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Saving Hang Tuah through a secular Islamic state

In Ummah - Saving Hang Tuah in a secular Islamic state on 08/02/2012 at 15:27

Professor Khoo Khay Kim and Tun Mahathir claimed that Hang Tuah doesn’t exist. So, it is best to remove Hang Tuah from our history text. Many bloggers suggested the similarities found with efforts to declare Jesus never existed or God is dead. Some Christian theologians thought if we could identify some of ‘hidden Christ’ in other cultures, one day we could get more to agree that Jesus could have indeed always been the only way. Christians would merely have to keenly learn and appreciate the culture of the people whom they loved.

One such ‘hidden Christ’ I had in mind is Hang Tuah. The Sultan wanted to kill Hang Tuah, and Hang Tuah in return would kill the Sultan’s enemy, despite it happened to be Hang Tuah’s best friend.

In today’s ‘ketuanan Rakyat’, it is probably easier to identify with the Sultan. When we are conscientious, it is not difficult for us to imagine the ‘ketuanan’ in us would be suspicious and ready to kill anything that would challenge our individual ‘ketuanan’. Hang Tuah and Jesus are people hard to find in reality, and difficult to believe in their existence. Thus, we treasure those who could have faith of their existence as we admire how they had been able to live out the good news that had set
them free.

Since Hang Tuah is too good, the Sultan is too mess up, and we are too ‘perkasa’ to need Hang Tuah’s blessing, perhaps it is best that we wipe Hang Tuah out of historical existence.

A secular world doesn’t need mythology. Tanah Melayu doesn’t need mythology. Tun Mahathir had more than once claimed that Malaysia is an Islamic nation, and not a secular one. The Christian West needed mythology to proclaim their religiosity, but Islam is based on reason and historical record of words and deeds of the Prophet, as something Professor Al-Attas claimed in the text ‘Islam and Secularism’,
“islamization is the liberation of man first from magical, mythological, animistic,
national-cultural tradition opposed to islam, and then from secular control over his
reason and his language”

Mythology could only be a hindrance to our faithful surrendering Muslim rakan-rakan.
Yet, according to the constitution, to be Malay, one must follow the Adat which include the deep passion for Hang Tuah’s words that ‘Takkan Melayu Hilang Di Dunia’ in every other Perkasa Rela UMNo rally.

At the end, we are often lost in the battle to reckon if this Tanah Melayu is a secular, or an Islamic nation. PAS has been created to build an Ummah, and yet they tell the rakyat to vote for DAP, which wanted a secular nation. In response, MCA reminded our Chinese that Pakatan has only been disingenuous, as they hide PAS’s true mission and ignore DSAI’s ABIM past, and only demonstrate Lim’s DAP is only hungry for power, at the Chinese rakyat’s expense. UMNO may have applied many seemingly Islamic acts to out-Islam PAS, such as the pretense to cane Kartika for drinking in public. But, for 54 years, Malaysia had truly mostly been a secular nation. The Hudud punishment for theft is the cutting off of the hand that stole. Yet, there is hardly one who had received such a punishment. Even DSAI had been merely being put into prison for the charge of stealing from the public, and being set free from
sodomy trials twice in the civil court, and not charged in any of the Islamic court.

Perhaps, MCA is correct in their claim that we are indeed living in a secular nation, where God is dead, albeit being a non-secular one in name.

I am told that Secularism started from France at the end of the 1800s, as a genuine effort to prevent the Catholic church from messing up the State affair, which could be best described as a belief that government and political issues should be kept separate from religious organizations and religious issue. Today, in France, even the mentioning of religious affinity are frowned upon in public life. Most recently, this even led to the banning of the hijab in the public French life. This is certainly something which most Malaysians would hate to see in Tanah Melayu.

In contrast, the United State’s first amendment is to prohibit the governmental interference with the ‘free exercise’ of religion, and prevent the governmental establishment of official national religion. This would lead to practices such as
no state fund is to be spent on building churches, while individual public servants and statesmen are free to publicly display the practice of their faith. Most Malaysians would not want to see public fund allocated for mosque building banned
in Malaysia. So, such form of secularism is out of discussion also.

What is left to be discussed then would merely be a hair splitting notion of
the kind of Islamic nation we would want. Do we want to an Islamic secular state which would kill Hang Tuah, which our officials seem to desire, or if we would want a secular Islamic state that would treasure Hang Tuah.

Professor An-Naim mentioned in “Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Sharia” two ideas repeatedly why secularism is needed to be introduced into Islam in order for Islam to flourish.

One is that Islam has always been inherently diverse. Whenever a state attempts to implement Syariah Law, a question that would certainly come up is which school of thoughts should the state implement. Tun Mahathir has argued this is not an issue since all Malays only have 1 Sunni faith, and 1 Shafie madhab. So, there is no dispute on the first account. Yet, we question if it is Shafie or Hanafi Syariah law which our UMNO controlled Islamic authority has been practicing lately. Nonetheless, who am I, being a Chinese christian, to question what’s Shafie and what’s Hanafi.

The other is that central idea that there is no compulsion in Islam. Thus, a Muslim’s practice could only be valuable when it’s done via voluntary surrender without the coercion from the State. This too is something which Professor Al-Attas mentioned in ‘Islam and Secularism’. Many from previous generation of Ulama has been obsessed with Ibn Khaldun’s idea to rebuild the Ummah following the collapse of many Islamic civilizations. In Professor Al-Attas’s words, they have ignored the need to impart right kind of knowledge for individual growth. In contrast, efforts of many of such ulama’s emphasis on ‘[t]he stressing of society and the state opens the door to secularism and secular ideology and secular education.’

With the emphasis of educating the individual, allowing the individual to grow, one would begin to slowly appreciate the transcendent love imbued in Hang Tuah’s radical attendance to the need of the Ketuanan (which include all of us), despite much flaws found in the ‘Tuan-tuan’. Realization of such transcendent love amidst the majority is the only path that would lead to the creation of a genuine Islamic state.

In a recent discussion, Tim Keller, a Christian pastor in New York, commented in a discussion, that he is sad that we often fight each other because of our obsession that God dislike homosexuality, but forgot that having the right kind of marriage alone would not lead one onto heaven. As such, I pray my Muslim rakan-rakan too would not get too upset with conversion, such as Lina Joy’s, such that many could-be believers too would be deterred from opening up to many blessings from the Prophet’s message. If I am not mistaken, the land which give birth to giants such as Augustine and Tertullian too had one day become an Islamic land. As far as I can tell, no historian has concluded that it came through mere military might or mere forced coercion.

As a pilgrim, I am being reminded that I do not contain the truth as the truth belongs to God. Of this, this Christian is merely a little bit crazier in his obsession to seek out the mystery spot where ice, water and air existing together. Hopefully, with this in mind, some of my Malay rakan-rakan too could see the light in some of our search for a secular Islamic state that would treasure Hang Tuah, instead of an Islamic secular state that is obsessed in killing Hang Tuah.

In the same light, I hope many of my agnostic or atheist friends would be able to enjoy the little freedom they sought, and hopefully one day learn to appreciate hopes of many of the theists, and find the lost beauty in our Rukunegara.

P.S. [2012-08-24]  perhaps, a much better read on this subject matter.  http://dinmerican.wordpress.com/2012/08/23/secularism-islamic-state-and-the-state-of-islam/.  It is much better articulated than anything that this Kristian Cina could comment on this topic.

[2012-08-29] Yet another link on Aliran http://aliran.com/10011.html