Monday, March 3, 2008

Islam and competing in good


Jennie S. Bev, Jakarta Post, March 3, 2008

The article by Jennie Bev followed by my comments

At the World Muslim Congress, I invite you to join and discuss the issues.. Your are welcome to send an email to: to become a member and participate. It is a moderated group and no more than three emails will be sent to you in a day. Currently, we are discussing Islam and Pluralism. Please keep your comments to 100 words.

As Muslims we may have never confronted this issue of Pluralism before, but we are going to be facing this every day from here forward. We don't live in exclusive enclaves; we do not live on Islands. Every street will have people of different faiths; every work place will have interaction between every faith, race, ethnicity and other uniqueness. For Muslims, Qur’aan has all the answers, like Bible for the Christians, Torah for the Jews and Vedas for the Hindus.

We need to have an open mind and willingness to search for the truth for creating peaceful societies (peace is another name for Islam). The followers of all faiths will be facing these challenges. I urge Muslims and our friends from other faiths to search for validity on both sides of the issue without denigrating another point of view.

Pluralism is an attitude, a civil attitude of respecting God’s creation in its various manifestations. Pluralism does not promote any particular faith or one single ideology as superior to the other, if it were, it would be a competing system. Pluralism does not attempt to merge, synchronize or dismiss the differences, it is the acceptance of you, the way you are, and when you accept the otherness of other, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

The issue is simple but demands thinking – Is my faith good because of its merits to me, or is it good because there can be only one good, and everything else has to be bad? This is a serious question and we need to speak our heart, mind and the soul. Are we open to the idea that my faith is good to me as other’s faith is good to them? Is it a sin to be open to an idea like this? Are we arrogant enough to believe that we can claim ours is good and not give the other person the same right? Does one good negate the other?

Peace be upon you, we are not lost in the above paragraph. As a Muslim I believe Islam is the right faith for me and it works for me to give peace to my soul, pleasure to my heart and justness to my mind and I won’t deny same peace, pleasure and justness to Christians, Hindus, Jews and others whose faith does the same to them. God would have denied that, but he chose not to. He wanted to test our ability to create heaven on the earth and co-exist harmoniously with the diversity he has deliberately created.

Arrogance is the mother of all evil;

The moment one thinks that his/her belief is superior to the other, arrogance gets uploaded and feeds a condescending attitude towards the other person. When you believe that other's belief is less than yours, you fall in to the pit of missionizing the other, no matter what the other person has to say, you devalue his knowledge and bombard the person with your own ideas hoping, thinking and believing that the other one has to see the truth and has to come towards you.

This creates a conflict and perhaps resentment, if the other person feels bad that he or she cannot defend his/her own belief. Even if the person yields, it will be with resentment.

Those who feel oppressed at work or feel compelled to work, act differently when they have some control...they feel like the king or queen on the road, and will not let you in when you are switching the lanes. I have seen the native Indians grief, the grief from Hindus on forced conversion and the grief from others.

Free will brings about sustainable peace. Hence, arrogance is the biggest evil that breaks the lasting peace in the world. Our own arrogance (military power) breeds a lot of resentment in the oppressed ones. Some day, they say to themselves, when they have the power, they will get even.

Mike Ghouse

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Jennie S. Bev, Jakarta Post, March 3, 2008

Indonesia is a country with three legal systems: civil (continental), Islamic and adat (customary). Above all, Indonesia is said to be a country based on the concept of rule of law, which is reflected in the 1945 Constitution. But there are also gray areas throughout, and this unique environment serves as a fertile breeding ground for multitudes of interpretations in legal, political and cultural domains.

Based on the rule of law, no one is above the law and the truth occupies the highest form of intent. The continental legal system in Indonesia, which originated from the Dutch imperialism era, is based on this principle.

However, according to Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Islamic scholar who was educated at MIT and Harvard, in The Heart of Islam (pg. 288), "The rights of God stand above the rights of human beings."

It is clear that these two systems interpret justice based on different standards. In Islam, there is an absolute body outside the realm of human beings, which is called God, whose final verdicts can never be contested. In short, the Islamic judicial system acknowledges the concepts of absolutism and absolute power.

