Wednesday, July 28, 2010

...Ulama' Bashing: A National Pastime

By Syed Nadzri, NSTP

....Correct Me if I Am Wrong.....

YES, get rid of the Manchester United jerseys. But only because there are other better football teams around with even more attractive jerseys, and not because some ulama say so.

Not too long ago the brunt was on Liverpool jerseys, which had a beer brand strung across the chest. Now the prohibition has gone on to the Manchester United attire since the club’s crest carries the image of a red devil, hence wearing the team jersey is akin to worshipping the devil.

A news item late last week quoted Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria and former Johor mufti Datuk Nooh Gadot as saying that wearing the Manchester United jersey is un-Islamic.

Also off limits, according to the report, are the jerseys of other teams, including Brazil, Portugal, Barcelona, Serbia and Norway, all of which carry images of the cross on their team emblems.

“This is very dangerous,” Nooh said. “As Muslims, we shouldn’t wear such jerseys, either for sport or fashion reasons. Even if it (the jersey) is a gift, we should decline it. It is even more sinful when people realise this is wrong but still buy these jerseys to wear. These Muslims should repent immediately.”

Yesterday, Harussani was quoted in this paper as saying there was no need for a fatwa to ban Muslims from wearing jerseys with images of Satan, alcohol and crests of other religions as it was already clearly stated in Islamic laws that it was haram to do this.

These statements have huge implications not only because there are millions of football fans in Malaysia and all over the world who are Muslims, but they raise the question of where do we stop on the matter of assigning such sins.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t there be a line between the sanctity of matters concerning divine faith and the frivolity of football fashion?

With all due respect to Harussani and Nooh — and this is certainly not an affront or an attempt to engage the ulama in a theological debate over the issue — in my humble opinion, there are some simple questions on straightforward day-to-day matters that need to be answered:

- Of the millions of football fans, many regularly collect their favourite club’s merchandise — shirts, caps, ties, scarves, flags, even fridge magnets. And they have been doing this for ages. So just how much have the “sins” accumulated and do they have to discard these precious items now and repent? It has to be mentioned that some of the country’s top leaders are ardent supporters of clubs such as Manchester United and Barcelona and they have been known to don these jerseys often.

- On the same premise, does this therefore mean that those who attended mission schools all these years fall in the same category since these schools, such as St Michael’s Institution, Convent Green Lane, St John’s Institution, had, or still have, the cross in their emblems and on school badges that every student has had to wear. Have they all sinned as well?

- And how many of us still remember Blue Cross milk? I think I swallowed quite a bit of this in my younger days when condensed milk in the smaller towns inevitably meant either Milkmaid (cap junjung) or Blue Cross (palang biru). Since the blue cross on the label was so prominent, have we terpesong (deviated) by consuming the content?

- How about Muslim players playing for clubs or countries mentioned above? El-Hadji Diouf, the winger from Senegal, used to play for Liverpool, where he donned the Carlsberg label on his shirt week after week; his countryman Mame Biram Diouf is in the current Manchester United squad, which means committing himself to the club with the red devil on its emblem; then there’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a Bosnian who has become a Swedish national and plays for the Swedish national team (there’s a cross in the crest) and Barcelona FC at club level (there’s a cross here as well). And what about superstar Zinedine Zidane? He donned the Real Madrid colours for quite some time. The club emblem has a crown with a cross right on top.

- And for music fans among the baby-boomers, do they now have to take down posters of singer Tom Jones (who always wears a big cross on his chest) and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin (for the same reason). Or stop listening to the Beatles’ Let It Be since it contains a biblical reference to Mother Mary (Virgin Mary, though some would like to think Mother Mary means marijuana)?

- By extension, does it mean that we have to discard those Black Sabbath and Judas Priest records and CDs, and repent? And, for the younger set, the vampire movies such as Twilight?

The implications, as we can see, are too far-reaching because the same principle could apply in so many areas — to Muslims living as minorities in some countries, for instance. Have they sinned as well by subscribing to certain practices? For example, what is the status of those saluting the Union Jack in Britain (which has, not one but three crosses on it) and singing God Save the Queen? There are more than two million Muslims who are British citizens. Even the Japanese flag is not safe since it has the symbol of the sun. Saluting it might be construed as worshipping the sun.

