G25 can free itself from liberal label

08ntdome.transformedTHE call made by Professor Dr Din Syamsuddin for the G25 to shed its elitist image and reach out to all levels of society must be heeded if the group is serious about its vision, which is, to support an environment for the codification and application of syariah laws that: UPHOLDS the principles of justice, equality, compassion and mercy as enjoined in the Quran and conforms with the Constitution and its prescribed fundamental liberties; ENSURES they are implemented with fairness and wisdom; PROTECTS the individual’s right to privacy and human dignity; and, PROMOTES mutual respect for and understanding of Malaysia’s diverse cultural and religious traditions as enshrined in the Rukun Negara. As chairman of the largest Muslim movement in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsuddin was well qualified to make this call in his keynote address at the G25 forum last weekend. An international Islamic scholar with a wealth of knowledge and experience in establishing a progressive brand of Islam, he told the group that it must morph into a civil society organisation with mass appeal. Only by engaging with Muslim organisations and with people on the ground can G25 hope to convey its goals and extend its influence to win the hearts and minds of Muslims. As a loosely organised group of 25 people formed one year ago, G25 has dared to challenge the substance of syariah and civil laws as well as the judgments of their courts, to ensure they are in line with the provisions of the constitution. This was the group’s stated goals and vision in the now-famous open letter to the prime minister published on Dec 7 last year, and in its well-crafted vision statement. It is commendable that, one year later, the group’s pledge is realised in the G25 forum last weekend and the launch of the G25 book, both themed “Islam In A Constitutional Democracy”. Scholars, academicians, syariah and constitutional law experts, as well as socio-political commentators have contributed to this important cause of examining issues plaguing our nation, not least of which is the fast-growing incursion of a brand of Islam that is threatening citizens’ privacy and civil rights guaranteed by the constitution. In questioning Islamic legal, ethical and moral principles and the work of Islamic agencies that promote them, G25 will face a formidable task. To be credible, G25 itself must boast of having the best-trained Islamic minds among its members and associates, so that when they come to the table to present their proposals and recommendations for the setting up of a consultative council of experts, they must indeed have expert knowledge and experience. When they go to the ground to promote a progressive brand of Islam, they must convince the people that it is indeed better and more relevant to their lives than the orthodox, conservative brand that many have grown up with and which is concertedly and consistently propounded by ustaz, ustazah, imam, mufti and other ulama in kampung and communities. This is an insurmountable task for some. I wish the group of concerned citizens well, because we see a degree of sincerity in its efforts. Like Din Syamsuddin, I urge them to register themselves as a civil society movement and define their goals. Hopefully, they will attract more than the 50 members the group now has, among whom will be people with in-depth knowledge of the Quran and Hadith, for therein lie the substance of Islam, syariah and its precepts. They should also stop positioning themselves as moderate Muslims, with the implication that other Muslims in the country are not. Perhaps, it would also be wise for G25 to free itself from the “liberal” label, as the word has a host of meanings and connotations. n DATIN HALIMAH MOHD SAID, President, Association of Voices of Peace, Conscience and Reason and former G25 member


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