By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
10 November 2016
On Friday the 4th of November a huge protest, estimated by as many as hundred thousand people, took place in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia- a majority Muslim country - against the incumbent governor of Jakarta, a Christian, Basuki Tjahaja known as Ahok.
He is alleged to have blasphemed by saying that the opposition to his election next year is being orchestrated by Muslim ‘hard-liners’ by using a verse from Quran. According to this verse given below, Muslims are not supposed to elect a non-Muslim leader even if he is a Christian – people of the Book.
It is reported that one person died and scores were injured during the protest and because of that protest President Joko Widodo had to postpone his planed State visit to Australia; a neighbouring majority non-Muslim country!
The verse in Question is supposed to be 5:60- O you who believe, take not for friends (Auliya) and protectors those who take your religion for mockery or sport- -whether among those who received the scripture before you, or among those who reject faith; but fear God if you have Faith. ‘The holy Quran’ by Y. Ali…. A simple play on two different words ‘leaders’ and ‘friends’ is noteworthy. J. M. Rodwell and many others too translate ‘Auliya’ as friends.
However none of them seem to associate mockery and sport with Blasphemy as it is understood today. Unlike the Bible, there is no punishment ordained in Quran and the judgment and punishment for mockery and ridicule is left to God.
To speak impiously of or profanely is termed as blasphemy. Today it specifically means against God, Prophets and Religion so that it causes deep offence to religious people. Presently in many Muslim countries blasphemy is punishable by law and in some “Islamic” countries on the basis of religious traditions/Sharia, the punishment is stoning to death!
In the Biblical scriptures too it is given as punishable by stoning to death but is never put in practice anywhere in the Western Judeo-Christian world. So Muslims today are better followers of Biblical commands than the Christians themselves.
Reams of pages have been written by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars on the subject condemning the laws against blasphemy and its punishment by death, citing it as being against the teaching of Quran, the Book that Muslim nation professes to adhere to. In it the specific word for ‘blasphemy/insulting Deen’ in Arabic, the language of Quran تجدیف؛ سبّ الدین is not mentioned. Instead there are such words as nonsense, jest/sport, mockery, ridicule etcetera, uttered by ignorant/illiterates. There is no suggestion given in there of punishment to be given!
What is interesting is that in today’s language where blasphemy is alleged to be committed and offensive language is used, the Book instructs Believers to: so turn away from them and say to them Peace-43:89; and similar dozens more verses containing the word peace. The onus of maintaining peace سَلام and harmony is therefore placed on the Believers rather than on the blasphemers! Instead the Believers are directed to argue with them in a beautiful way:
6:125- Invite all to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: For you Lord knows best, who has strayed from His Faith and who has received guidance.
Ignorance of or deliberate disregard for the contextual reference of the verses of the Book, where the enemies of Muslims of the time used to mock and ridicule them is today: in itself making a mockery of the scripture! Therefore, in today’s terms it must be blasphemy!
It requires a very long stretch of imagination to connect the alleged statement that Ahok made with blasphemy and the alleged interpretations given by the religious leaders to the protesters. So it appears that they conveniently used the verse to incite their followers for political gains and as a result an innocent life was lost in addition to scores injured!
It is universally accepted that it is the ‘right’ of every citizen to prevent a wrongdoer from being elected to public office and to remove such a person from the office if he or she is holding it. But the reasons have to be sound, intelligent, moral and ethical and not couched in dubious interpretations of scriptural text to mislead the innocent people and use them as fodder to do the dirty work.
This mind set has been the legacy ever since the Codes of the Book have been turned into for the use of ‘religion’ by the church and clergy for their specific benefits, a few centuries after Muhammad the Apostle’s death. The innocent victims are the illiterates who follow the religious mind-controllers; without any regard for the consequences and repercussions of their actions.
By all account Ahok seemed to have had a successful political career in Indonesia. He has been elected to Nations political positions and supported by many Muslim organisations, including the present position he holds as governor of Jakarta, where he was Vice Governor under President Widodo’s governorship before him. So what has changed now one may ask?
Professor Hal Hill from the Australian National University writes in Financial Review that ‘the demonstrations have "shaken Indonesia" and was "arguably the most serious in the country since the May 1998 demonstrations that led to the demise of the 32-year Suharto presidency’.
Have the white-robed religionist suddenly woken up to realise that the country and the Nation has been wrong all along in being peaceful and harmonious and that therefore is NOT in the interest of the nation. And according to their different interpretations of the Book Governor Ahok’s mere reference to the scripture constitutes blasphemy?
Who then is a bigger blasphemer and who is mocking its verses to use it for miserable gains at the expense of the whole nation? These sentiments are expressed in the Book as:
2:78- And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book, but see therein their own desires, and they do nothing but conjectures. 2:79- Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: ‘This is from God’. To traffic with it for miserable price! Woe to them for what their hands write and for the gains they make there by.
Indonesia as the most populist Muslim country has been a proud example of harmonious- coexistent country in the world since the overthrow of Suharto’s regime. But here too the “oil field” politics of a decade ago instigated by vested interests of its neighbors and now the “Islamist” baton holders are conducting their overtures, of deafening cacophony of disharmony instead of the symphony of “Salaamun A’laikum, may peace be with you always”.
Dear Indonesians, since you claim to follow the commandments of the Book and not the illiterate disharmonious conductors - “so turn away from them and say to them ‘Peace’ -43:89. As is the national salute of all the Believers of the world, and set an example for the Muslim world which is in dire need today of at least one such example!
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer
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