Literalism and temple demolitions in Malaysia

Worrying developments in Malaysia, which long seemed such a promising laboratory for new models of tolerance and peaceful coexistence for Muslims and non-Muslims.

IPS on Temple Demolitions in Malaysia:

Hundreds of worshippers watched in horror as the workers, mostly Muslims, brought down the roof, pushed down the walls and smashed the deities that immigrant Indian workers had brought with them from South India to provide solace in a strange new land.
"We are poor and our only comfort is our temples and now we are losing that also," Kanagamah said in Tamil, the language spoken by ethnic Indians who form eight percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people and mostly follow Hinduism.
Indians are economically backward and politically weak compared to Malays who comprise 50 percent of the population and dominate decision making at every level. Ethnic Chinese, who make up another 24 percent, enjoy economic clout and dominate business activity.
Over the years, local authorities have been regularly demolishing temples saying the structures were built illegally. Most were small wayside shrines.

I have to note how in some ways this is another example of the robotic literalism of many contemporary Muslim intellectuals in action.  As the Taliban did in Bamiyan, these thugs are taking the most superficial but eminently literal interpretation of the relevant sources in Islamic tradition and applying it to the letter. 

Let’s be fair to the zealots.  Their actions bear a certain surface similarity to the actions of the Prophet (pbuh) when he smashed the idols in the Kaaba upon his victorious return to Mecca.  Of course, the context of the Prophet’s actions were utterly, categorically different.  For one thing, he was the divinely inspired Messenger of Allah.  Then there’s the fact that he was cleaning out the greatest of all shrines to God, a sanctuary built according to Islamic tradition by Abraham himself. 

Mecca did not have a multitude of mosques and temples–the Haram Al-Sharif was the center of Meccan religion–for one to choose from when practicing one’s religion. The idols in the Kaaba that the Prophet smashed did not represent an ancient, respected religious tradition that some scholars have even categorized as Ahl al-Kitab like Hinduism.  The devotees of the Meccan idols weren’t a weak and downtrodden minority that the Muslims as the dominant community had an obligation to protect and treat with honor, either. 

But such petty details don’t matter when literalism is prized above all else and where legitimate differences of opinion concerning complex issues are tarred as kneejerk rationalism or rebellion against God’s message.

If you object as a Muslim to these outrageous actions, remember that the cult of literalism is ultimately what fuels these problems by dumbing us down to the point where it seems intellectually respectable to, in the name of Tawhid , sack the houses of worship of peaceful neighbors and fellow citizens.   Now the Quran makes it clear that violence is permissible only in self-defense and implies unmistakably that all houses of worship are sacred, to the extent that one could argue the Quran enjoins jihad to protect churches and synagogues

Permission [to fight --Svend]is granted to those who are being persecuted,
since injustice has befallen them, and GOD is certainly able to support
them.

They were evicted from their homes unjustly, for no reason other than saying, "Our Lord is GOD." If it were not for GOD’s supporting of some people against others, monasteries, churches, synagogues, and masjids – where the name of GOD is commemorated frequently – would have been destroyed. Absolutely, GOD supports those who support Him. GOD is Powerful, Almighty. (22:39-40)

However, the potent combination of rigid literalism combined with that other malaise of our age, the arrogant certainty that one possesses the absolute truth–i.e., that, unlike everybody else, one is of the proverbial 73rd sect– can give even the most foolish, destructive and counterproductive actions a patina of religious legitimacy.

I direct this observation at nobody in particular–Sadly, this phenomenon isn’t t limited to a particular person or group.  I sometimes wonder if this is simply another a part of the human condition with which we all must struggle, and a vice to which the learned are particularly susceptible.–but I think such examples are worth remembering when one hears a Muslim alim or leader scornfully mocking other Muslims for questioning interpretations that seem unnecessarily literal  and expecting that scholars defend their conclusions with evidence and reasoning rather than simply invoking their office. 