The point I am trying to make is, where do we stop if we start with the jerseys?

Correct me if I’m wrong, but if it can get too complicated to support a certain football team, wouldn’t it be better — and perhaps a lot safer — to just switch allegiance? To Chelsea for instance?


Dato Syed Nazri,

I think if I am not mistaken we share the same alma mater MCKK. You must be Rehman Rashid's batch? A lot of creative people there... how come? Three years my junior perhaps. I am Hasan Marican's creative talents my batch, just a lot of dry people:doctors,engineers,lawyers, accountants . The Matron must have served us different diet altogether!

With respect to your article today..Correct Me if Am Wrong,I beg to differ.
Sorry Dato Syed, with due respect to you and your important position as the substantive chief editor of NST, you are damn wrong.

By your editorial , you are trying to trivialise and put into fore ulama' position in saying what they have to say. I can understand your position, but just use your brain a wee bit. Being an ulama' in Malaysia cannot be an easy task. Even clowns like Samy Velloo can often times be encouraged to take pot shots at you , let alone like minded minded people with little knowledge of Islam like Marina Mahathir, Zainah Annuar of SIS and even Shahrizad et al. Yet the ulama' have the heavy responsibility to interpret Quranic injuctions and the sunnah with respect to the current way of life and thinking and give advice. Their advisory on superficial examination by us may not seem to be in parallel with current fashion and thinking, even yours or mine ...but before one make a polemical issue out of it, one has to think ten times. More so certainly for people in your very high profile position and access to the public domain. To trivialise it from a very secular, superficial perspective, not taking in the wisdom that is inherent in the ulama' view is worse still. Perhaps for people in your position if one day you wakes up and find yourself nothing to write on, then it is better for you to just write about the famous Malaysian weather ...There is so much to write in Malaysia....Corruption self serving public servants, politicians, their meddling and interventionist 'wives' perhaps if one wants to be petty,and etc etc and etc. But understandably your job can be difficult though as there are many 'no go' areas so finally you guys have nothing better to do than to continue this unhealthy national pastime of Ulama' bashing!

The secular lay press, and NST is a secular press I dare say, is not the right forum to discuss fatwas and the Muslim position. I do not give a hoot about MU's jersey or Brazil's, but when people like you who should know better take upon yourselves to trivialise Ulama' you are opening a pandora's box. As a Muslim I do not enjoy matters pertaining to halal-haram be a matter of discussion by the likes of Samy Velloo or Karpal Singhm not even Marina Mahathir or Zainah Anwar or even Shahrizad!. There is already enough ulama' bashing in the lay press by Muslims like you who should know better.

Please refrain from selling your religion for a few ringgits!

Dr Nik


an alternative viewpoint from D.K:

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 21:57:23 -0700
From: d. k
Subject: Fw: ...Correct me if I am wrong.....

Dato Syed..I agree with your editorial..I'm glad that NST occasionally reports & writes in a way that I can agree with. I suppose you can't please all the people all the time; you'll have to be happy with pleasing some of the people some of the time!
I must say this to your credit: I have been reading your pieces for some time now, & I note that you attempt, at the very least, to be objective. Now that in itself, given the environment that our journalists have to live in, is very laudable. I enjoy reading your pieces also because you don't pontificate & talk down to the people you address (unlike some of your colleagues!).
As for Dr. Nik, I'm told he's a damn good doctor, but in all honesty I don't care much for his views..especially on religion. But then my thinking is secular, although I profess to be a Muslim. I suppose in some people's views I'll be consigned to hell when my time comes! But that's something between Allah & I, not some Ullama who thinks Allah has given him a mandate to interpret what Allah's laws are on this earth. I will take my chances: I will follow my conscience & be guided by it. I am resolute in my believe that the Allah I believe in is "All merciful & all forgiving" & when my time comes it is only He that will judge me..not some Ullama.

Keep up the good work Dato Syed!
Regards & best wishes.


A short rebuttal:

Subject: RE: ...Correct me if I am wrong.....
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2010 18:55:22 +0800

TQ Dato D.K,

I respect your viewpoint. I was looking at things from the perspective of the current sport of 'ulama bashing'.

