining our faith and insulin levels.
Yoga, an ancient exercise from India that’s famous with the health conscious and white women, was banned in 2008. It was banned on the grounds that yoga was inappropriate for Muslims as it involved “chants” and “acts of worship of the god of another religion” that could corrupt a person causing their faith to be eroded.
This is another one probably filed under “akan merosakkan iman dan akidah umat Islam”, fearing that Muslims will start converting to Hinduism after doing some sun salutations. Interestingly, the BBC has asked the question whether doing yoga makes you a Hindu.
But for the fatwa council maybe, just maybe, as a test, they could do a fact-finding mission to test their theory? Or at least watch a Youtube video, like this one.
Skip to 3:22 for the part where she starts chanting in Sanskrit and will only teach you the next steps after you email her a video of you repeating it.
No, I’m just kidding, she just stretches. The Sanskrit chant comes in the advanced part.
No, I’m just kidding again. She just stands on her head. Show off.
But when you do yoga, since I assume we are independent human beings in full control of ourselves, if, and only if, your yoga instructor asks you to chant, maybe you can say no? And if your instructor is unreasonable and does an evil laugh and says she’ll withhold the secret technique for immortality if you don’t chant, maybe you can say, “Namaste, b***hes” and leave the class for someone who’s sane?
Btw, “Namaste, b***hes” should totally be a t-shirt.
(Note: I totally stole the line “Namaste, b***hes” from Sharul Channa. Watch her. She’s awesome.)
3. Sisters In Islam
At first, I thought they mistook SIS as ISIS, the Syrian extremist organisation. Probably an honest mistake because the fatwa council did ban ISIS. You know how confusing filling in government forms can be. So I came up with a simple way to tell which is which.
This is ISIS.
This is SIS.
In case you have difficulty telling them apart, please note that the SIS ladies are the ones without beards and automatic weapons.
But as it turns out, the fatwa against SIS is not a clerical error.
Sisters In Islam has been labelled as a deviant organisation for promoting liberalism and religious pluralism because, surprise surprise, the fatwa council released a low-key fatwa in July banning exactly that.
I would like to talk more about them but Cilisos’ resident writer UiHua has already written an excellent article on it, where SIS rebutted the accusations hurled against them and more.
4. Tomboyish behaviour
Hooray Malaysia! We’re in Reuters! We’re famous! For issuing a fatwa against tomboys.
Why? Because dressing like a tomboy = lesbian = hot hot lesbian sex.
To show just how surprising the ruling is not just for us, but for everyone outside of Malaysia, I will quote verbatim the report on the National Fatwa Council’s statement.
“There are teenage girls who prefer the male lifestyle including dressing up in men’s clothes,” it quoted council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin as saying. “More worryingly, they have started to engage in sexual activities.”
He gave no other details.
I love that part, “He gave no other details.” It’s like the reporter himself is dumbfounded. I imagine the rep for the fatwa council going to a press conference and says, “Teenage girls are starting to dress like men and they’re having sex with each other and that’s illegal! Kthxbai”, then drops the mic and walks away with two fingers in the air like he just don’t care.
And what do they mean by ‘male lifestyle’? Does it mean there are women out there wearing plaid shirts, chopping wood and growing beards?
I don’t think a women dressing tomboyish has the magical effect of turning them to the other side. And really, even if they are lesbians, do you really think it’s a choice on their part? That they could just be lesbian whenever they want? That one day they cut their hair short and wore a shirt and thought, “When did that Brenda chick get totally hot? You know what, let me just go for women and get ostracised and labelled and called names by the current society I’m in from now on. Wow, that would totally be fun”.
5. Shisha and smoking
And, if they’re really into protecting our health, shouldn’t they go for the very big health issues instead? I decided to see what is the leading cause of death in Malaysia. Here’s a top 10 list from 2011:
Road traffic accidents is ahead of lung cancer, and we’re ranked 20th in the world! How about a fatwa on not texting while driving?
And number one on that list is heart disease. Where is the fatwa on not exercising, not eating right and not applying stress-relieving methods on a daily basis to reduce heart disease?