It’s all part of the climate of anti-intellectualism and cold Procrustean spirituality that is choking Muslims around the world, and even while the baleful influence of Wahhabism and other ideologies declines (i.e., as much of an improvement as it would admittedly be, the solution isn’t simply replacing Wahhabi mutawa with Sufi mutawa–the problem’s the underlying mindset behind the mutawa phenomenon, and not just in Saudi).  Knee-jerk literalism and pride take many guises, but they eventually lead to the same place:  fitnah.

  • http://cherryblossommoon.blogspot.com Baraka

    Great analysis – I’ve linked to it.

  • http://akramsrazor.typepad.com svend

    Thanks!

  • http://www.burning-blue-soul.blogspot.com Basil

    Great post. I would add that fitnah is just the first stop on the road that leads to zealotry, hypocrisy, and finally wickedness. What you don’t get in the reports of events like that is the emotional fury; the frenzied gratification of destruction that pumps through the viens of Muslims tearing down temples, burning embassies, and blowing up civilians. We are commanded to abstain from alcohol because it clouds our judgement. What happens when our spiritual leaders incite the same powerful blindedness? Do they then too become haram?

  • http://higher-criticism.blogspot.com sheilaX

    Shalom,
    Cult of literalism?
    What a nice oxymoron for the Dark Side. hahaha…
    May the force be with you.

  • http://asylum60.blogspot.com walski69

    Salams, Svend..
    Some perspective from Malaysia, where all this is happening. Apologies if the comments are a little disjointed, but I’m writing this in a rush.
    I think you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head – it is a case of literalism that has crept into the psyche of many (not all) Muslims in Malaysia. That and the abdication of common sense and civility to what particular mullahs opinions happen to be.
    Having said that, it is in no way an organized movement, per se, of tormenting other religions’ places of worship – what’s happening is that local governments (appointed by the state governments, and not elected, and for the most part Muslim-run) are carrying out these cleansing exercises on their own accord, on the pretext of these establishments not being legal buildings/structures.
    And it’s one thing if obtaining proper building permits for religious premises is straightforward – it’s not. In Selangor, for example (the state I live in, suburbia to Kuala Lumpur, the capital), it is next to impossible to obtain one, as mentioned in the article. The case of the church that never could be built quoted is a classic case.
    It’s becoming both unbearable (for liberal minded Muslims as myself) and an embarassment. While Malaysia has always been a ‘visual’ model of Islamic modernity and moderation, underneath that facade is a growing push towards rule by theology, and total disregard for the Constitution. Fortunately, these movements are nowhere one would call organized. But the effects are becoming apparent. There are many vocal Muslim literalists who espouse the ‘virtues’ of Islamic statehood and rule by Shariah, despite the obvious fact of the failure of many so-called Islamic states when it comes to justice and rule-by-law.
    As it is, there are two court systems in Malaysia – the civil courts and the Shariah courts. In 1998 an ammendment was made to the Constitution, elevating the Shariah courts to a more prominent level (bad move). All was fine until recently, when a Hindu national hero (who conquered Everest) died, and a Shariah court order was issued claiming him to be a Muslim, and therefore HAD to be buried as one. Supposedly, he converted in his last few bedridden days, unbeknownst to his own family, and only witnessed by a few of his Muslim colleagues (some suspect it was a coerced conversion). There literally was a legal tug-o-war, where the Shariah court prevailed, because the Civil court (presided by a Muslim judge)refused to rule on the matter, even though it (the Civil court) had legal jurisdiction.
    And today, the spokesperson for the National Fatwa Council made a statement warning Muslims of the creeping pluralism and liberalism that will endanger the Muslim’s lifestyle (I posted a response on my blog). To me it is almost a veiled threat, implying that Islamists here are about to get more beligerant, and with the Fatwa Council’s blessing.
    Ironically, the undercurrents here are similar to what’s happening in the US, where the religious right is (apparently) trying to hijack the government. Except that here, in Malaysia, the undercurrents are starting to filter to the surface, and becoming a real threat.
    Again, apologies if the comment seemed disjointed somewhat. Feel free to e-mail me if you wish to know more.