There must be a proper forum for this. NST, Star, The Chinese vernacular press are not the right forum certainly. Islamic issues on halal/haram/makruh are certainly not open for lay discussion by people who are the least qualified. Certainly not for Samy Velloo et al.

In my opinion, Dato Syed Nadzri has taken an unfair swipe at the institution of the ulama'. Of course cloak under petty examples of petty footballers elsewhere and other unrelated things. But still, reading in between the lines, an unhealthy swipe at the institution of ulama'. Who is the real Syed Nazri anyway?, a liberal Islamist??...Holding to the new concept that all religions are the same....

I know time has changed. There are too many people like you and Syed Nazri now who consider all things are not sacred anymore but in matters of faith and Islam, it is not up for grab yet. Right and wrong from the Islamic perspective is not for the meek in faith to vote and decide.That must be a bitter pill for guys like you to accept and swallow, Dato'!

A polemical discussion in the lay press on issues of faith and Islam , in a plural society such as ours, even if one seem to enjoy bashing the ulama' is not ON. At the end of the day if there is no one there to defend them, what do we have.

"Clogged souls, my friend, are more deleterious in the long term than clogged up arteries". Believe me.That is something for all of us to think about...and I am not just thinking of the next 10 , 15 years of our life. Just thinking a wee bit further.
Just my 2 cent worth..

Dr Nik


RahmatHarounHashim said...

Dear Dr Nik,

Ulama' bashing is not new but always become news.

I remembered well being advised not to cross my spoon and fork by an Indonesian friend. Since then, I never cross them.Probably, Syed Nazri et all would consider foolish!.

Pearls and Gem said...

I am afraid Syed Nazri's and D.K's view for the present is a majority view.

That speaks volume of the state of the ummah in 2010.

Political correctness is a 21st century American invention.But between faith and being politically correct, give me faith any time.

abah said...

Dr Nik,

Agree with you totally. These guys are using their charismatic language skills to trivialise matters.

RahmatHarounHashim said...

Dear Dr Nik,

This question is unrelated to the topic. Rather medical.

I'm currently on autologous PRP injection to my right shoulder. I forgot to ask my orthopedic surgeon whether this Platelets Rich Plasma is contradictory to consumption of Plavix for my IHD and Atherosclerosis. Have you ever come across pts with similar situation. In theory, it appears contradictory, but thinking of it, PRP is rather localized.

Your expert advice is highly appreciated.

Pearls and Gem said...

Frankly I dont know.
I suspect not with respect to PRP

Proton pump inhibitor, on the other hand, NEXIUM, has theoretically being shown to decrease effect of PLAVIX. Whether this is a class effect shared by others of its group[ like conrolloc] is open to debate.

Please do take controlloc continuosly at least for a year since this is already the 2nd rebleed for you despite the current controversy....The controlloc people claim it is not a class effect....

Anyway you have no choice...I assume you are having a drug eluting stent...thus the ,minimum one year advisory

Anonymous said...

Dr Nik, may I give my secular comment on the subject of Syed's football jerseys and the cross..I am not as religous or as well-read like yourself and as you said earlier, my kind of people are probably the majority type of Muslims. As a Muslim, I feel the Ulama's job is to give their considered opinions on Islamic practices. On the other hand, the central issue should be NIAT. When I buy a jersey, I didnt buy the cross that comes with it, I buy because I am passionate about the football club. So it all boils down to NIAT, which only Allah knows. However, having said that, Syed NST should be responsible enough to not use his office as editor of NST to air his secular opinion because he is potentially opening the office of the ulama to public ridicule. He must realise that one sentence on such sensitive issue can lead to war nowadays..

Pearls and Gem said...

I do agree with you Anon. 100 %. That was why I had blown my 'gasket' over Syed's article.
When people like Samy Velu or some non Muslim feminists join in the bandwagon we got angry with them...we forgot, we Muslims fan the fire.

If you know me , I am quite a 'secular' guy despite my views...but there are some basic 'lines in the sand' one has to draw especially when we are dealing with aqidah....just my 2 cent worth.

RahmatHarounHashim said...

TQ, Dr Nik.