MOHAN: I thought after the recent national hullabaloo over Valentine’s Day, there would be some respite before something else becomes controversial and be ruled as unIslamic and therefore forbidden to Muslims.
Azman: I thought so too. After the rulings prohibiting Muslims from yoga and forbidden from celebrating Valentine’s Day our ulamak would take it easy a bit. But that’s not to be. And now the line dance poco poco is forbidden in Perak and the National Fatwa Council is going to decide whether it is unIslamic.
Chong: I think it will rule that it is unIslamic. Sorry Azman, no more poco poco for you.
Azman: I know. The world is laughing at us. Muslim countries are also laughing at us. Any thought on this Cikgu?
Zain: Well, I don’t do the poco poco. I don’t do yoga. I celebrate Valentine’s Day not because of Valentine but because it is a day to celebrate love. Valentine’s Day is also celebrated in many Arab countries. The Arab diplomats here are amazed at our capacity to make life miserable. Many of them complain that our wedding receptions are very boring. In their countries they really celebrate the weddings of their children, relatives and friends.
Azman: Maybe our religious scholars want to make us better Muslims than the Muslims in the Middle East. If that’s so I wish them luck. But the point is they are only involved in making a big thing out of some peripheral things. They do not get involved in more substantive matters like how to make Islam be seen as a religion of peace by the non-Muslims.
Zain: And that its followers are peaceful and model human beings. No, they won’t be involved in that. It takes too much effort. And no populist appeal.
Azman: And so we suffer. I hope they won’t pronounce ballet dancing unIslamic. My daughter is attending ballet classes. Chong, I think the non-Muslims don’t know how lucky they are.
Chong: If you are worried about the growing number of restrictions imposed by your ulamak on you, what do you think this trend is doing to us? It is frightening us. We see it as growing Islamisation. To us we see Islam playing a bigger role in the life of this country.
Azman: But it doesn’t affect you?
Mohan: But it does, my friend. Already we are wary about inviting our Muslim friends to our open houses during our festivals. Not many come over these days anyway. In the living room of my house is a large picture of Shiva and Parvathy. Some Muslims would not come over because of the picture. My mother and my wife would not have it taken down for the festival. And do Christians have to take down the crufixes and the pictures of Jesus and Mary for Christmas just because some Muslim friends are coming over? So the rulings do affect us my friend.
Azman: Well, many of us are also worried. Now it is yoga and poco poco. Maybe soon Muslims would be prohibited from attending Indian dance displays where often the image of the Hindu god of dance, Nataraja, would be present. I won’t be surprised if one day tai chi and qigong would be ruled forbidden to Muslims. Maybe even taekwondo and judo where some of your grandchildren are involved Cikgu.
Zain: In some Muslim countries, like in Iran for instance, they have what is called a guardian council made up mostly of ulamak which prunes the constitution of rules or laws that it deems unIslamic. Any law passed by parliament must go to this council which will scrutinise it for unIslamic characteristics. Everything it seems must be syariah compliant. Only then will it be gazetted.
Mohan: Exactly, Cikgu.
Zain: I am sure many of our ulamak believe that we should have that council which in Iran is even superior than parliament. But in the meantime our ulamak separately or collectively are playing that role.
Mohan: We fear this gradual Islamisation of the country. It is nothing at the moment but what is happening now may grow gradually into something that threatens the secular – not a 100% now – character of the country.
Chong: I am a 100% with you Mohan. Azman you said just now that you and many other Muslims in this country are also worried about this trend – ini tak boleh, itu tak boleh – but what are you doing about it.