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    Great post. I disagree with those Muslims who feel the need to destroy things not of their religion/tradition. In Saudi you have Muslims who are destroying even the ancient places of our history. Sad events.
    As to Hindus, as some claim, being people of the book, I dont buy that. I guess we could say Scientologists are “people of the book” since they have a book of their own. However, like with Hindus, when you look at what is actually in their book and look at what their beliefs entail, then it is clear they are miles away from monotheistic thought.
    Hinduism has loads of gods and godess that are woshipped in many different ways in many different forms. I have seem Hindus try to claim that they actually do just believe in one god, but that they just worship seperately all of the unique manifestations of this god. Hard to believe that when you see elephant headed status being worshipped and human sacrifice still taking place in portions of India to these Gods.
    I guess it is sort of like the trinity, only taken to the highest extreme. If you compared it with Islam it would be like making seperate semi-deities of each of the 99 names of Allah, making statues of them, and worshipping them.
    People of the book? No way. I personally think this line of thought is advanced by those who have a noble cause, co-existance in the Indian sub-continent. But I dont think you have to “be the same” to co-exist. Why would we need to make Hindus “like us” for us to live together in peace.
    That is part of the problem. We should be able to co-exist in peace without our neighbors being like us.

  • http://bidaah.wordpress.com Bidaah-Innovation

    Another great victory for the big huge great sect of the righteous salafis

  • http://profile.typekey.com/dbrutus/ TM Lutas

    walski69 – If one is looking for more organized muslim suppression of religious places, the sad events in post-war Kosovo is filled with destroyed churches and assaulted nuns and priests. There was a bunch of it going on before Milosevic rose and took his turn at killing too.

  • Hannah

    Very good post, thank you. walski69, I was interested in your reply, too. Abu Sinan, what exactly do are you referring to when you say “human sacrifice still taking place in portions of India to these Gods”? Can you cite examples and your references for this?

  • http://www.faraay.blogspot.com Fariha Nafees

    Assalam u alaikum wrw,
    Very interesting read thought provoking indeed also a very interesting choice of words. Excellent post!
    Thanx.

  • http://www.firaushah.com/ JD

    No offence, but I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. I think you’ve made a lot of assumptions about this case without knowing a lot of facts. For example, the article doesn’t directly address the ownership of the land the temple was built upon. Who owns the land? The article says that some of the “wayside shrines” and temples were built on private or abandoned land that was later taken over by various state and federal agencies. As owner of the land, the gov’t has every right to decide how the land will be used. (Singapore, likewise, has and will have shrines, temples, homes and even cemetaries removed when the gov’t decides that a particular piece of land needs to be used for a new purpose. Likewise, illegally built shrines and temples will be removed here if they do not have the proper permits.)
    Now, granted, the temple mentioned in the article is 107 years old. One might expect that the gov’t would consider the temple to be preserved on the grounds of cultural heritage, and maybe it was. The article doesn’t say. But it’s very unlikely, IMO, that the temple was destroyed without the landowner’s permission, and let’s not forget that KL is a thriving, growing city where land can come at a high premium (we don’t know the exact location of this temple – another fact ignored by the article). So please, brother, let’s not just assume that our Malaysian brothers and sisters tore down this temple in a fit of iconoclastic frenzy. I think you need to find out the rest of the story before you pass judgment.

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    Hannah,
    You asked for references for Hindu human sacrifice. It is a historical fact, sadly, it is happening again:
    “Followers of a Hindu cult in India’s north-eastern state of Assam have revived the ancient practice of human sacrifice. ”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/1908706.stm
    “Police have arrested a village priest in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh for allegedly carrying out a human sacrifice.
    The priest, Chandrabhan Singh Lodhi, is accused of sacrificing a low caste Hindu, or Dalit, to please the village goddess in Parsari village of Sagar district.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2892333.stm
    “Human sacrifice
    Sir, — Reading about the recent wave of human sacrifices across India in a British newspaper made me wonder whether our country is really in the 21st century.
    More saddening is that these acts are patronised by some of our educated elite, including senior politicians.
    The Government should summarily outlaw these irrational and dangerous acts and their practitioners.
    J. Shankaranarayanan,
    Thiruvananthapuram”
    http://www.hinduonnet.com/2004/03/12/stories/2004031201841009.htm
    If one takes a look at the net, there are a lot of stories on the issue.

