Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Of Allah, Anwar and False Consciousness

Since the past few weeks, my fingers have been itching to put my thought to paper on the current issue of Kalimah Allah. I only have a window of opportunity tonight, and I will do so without qualms.

To begin with, as a Muslim, I do not subscribe to the argument which says that it is correct for non-Muslims to use the word Allah to refer to the Christian god simply because the Christian Arabs have been using the word prior to the Islamic era. This argument is lame and lacks intellectual rigor.

Though the Christians have been using the word Allah, or any of its variants, to refer to the Christian god since the pre-Islamic era, the word has been “Islamized” with the coming of Islam.

Surah Al-Ikhlas rectified the error of the usage of the word Allah by the Christians. Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.

Allah is the one and only God. This is what Islam means by the word Allah. This is what the Muslims understand by the word Allah. If someone believes that god has a son, or not the One and Only, that god is not Allah. This particular belief cannot be justified in Islam.

There is no truth in saying that the Muslims are monopolizing the word for the sake of monopolizing, for their failure to understand the faiths of other people. Even the Christians say that “Allah” does not mean God in Christianity. Dr. Louis A. Turk, a lead translator of the Bible into the Indonesian language, in his article “A Sharp Two-Edged Sword for Indonesia”, has this to say:

“Allah is not the common name, and does not mean God. Instead, Allah is a proper (personal) name for Islam’s God”

“So what a word means to the Muslims here (Indonesia) is important – when they read an Islamic term in the Bible, they are going to think it means what it commonly means to the vast majority of the vast population. This is especially true for the word Allah. It is wrong for a translator to try to make a word mean something different than what the word means to 88 percent of the population”.

The Muslims are not blindly possessive of the word for their own ignorance. Even right-minded Christians do not think and believe that Allah means God in Christianity.

Those Muslims who are adamant to say that the word Allah means other than what the vast majority of Muslims understand are resorting to its usage in the pre-Islamic era, the period of the jahiliyyah. Those who have received the light of wisdom, of hikmah, will never do so unless out of desperation, albeit a political one.

Now, I shall turn to my main subject.

In essence, the crux of the issue is not about the right of non-Muslims to use the word Allah, or the exclusive rights of Muslims to claim possession of the word. It is more than this. It brings to the fore the inevitable eruption of the tectonic plates of the political madness that for a long long time have been lying underneath the Malaysian political landscape.

To elucidate this point, let us see what Zulkifli Noordin, the PKR Member of Parliament for Kulim Bandar Baru had to say in an exclusive interview with the New Straits Times today (27 Jan 2010).

“When this issue (the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims) came out, Anwar called me and said he knew my stand, but tried to be polite. But I told him, Datuk Seri, you are a Muslim leader with Islamic credentials and people never forget that. You know very well there are two contrasting views, so why didn’t you take a neutral and non-partisan stand?”

Well, everybody knows that Anwar had not taken a neutral and non-partisan view about the issue. Anwar even accused Zul Nordin of going off the limit when the latter lodged a police report against Khalid Samad, the MP for Shah Alam, for insulting Islam.

But Zul Nordin goes on to say:

“At the moment, I still limit (myself). You never see me criticize Anwar. I still appreciate that he is my boss although in this “Allah” issue, the pressure is so enormous on me to criticize him, but I say no. But if it is fated that I am out of PKR, may be it will be a different ball game altogether”.

The one million dollar question is - what is the current “political ball game”?

Zul Nordin is a seasoned politician by now and he must know what he exactly meant.

This is my version of the political ball game.

Many Islamically-inclined PKR enthusiasts believe that Anwar is a credible Muslim leader. Anwar for them, in flesh and blood, is an ardent Muslim activist. He will never, they believe, abandon the Islamic cause for which he was known to be its main exponent before. His relationship with Muslim scholars like Totonji, Qardawi, Jamal Barzinji, just to name a few, reinforces this belief.