Maybe there should be syariah compliant exercises to stop the number one killer in Malaysia. You know, “untuk kesihatan ummah”.
6. Black Metal
In 2006, the Fatwa council ruled that ‘black metal’ is unacceptable for Muslims, as it can cause listeners to rebel against religion.
Is that true? How bad is black metal? I admit, I am ignorant of black metal. My iTunes playlist is littered with hipster music that nobody listens to except me and maybe 10 million other people.
To find out how bad black metal is, I decided to do a high level scientific research on black metal. This involves typing ‘best black metal bands’ into Google and clicking on the band with the most ganas picture.
Ok, Mayhem, you’re it.
I listened to one of their songs, Carnage.
After listening to it, I was possessed by a sudden urge to kill…
…some time on the internet. Sorry for submitting this article late editor. I blame black metal for this.
But does black metal really cause us to rebel against religion? Or is music, like literature and movies, just a form of escapism? If black metal bands really believed what they wrote, no band would release more than one album.
Look, if we are going to ban music, I asked an expert ie. me to come up with people who are more worthy to be banned for their crimes to music.
3 people who need to be banned by the Fatwa council
(a listicle in a listicle!!! Maybe can claim more now for this article…)
1. Justin Bieber
2. Los Del Rio, just in case they bring back the Macarena. What were we thinking in the ’90s??
3. My neighbour who sings karaoke at 11pm every night.
7. The Use Of The Word ‘Allah’ by non-Muslims
I know what you’re thinking: ini sedisyes. Cilisos must have really good lawyers to mention this. Of course they do. Right, editor? Right?
Don’t leave me hereeeee..
In case you don’t know, Malaysia has banned the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims. Why? Because they’re afraid that using the world ‘Allah’ in non-Muslim literature could convince Muslims and entice them to convert. This is despite the fact that the word has been used for centuries in Malay bibles. Of course, being a smart-ass, I would argue that having Allah in a Malay bible would entice Christians to convert to Islam, too.
But why this fear of Muslims converting? Are the faith of Muslims in Malaysia so paper-thin that just seeing the word Allah in a bible would make them run to the nearest church to be baptised? (Note: If you or anyone you know has done that, please leave a comment below)
Surely as a moderate Muslim country we have intelligent, discerning Muslims who can tell these things apart, and the meaning of the word Allah within the context? Surely our school system would teach us how to critically think about religion, and you can’t just answer your exam questions with “untuk kebaikan ummah”?
Surely the Muslims in Malaysia can’t be that easily swayed. Or can they?
To find out about this question, I’ve created a super difficult question to test your iman. I know that you can’t cheat in this test, because this question tak pernah bocor.
Trick question! The answer is, “untuk kebaikan ummah”.
We seem to live in an age of fear and paranoia, where fatwas are thrown left and right in an attempt to protect us. There is a fear that any exposure to other religions will immediately make us crumble and question our faith. This fear seems to be part of the Muslim community too.
Just recently, a consumer group wanted water bottles with pictures of Hindu deities to be removed as it could cause ‘chaos in the Muslim community‘. This reminded me of the times I’ve been told not to accept drinks from Christians as they put holy water in it, and once I drink it I will immediately want to become a Christian.
Guess what? Still not a Christian. Good try, Father Francis. Thanks for the Coke, though.
But if it was that easy, I doubt there would be Christian missionaries walking around trying to tell people about the good news. They’ll just hire someone to contaminate the water supply at Syabas to convert Muslims en masse. Kan?
It’s time to trust the community and to let the Muslims test their faith, for them to examine and think about what they are exposed to and what they have been told. Stop being so insecure. Have faith in their faith.
There are people like Reza Aslan, a Muslim who studied Christianity and wrote a book on Jesus, and left with his faith intact. In fact, he even has to defend himself as to why a Muslim would write about Jesus, as well as defending Islam from accusations that it is a violent religion.
Maybe when you study something, you can stop fearing it and start understanding it instead?
Because in the long run, teaching Muslims to be intelligent and discerning is important “untuk kebaikan dan kemajuan ummah”.
My ustaz would give me an A for that.