  • svend

    So much interesting feedback!
    Thanks in particular to Walkski. Nothing “disjointed” at all about those comments that I could see. To the contrary, they were admirably articulate and well thought out.
    I found you observation about the “visual model” particularly interesting. Had never looked at it that way. Malaysia as a Benneton ad for interfaith harmony? :)
    JD, I understand what you’re saying, but for me the social and political context trumps these other considerations. In politics, all actions are weighed by their impact on the public welfare as well as their abstract philosophical justification. Historical context, social context and political context must all be factored in.
    Just as it was irresponsible to in Denmark’s tense climate of xenophobia and Islamophobia to publish cartoons lampooning the Holy Prophet (pbuh)–even though religious satires by criticis have a place in a free society–so is it irresponsible to be tearing down the houses of worship of an already disadvantaged religious community.
    I’m sure there is not shortage of mosques in Malaysia, so is there really a pressing need to do this? Is there a need to do something which is guaranteed to sour already tense relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Malaysia?
    Another parallel with the cartoons: Walski mentions how difficult it is for Hindus to get permits to build temples. Hmm, sounds just like Denmark.
    Finally, it is the responsability of Muslim socieites to treat non-Muslim minorities equitably and with respect. That is especially true in any society that consciously grounds itself in shariah–if Islam is the religion of the state, there is even more need for restraint on the part of Muslims towards non-Muslims. It sounds to me like Muslim demaogues are abusing their power and trampling on the rights of non-Muslim citizens.
    re: India and human sacrifice
    It’s fascinating how regularly you discover the things that people bash Islam and Muslims for happening just as egregiously in modern India, too. Honor killings, religious fanaticism, anti-Semitism, ….
    I don’t say that to criticize India, but as an illustration of the fact that these problems aren’t a “Muslim” problem so much as manifestations of developing countries, societies plagued by injustice and instability.

  • Hannah

    Abu Sinan,
    Thanks for giving us the links. Wow, that was a crazy article– in the absence of “human volunteers” they chose to use effigies and after protests by animal rights activists they went to the human form effigies?? Too PC to risk the wrath of animal rights folks?
    Still, best to be clear about where this fits into the overall picture of Hindu practices; I’m sure it’s considered very much the bizarre fringe. But it does make one wonder why that practice has been revived, even in effigy.

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    Hannah, unless you missed something, REAL people are being killed in India, to this very day.
    As to what part of Hinduism it plays, I dont know, I am not an expert. It seems to have been much more regular of a practice in the past.
    Interesting to note that Islam came to the Middle East at a time when people murdered little girls, buried them alive. Islam banned that practice.
    The murder of infant females happens on a regular basis in India. It has been made against the law for ultra-sounds ot be given outside of medical necesity because the results are often used so the parents can go abort the females.
    The female shortage is so great in areas of India that people will steal girls from other villages, and sell them to people to be wives, where they are often very badly treated. It is said that there are whole groups of men that will never be able to marry because of this shortage.
    This shortage is due to the murder and abortion of female infants. I, personally, view abortion as murder anyways, and it is particularly so when it is done only because the baby is a girl.
    This, in part, goes to the religious and cultural practice of forcing girl’s families to pay dowries to the man. Of course, under Islam it is the woman who gets the dowry, in part to protect her freedom of action and help keep her economically independent. Keep in mind that a woman, in Islam, does not have to work. If she does, the money is hers to choose as she wishes.
    I am with Svend, interesting that many of those most critical of Islam close their eyes at the acts of others.
    Tens of thousands of baby girls murdered or aborted every year in India. Honour killings are rampant, yet Islam is the sole source of evil in the world. I beg to differ. Read the overt evil below:
    “As John-Thor Dahlburg points out, “in rural India, the centuries-old practice of female infanticide can still be considered a wise course of action.” (Dahlburg, “Where killing baby girls ‘is no big sin’,” The Los Angeles Times [in The Toronto Star, February 28, 1994.]) According to census statistics, “From 972 females for every 1,000 males in 1901 … the gender imbalance has tilted to 929 females per 1,000 males. … In the nearly 300 poor hamlets of the Usilampatti area of Tamil Nadu [state], as many as 196 girls died under suspicious circumstances [in 1993] … Some were fed dry, unhulled rice that punctured their windpipes, or were made to swallow poisonous powdered fertilizer. Others were smothered with a wet towel, strangled or allowed to starve to death.”
    http://www.gendercide.org/case_infanticide.html