But what about his relationship with Paul Wolfowitz - the well known neo-con architect in the Iraq war? The Islamically-inclined Anwaristas will say: “We know that very well. Wolfowitz is a criminal of the highest order. But Anwar’s relationship with him is just a ‘political ball game’. Anyway, Anwar is the one and only moderate Muslim political leader in the world who can relate well to the West. He is doing a great contribution to the Ummah, especially at this trying time. In flesh and blood, he is still our brother in Islam, syeikh”.

I will take this excuse with a pinch of salt. What if I say Anwar is the one and only friend of the neo-con who can relate well to the Muslim world? What if I say, in flesh and blood, Anwar is no longer an ardent Muslim activist who die-hard Anwaristas used to believe before?

Well, this may sound a bit too harsh to some people. But I believe many out there hold this view. And Anwar knows about this too.

But more than this, even if Anwar is not a neo-con darling, and he is very much still an ardent Muslim activist, which I wish he is, will he be able to do what the Islamically-inclined Anwaristas want him to do?

I will say NO he CANNOT. Why?

The brand of politics that Anwar is espousing for now will not allow this to happen. This brand of politics will only survive on the pretext of promoting unbridled ‘universal’ human rights, sheer disregard of ethnicity and religion as the main marker of group identity and solidarity, and full acceptance of western secularism.

Even when his staunch supporters in the former ABIM or his critics in the more conservative camp in the current PAS or his loyalists in the more Islamically-inclined faction of PKR want him to champion for the cause of Islam that they understand, Anwar will never be able to do so. And, even if he so does, he will fail miserably. So he will not.

The point is the brand of Islam that these Anwaristas believe in does not fit well into the brand of the “new politics” that Anwar is espousing.

But why do many Islamically-inclined Anwaristas fail to understand this?

I guess I have the answer. I may be wrong, but I will state my case anyway.

The Marxists believe that the proletariats have long suffered from a kind of mind subjugation that frustrates their vision for a worldwide revolution of the workers. This subtle subjugation is called “false consciousness”. The proletariats understand very well that the more they succumb to capitalism, the more they are alienated and oppressed.

However, they resolve the experience of alienation and oppression under capitalism through a false understanding of the natural need to compete with others for limited goods. By doing so, consequently, workers all over the world failed to unite and pin capitalism down.

I am not a sympathizer of Marxism, let alone a Marxist. But I believe the Islamically-inclined Anwaristas are enduring a similar fate of being in the state of “false consciousness”.

This “false consciousness” is perpetuated by Anwar through his charming charisma; sometimes little words he borrowed from Qardawi or Zuhaili to lend Islamic legitimacy to his political stance – rejecting other more authoritative and intellectually sound arguments; and the rumblings of organic intellectuals like Khalid Samad and Zaid Ibrahim.

The Islamically-inclined Anwaristas realize that there is something wrong somewhere, that they are in a great dilemma, that they risk abandoning their fundamental conviction about the religion, about the da’wah, the politics. But the more they think about it, the more they ponder upon it, the sense of confusion, of desperation, of hopelessness, will set in.

They resolve this state of confusion by staying true to the promise of reformation, to the hope of the return of the past glory, to the good faith they have in brother Anwar.

But sadly, those who fail to get rid from this quagmire will slowly be sucked into the black hole of intellectual corruption and perpetually immersed in the hollowness of the arguments of the organic intellectuals, who are in not for a revolution (I believe the word revolution used by Zul Noordin in his NST interview is too noble a word to be applied in that context), but an intellectual conspiracy to corrupt the minds of unsuspecting believers – Muslims or Christians alike.

These organic intellectuals – be they Muslims or Christians or Buddhists or Hindus – share one thing in common. Religion. They truly believe in the sanctity of unbridled universal human rights and freedom over and above anything else. This is their Religion.

Only those who take the time to pause, have a deep breath, and listen carefully to what their conscience wishpers will find a way out from this predicament, this false consciousness.

Perhaps, this is what Zul Nordin and others who are in the same ‘political ball game’ have to do. And the time is now.