Reach Out!

It is an undeniable reality that the September 11 attacks in New York have created new motives for the Western world to denounce Islam with allegations linking Islam to terrorism, extremism, discrimination and so on. Naturally, most people do not have the time or the initiative to scrutinize over the information that they receive, or perform a thorough research on the issues that they hear. Therefore, through efficiently-orchestrated use of money, marketing and media, the Western world – led by the Zionist-controlled United States of America – has successfully produced a frightening image of Islam to the world, and shaped a negative perception towards Islam in the minds of the Western and non-Muslim community; and, sadly, in some Muslim minds as well.

This negative perception of Islam, combined with the doctrinal idea of Samuel Huntington’s argument that American and Western values are to be accepted as universal values, has made Islam as a threat and an enemy. Thus, the term ‘Islamophobia’ was introduced. People fear Islam as they have been indoctrinated with the idea that Islam is the mother of all evil. Out of their ignorance of this Divine Religion, people start to further oppress and discriminate Muslims all around the world. They disapprove of Muslim women wearing the hijab. They say that the shari’ah law is discriminative and unjust. They see everyone who is a Muslim as a potential terrorist. Acts of retaliation or self-defense are seen as acts of terrorism and extremism. All these things happen because people do not understand Islam.

Islam is a faith that is based on knowledge, and understanding. Therefore, it has to be an obligation for all Muslims, especially for those in Islamic movements – da’ie – to strive towards spreading the true understanding of Islam to the whole mankind. For it is only when people understand Islam can they respect the religion and its believers. Therefore, the du’at (plural for da’ie) of today have to return to the tradition of reaching out to the non-Muslims. One of the weaknesses of the Islamic movements, especially student organizations in Malaysia, of today is that they get comfortable and contented with internal activities and mingle mostly with the Muslim community only. This contributes to a growing disparity between the Muslim and non-Muslim community.

Whereas, in Islam, we are encouraged to interact and mingle around with everyone on the basis of humanity, with clear understanding that each and every one of us is God’s creation. Islam is a religion for all mankind. It is not an exclusive faith for certain groups of people. Therefore, Muslims have to mingle with other people from the non-Muslim community and get to know them in order to understand and be understood.

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala said in the Glorious Qur’an:
O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most
honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqun (the pious)]. Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware.” (Chapter 49, Al-Hujurat: Verse 13).

If all the Islamic movement activists engage more with the non-Muslim community and with the Western world, then perhaps some of the prejudices can be eradicated. It can only be beneficial to all humankind if the Muslims are to engage and dialogue with the non-Muslims. That is perhaps why Muslims are called to dialogue with others, in order to make them understand Islam more.

Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala said in the Glorious Qur’an:
Invite (mankind, O Muhammad) to the Way of your Lord (i.e. Islam) with wisdom (i.e. with the Divine Revelation and the Qur’an) and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better. Truly, your Lord knows best who has gone astray from His Path, and He is the Best Aware of those who are guided.” (Chapter 16, An-Nahl: Verse 125)

Islamic movement activists must equip themselves with the necessary communication skills in order to reach out to the non-Muslim community and spread the understanding of Islam. The job of a da’ie is not to compel other people into embracing Islam. Rather, a job of a da’ie is to spread the message of Islam, so that people would understand. This means that being a da’ie requires excellent communication skills. Islamic activists must master several languages in order for them to reach out. The English language, apart from Arabic, is a key language that a da’ie has to master for them to be able to extend the message of Islam into the mainstream media, such as the Internet and international publications, which is currently being bombarded with messages that portray false messages about Islam.

It is time for Islamic movements to position themselves in the mainstream media and culture, without jeopardizing the basics and fundamental values of Islam. Islamic activists must change their mentality, and grow out of thinking that they are in the comfort zone. We can only reduce the conflicts and tensions that are happening between the Islamic world and the Western world through an understanding. Take a statement from Karen Armstrong, the world-renowned religious philosopher, as a sample to show that people will respect Islam when they understand the religion. While making a film about Sufism in 1984, she was impressed by Islam’s tolerance to other religions and said: “...A quality that I had certainly not encountered in Christianity! This challenged everything that I had taken for granted about Islam and I wanted to learn more.

Gombak, 5.46 a.m.
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