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    It gets worse: “A study of Tamil Nadu by the Community Service Guild of Madras similarly found that “female infanticide is rampant” in the state, though only among Hindu (rather than Moslem or Christian) families. “Of the 1,250 families covered by the study, 740 had only one girl child and 249 agreed directly that they had done away with the unwanted girl child. More than 213 of the families had more than one male child whereas half the respondents had only one daughter.” (Malavika Karlekar, “The girl child in India: does she have any rights?,” Canadian Woman Studies, March 1995.)”

  • Hannah

    Abu Sinan,
    My comment about “why now?” in ref the human sacrifice was really because of the ritualized nature of the killing, and ritual acts are associated with a psychological or spiritual need. The killing of women you refer to seems rooted in less dark (though certainly evil) and complex sociological issues. Not to minimize it, and sure the two impulses merge at some points, but they seem of a different nature to me, and the first one, the ritualized acts, are of particular interest to me. Make sense? Anyway. Thanks for your lengthy and thoroughly referenced comment.

  • http://abusinan.blogspot.com Abu Sinan

    I agree Hannah. I guess I get bewildered, coming from a Western background, how many people can slaughter children with reckless abandonment.
    I am German, but the difference there is that the Nazis slaughtered other people and their children. Barbaric and brutal, sure, but still below the brazen killing of your own infants.

  • K

    just one point – Muslims in India practice dowry system and mehr is nominal. In fact, in some regions, dowry among Muslims is much higher than that among Hindus.

  • http://bibizaynab.blogspot.com Hajar

    Salaam,
    unfortunately it isn’t always easy for the average lay-people to distinguish who is right in this mess we’re in.
    (May Allah speed the return of the Mahdi, ensha Allah!)

  • svend

    Thanks for all the interesting comments.
    Abu Sina, killing one’s own children (siblings, kin, …) is obviously chillingly beyond the pale of morality, but I think it’s important to remember that regardless of the religious backdrop such practices can easily be legitimized in collectivist contexts where the rights of the individual are excessively subordinated to that of the group (whether family or tribe). Some hardline conceptions of “tradition” (both Islamic and non-Islamic) contain in them the seeds of this extreme collectivism. Hence the heinous phenomenon of “honor killings”, which aren’t unique to Islam and which make perverse sense when individuals are treated devalued in the name of some abstract ideal (e.g., “the family honor”).
    Also, I’d argue mournfully that the brutal economic realities of developing world make a strong preference for a male child inevitable in many cases. If you’re a rural farmer, factory worker, or worker in any labor intensive field you need somebody with a strong back, somebody who will earn good money etc. Without even getting into the consequneces of patriarchy and sexism, there are a host of practical social, economic and other advantages to having a boy over having a girl in a developing world context. Life is hard in these places, and you need every practical advantage you can get.
    That doesn’t justify this barbaric practice, but it does shed some light on how normal people can be driven to embrace them, I think.
    But what I think is your main point, that India has problems, too, is a fair one. While Westerners tend to fixate on every little thing that’s wrong with Pakistan, India’s sometimes serious problems are often given the kidglove treatment when they’re even acknowledged at all. (For example, for all the talk about Pakistan’s mullahs when’s the last time you had organized, state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing a la Gujarat in India in Pakistan?) Everyone (including Pakistanis) is acutely aware of Pakistan’s many problems, but noone seems interested when similar problems arise in more popular countries.

