By Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi
I wish to give four personal perspectives on the issue of religious propagation.
This issue has come up recently when the government is set to present the restrictions of propagation of other religions to one particular adherent in this country.
My first thought about religious propagation is from my own personal experience being Vice President of the Muslim Association in Milwaukee, my involvement as a supporter but not a member of the Malaysian Islamic Study Group n the USA, of ABIM and an usrah follower of Ikram.
Besides that, I have read many books on Islam and modern society as well as the commentaries of the Qur’an and the Hadith in great volumes.
In all my activism, in all my readings and in all my contemplation, I have never given any thought whatsoever on religious propagation. What I have done were to write in explaining Islamic issues in modern life, to talk at invited forums and personal discourses.
For me personally, religion is a personal search and I am always trying to be the best Muslim.
I have had tea with priests and Christians in church meetings, delivered talks in churches and also a panelist in a church forum invite. I have never tried to ‘market’ Islam like a commercial product.
The Qur’an stipulated that Muslims are only to explain and if any finds the path to Islam it is through the openness of that person’s heart with the help of Allah. Thus, I feel the idea of propagating any religion is an arrogant activity that premised on the fact that the person has become an excellent religious adherent that merits him or her to showcase his or her life.
I don’t have a problem of sharing personal experiences of faith and spirituality but I find no value in the active act of propagation.
Secondly, the act of creating laws and restrictions for other religions to propagate in any way their faith to others is a hilarious one!
An analogy can be made of two rivaling restaurants A and B. Restaurant A hires the best waiters who are foreigners, hires the best cook who is also a foreigner and serves both local and foreign delicacies. Restaurant B does not hire good waiters, nor a good cook and serves the same local dishes.
When the owner of restaurant B saw how much more restaurant A is attracting customers, he refuses to compete to have better servers, better cook and better dishes. He makes friends with government officers to make a special rule about hiring only local workers and talents.
For me, this should be an embarrassment to a religion that makes laws on others simply because it has no creativity on its own religion.
If the adherents of a religion are good people who live a happy life, there is no need for any legislation that would make people think that something is extremely weak and fragile about that religion itself.
Thirdly, the manner in which other religions react to the proposed law is politically not strategic.
The other religions got together and decide to make press statements and forward memorandum as per the culture of democratic rights and principles. Yes, it is true that they have these rights and principle of freedom of speech and expression but politically this move would score points for the enemy of democracy.
Those who propagated the laws will now have absolute evidence that other religions are conspiring against the one religion that is propagating the law.
The other religious group should have been more strategic. First, they should gather good people from all faiths and present a united front. Secondly, they should call out those professors of religion and social science and put them all on the spot to ask them what does academia say on this matter? Third, they can invite speakers from other countries whose dominant religion found no need to make such laws. This should have been more strategic rather than speaking alone. Fourthly, religion is not a race for who has the more converts or adherents. All religions teaches the best morality and practices and never put a KPI on numbers of worshipers.
I have never prided myself as an adherent of a religion that is purported to have a follower of 2 billion. What is the use of the 2 billion if they simply follow blindly their teachers and act in exclusion to the harmony of all?
So, why the stupid race on numbers. We have universities now priding themselves with numbers of papers and grants. All of that has no meaning to me when our society has never been able to solve the myriads of social, economic and political issues that have been with us for almost seven decades already. Numbers are useless!!
For me, the proposed law is either a stupid and an embarrassment to one religion or it is simply a political trap for the upcoming election.
Those who reacted against the proposed law without much strategic consideration, have been played by unscrupulous politicians.
Also, those who reacted are still trapped in a numbers game of how many adherents their faith must command in order to be considered ‘a great religion’.
(Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor at a local university.)