I refer to the controversy involving lawyer Eric Paulsen’s tweet on Islam.
Eric tweeted on his account @EricPaulsen101 that: “JAKIM is promoting extremism every Friday. Government needs to address that if serious about extremism in Malaysia.”
I would like to disagree with Eric on two points:
3) There have indeed been sermons whose content many Malaysians, Muslim and non-Muslim, have found worrying. However to imply that all of JAKIM’s Friday sermons are extreme is also wrong;
4) Not all controversial sermons with objectionable content came from the JAKIM approved script.
It should also be pointed out that Friday congregational prayers are compulsory for male Muslims. In the words of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, it is our appointment with God, where Muslims dress their best – similar to the Christian tradition of dressing their best on Sundays. Thus Muslims revere it highly.
On the other hand, I also disagree that the response to the tweet should be violence, intimidation or even the use of the Sedition Act. Eric was criticising a statutory body, not Islam per se. Muslims should respond to any speech that we find disagreeable through reasoned arguments.
Having said that, we should remember that Friday sermons are supposed to enlightened and unite the community every week. That is why in the congregational prayer, the well-being of the community and country is prayed for.
The sermons should foster unity and understanding. This is particularly important in a diverse country such as Malaysia where the principle of rahmatan lil alamin – Islam as a blessing to all – should be reinforced.
With all due respect therefore, the Friday sermons should go back to the basic tenets of Islam of upholding justice, promoting peace and prosperity for all.
They should certainly not be misused for certain political ends, promoting partisan objectives of the ruling authority.