  • karuthamma

    Hi Svend,
    I am not sure the statement “no one seems
    interested” is correct. I presume you are talking about internationl attention, there was attention from international media outlets and HRights groups during the time of the massacre and BBC has followed it up whenever cases have come up in the courts. Last year Modi’s US visa was cancelled after pressure from campaigners in India and the US. Sure enough, no one talks about the massacre on a systematic basis and that is regrettable. But (not to sound flippant about this)no one talks about Dafur either as public memory is short.
    [I am definitely not suggesting that harmony has been restored in in Gujarat. There are many references as to how well entrenched anti-Muslim prejudice is. Also, I am not suggesting that the international attention was influential in stopping the massacre.It was stopped when Modi got enough mileage out of it. But your point is different.]
    It would be almost silly to suggest that Islamophobia does not play a role in the coverage of events in Pakistan. But, even with the economic boom and some prosperity, the orientalist gaze towards India has not disappeared either. (good e.g. is the documentary on a white woman “saving” the children of sex workers in Calcutta which won an Oscar a year back).
    Actually Hindutvavadis in India suggest the exact opposite (of what you say), that India gets a lot of flak whereas Pakistan is let off the hook because it is a US ally. Not that what they say means anything, but i thought you will find it interesting.

  • http://akramsrazor.typepad.com svend

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Karuthamma.
    I’m commenting more on the general images of India and Pakistan and the extent to which bad news about the country “sticks” in the popular mind. India could have ten more Gujarats but I doubt it would change the fact that India is viewed through a warm & fuzzy lense by Westerners. When violence occurs in the Land of Gandhi it is by definition an abberration, whereas when it happens in Pakistan it is considered yet another example of Pakistan’s true nature.
    Exceptions certainly are being made in Washington for Pakistan under Musharraf in the name of the “War on Terror”, but this is out of desperation and in spite of a deepseated aversion to the country on the part of policymakers. In fact, as the recent treaty with the US shows India is getting highly preferential treatment by the US, to the extent of risking the cause of nonproliferation. The minute Pakistan ceases to play ball with Washington, it will be turned on it with a vengeance.
    As for India’s media coverage, there are obviously exceptions, but I think to call it generally pro-Indian is a bit of an understatement, as not only is is New Delhi’s line generally echoed on the most critical issues (e.g., Kashmir), but India is generally painted as being the center of enlightenment and progress.

  • karuthamma

    Thanks for responding Svend. The thrust of my comment was to address your point that “no one seems interested” when egregious hrts violations occur in India. I am not sure that is affected by whatever good press India gets these days.

  • http://akramsrazor.typepad.com svend

    I’d say yes and no. I exagerrated a bit to make a point. Sure, the media is going to talk about happenings in India that attract international attention and coverage will sometimes be unfavorable, but I believe that the much more positive psychological prism through which India is viewed blunts the impact of bad news of this sort, at least compared to its demonized neighbor. If Gujarat had happened in Pakistan, the international reaction would’ve been infinitely harsher and still raging today. I don’t think the international community wouldn’t have moved on.

  • Some perspective

    “I have seem Hindus try to claim that they actually do just believe in one god, but that they just worship seperately all of the unique manifestations of this god. Hard to believe that when you see elephant headed status being worshipped and human sacrifice still taking place in portions of India to these Gods.”
    I suggest you read the Vedas before making a statement like that. Hindus do believe in the one Universal Being or Supreme Being, it is not a claim. This is not the same as the Islamic or Christian monotheistic God, nor do Hindus wish to have the same concept as the Islamic or Christian monotheistic God. We can have a concept of a Universal or Supreme Being and still worship its many and varied manifestations and see the divine in more than just one limited depiction of God/Supreme Being.
    Also, no offence intended, but Hindus do not want to be seen as people of the book either. That is completely misleading and grossly misrepresents and distorts our beliefs. Our idea of the one Supreme Being, Atman, Brahman, Universal Being is not the same as your idea of one God. Thank you.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/dbrutus/ TM Lutas