In a country with three legal systems, whose historical origins and notions of justice differ significantly from one another, it would take a group of people with mantic capacities to push the country forward in light of being accepted as a part of international society with universal humanitarian standards. Because unless this occurs brazenly in continuum, Indonesia might need to accept the fact that it may degrade itself into the darkness.

A few Islamic scholars and activists have taken their stance in showing the world how Islam is a tolerant religion and that Islamic laws and jurisprudence are adaptable in modern society. Other than our own Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, Azyumardi Azra and a few pluralistic ulema and scholars, professor of law at Emory University, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, and a research fellow at the Lokahi Foundation in Switzerland, Tariq Ramadan, who is nicknamed the "Martin Luther of Islam", are two other examples of outspoken moderates whose voices are heard by the world, including leaders in Western countries.

The world needs more people like them to break the silence of the moderate Muslim majority and to embrace the notions of diversity and tolerance, which the Koran has been preaching to the world but are rarely heard.

It would not be fair for Islam as an institution to be "represented" in the world by noisy fundamentalists and extremists. Because, after all, most Muslims long to live in peaceful coexistence with others.

Tariq Ramadan is one exemplary moderate scholar and preacher. In his book Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (pg. 202), he encourages interfaith and interreligious dialogue, as he believes that it is how God wants the totality of humankind to behave.

Ramadan explains, "If there were no differences between people, if power were in the hands of one group alone (one nation, one race, one religion), the earth would be corrupt because human beings need others to limit their impulsive desire for expansion and domination. So, just as diversity is the source of our test, the balance of power is a requirement for our destiny."

This statement is so beautiful that I would contemplate its profound meanings every night before going to bed. Islam is, indeed, a great religion for acknowledging the rainbow of humankind in a balanced mind-and-heart perspective.

Realistically speaking, back to Indonesia, the gray areas in the intertwining legal systems have proven to be very costly. This was evident when Home Minister Mardiyanto did not have a second thought in declaring that the government did not see any need to revise the 600 sharia-based and sharia-inspired bylaws, regardless of the catastrophic consequences that might follow, including opening a Pandora's box to an unjust society and to the end of a democratic republic.

This is quite bothersome because both the people and the religion of peace itself are greatly affected.

A good analysis was put forth by Prof. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im in Toward an Islamic Reformation: Civil Liberties, Human Rights, and International Law (pg. 8-9): "If historical Shari'a is applied today, the population of Muslim countries would lose the most significant benefits of secularization. Even Muslim men, who are the only full citizens of an Islamic state under Sharia, stand to lose some of their fundamental constitutional rights if Shari'a is restored as the public law of the land."

Under sharia public law, freedom of belief, expression and association of Muslim men would be greatly affected by the law of apostasy and the ruler's powers.

This is a valid argument, as Indonesian analysts point out that substance-wise the sharia-inspired bylaws go against the democratic principles contained in the 1945 Constitution. Articles 28D and 28I state everyone should be free from discrimination and entitled to equal treatment before the law.

An-Na'im also offered a solution that we all need to ponder upon: "The only way to reconcile these competing imperatives for change in the public law of Muslim countries is to develop a version of Islamic public law which is compatible with modern standards of constitutionalism, criminal justice, international law, and human rights."

While An-Na'im gave examples of Islamic countries, which Indonesia is clearly not, Indonesia should be able to grasp the insightful statements as a way to resolve the gray areas between national civil law and Islamic public law.

The 1945 Constitution, in fact, was the brainchild of our founding fathers, most of whom were well-educated and broad-minded moderate Muslims. Thus, in the case of Indonesia as a modern nation, there is no need to reformulate another version of Islamic public law.

For Indonesia to stand tall and be accepted as a member of the international community, which is dignified and democratic with high humanitarian standards, we need to remember that God intended to create communities so we all can compete in doing good for one another and to be each other's check-and-balance. After all, the world does not revolve around Indonesia; Indonesia revolves around the world.

The writer is a columnist, a former law lecturer and an adjunct professor based in Northern California. She graduated from University of Indonesia Law School. She can be found at


SUBJECT LINE : Islam and competing in doing good

The World Muslim Congress is driven by the Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware." Our Mission is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. No one should have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it. Indeed we aspire to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.