    Gender imbalance is a curse, especially when there are more men than women. Those who are young, single, and likely never to succeed in finding a spouse are a major source of crime, social instability, and pro-war sentiment. There seems to be a misplaced asian pride in the male that has spilled over into devaluing the female. The PRC has as bad a gender imbalance problem as India, exacerbated by their foolish 1 child policy. From the fact that there are few Hindus in the PRC, I would draw the conclusion that the problem is not Hinduism per se but a broader cultural artifact that both Islam and Christianity guard against better than Hinduism seems to be doing in the present age.

  • svend

    Thanks for the comment, “Some Perspective”.
    In Islamic tradition, the concept of polytheism is associated with evil. Traditionally, Muslims were taught to view idolaters as enemies of God to whom one can give no quarter and gives no concessions.
    There is a definitional problem here, though, as the early Muslims only had the pagan Quraysh tribe (which was polytheist, sure, but also happened to be committed to exterminating Islam and the struggling Muslim community) to judge by. They didn’t know it was possible to be a polytheist and have a moral code, as Hindus do. (Or an atheist with a moral code, like Buddhists.)
    For this reason, I interpret the “book” in People of the Book to mean moral code less than monotheism.
    This is not such an alien idea to Westerners thanks to the Judeo-Christian tradition. Even today, words “idolatry” and “paganism” have pejorative connotations in English despite the fact that most Westerners are no longer nearly as threatened by polytheism or atheism.
    So, for a Muslim to call members another religion “People of the Book” is to attempt to pay them a compliment and acknolwedge their religion’s legitimacy. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re into monotheism or not.
    My point was that it is not unheard of for Muslim scholars to view Hinduism in a respectful light. Therefore, it is not Islamically appropriate to treat those temples as centers of “idolatry” that need to be destroyed.
    Also, you seem unaware that, whatever the claim’s merits, it is not unusual for Hindus to talk about “God” and argue that Hinduism is also monotheistic at heart.

  • http://tkspeaks.blogspot.com/ The Keling Speaks

    I have to agree with Fariha Nafees. On the surface of these occurences of temple demolishing in Malaysia, religion does seem to be the issue. But I do feel, as a Malaysian Hindu, underneath it, the real culprits are politicians and developers. KL is a fast growing city, and developments are happening left, right and centre (literally). With these Hindu temples, most if not all were on government land. Unscrupulous politicians and local council officers are not bothered with the rights of the poorer section of society (in this case the devotees of the temples), as developers are willing to pay for their lands, to make their millions in real estate and commercial developments.
    The reason behind the temple demolishings is most likely commercial. But the WAY in which the demolishing was carried out, wreaks of religious disrespect. If these were illegal mosques, city hall would have taken a drastically different approach. But who is to blame for this? Politics in Malaysia is increasingly race-oriented, and there are many unscrupulous politicians who use race and religion as a way to control the majority and gain their support. The issues of Malay Supremacy is still fresh in our minds, and it is so obvious our politicians are utilising race and religion as a means to gain power in this country.
    Of course, no denying the fact that there is prejudice and racism in Malaysia, and there is a strong disrespect for other religions based on literal teachings of Islam, but sometimes these are just tools that were held by the hands of politics and money. Hands that demolished the Hindu temples.

  • Peter

    Take a reality check. The MCA (sometimes called “Malaysian Chicken Association’), the MIC (or sometimes ‘Malaysian Idiot Committee) are full time partners of UMNO (or the ‘U Must Not Oppose’ party) in the ruling coalition. Leaders of the first two are frequently balmed by the Chinese Malaysian and the Tamil (Hindu) Malaysians of selling out the two races for favours from the 51% Malay UMNO party. It has something to do with Islam in that UMNO wants to be seen as a the ‘protector’ of the Muslim Malays (many of whom really want to be Taliban or at least Arab in preference to being Malay). The bright and educated non-Malays migrated and are still migrating.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X