Religion and Choices

This post was originally published on my Facebook profile yesterday. Reproducing it here today because of the Allah appeal that is currently happening.

So today it finally struck me. I mean, I know this intellectually, but this is the first time I’ve felt the truth of it hit hard in the gut.

Why in the world are we so preoccupied with someone else’s religion?

Religion isn’t a numbers game. It’s not a competition where the religion with the most followers automatically win the world, or God’s favour and blessings on them forever. If you have your beliefs, then so be it. You have your faith in your God, and I have my faith in my Goddess. Pure and simple. When you die, if there is an afterlife, then you’ll be answerable to your God. That is all. God’s going to ask you what you did. He’s not going to reward the entire religious organisation without evaluating the sum of its parts.

And so if you have faith in your God and religion, then nothing can turn you away from it. Having someone curse you, drinking holy water, air zam zam or wailing at the Wall isn’t going to turn you away from the religion of your CHOICE.

Yes, that is the keyword.

Choice.

No one can force you to believe in a faith you do not have. You may have doubts about your faith, you may have doubts about God’s existence, you may even doubt that your deity is the person you thought they were.

But here’s the thing: It’s YOU.

You make the choice to believe in them. YOU make the choice to hold on to your faith. YOU make the choice to believe in the tenets of your faith, to keep to it, and to hold it sacred and practice for as long as you shall live or so choose.

No one, but YOU yourself.

Belief is, as you grow older, a personal choice. There is no one who holds a gun to your head and say “BELIEVE IN MY WORD THAT PIGS WILL FLY” and you will believe in your heart, unless you choose to. Someone may take your hand, put a pen in it, and then write “I AM A BELIEVER” with your hand, but if you do not believe it in your head, then it is meaningless.

So stop pushing the responsibility for your faith onto others. I cannot slap you and make you believe that my Goddess is greater than yours, unless you choose to believe my words. By that token, you cannot force belief in me that your God and religion is really greater than mine.

Stop thinking that drinking holy water, walking by a church or into a mosque, listening to Buddhist chants and/or smelling temple incense is going to turn you away from your religion. HAVE FAITH IN YOUR RELIGION LA!

**Note: I have deliberately left out times when you doubt the existence of God in this essay, aka nights of the soul.

Photo of the Day

Erkyah Badu in tears at Malaysian concert cancellation announcement

What good is religion if you push out love if it’s not in your comfort zone?
Erkyah Badu, 29 March 2012

Alt text reads: Erkyah Badu in tears at Malaysian concert cancellation announcement

Honestly, if you can’t reject love because it’s not in your comfort zone… What kind of a person are you?

Stop Policing Women’s Bodies

Dear Friends,

But particularly those in the US. Especially if you’re in Mississippi, which I doubt that most of you are.

Please sign this petition to stop the redefinition of personhood. The Attorney General of Mississippi is proposing legislation that would define personhood to have begun from the moment of conception.

With that redefinition, you’re considered a human being from the moment conception happens. Which means abortion is not an option. Not for rape. Not for incest. Not even if the mother’s and child’s life is threatened by the child in her belly.

In fact, it also means you can’t take birth control pills. Or morning after pills. Anything that might prevent conception. A woman is thereby reduced to being nothing than a brood mare. To be nothing but an animal to receive a man’s sperm and carry that baby to term. Her wishes have no say.

This is not a campaign to define what it means to be a human. It’s a campaign to remove the meaning of being human. It removes choice. It removes the right of women to make their own decision for what happens in their bodies.

This is not about being anti-abortion. It’s about the state saying to women, “You MUST have babies. If you have sex, too bad. You must now carry it to term. If you have a disease that will kill you, too bad, the clump of cells in your tummy must be birthed. If you have been raped, too bad. You must live with the trauma for another 9 months.”

Oh yes. Miscarriage would be considered manslaughter. Miscarriage.

If you feel as disgusted as I do, please sign the petition. And no, it doesn’t matter if you’re from the US or not. A message needs to be sent. Our bodies are our own. The State should not, and cannot, be allowed to have a say in it.

In case you’re wondering, I’m writing this because the thought of having the state, even if the state is not my own, having the state control my body is terrifying. I can’t do much but spread the word, and hope that it gets to the right people.

[Politics/Religion] Walking into a mosque

So, a few weeks ago, a DAP MP walked into a mosque to present a cheque for Raya, which is coming soon. She says that she had been invited by the mosque committee to enter the prayer hall and to give a speech. Obliging them on both counts, she then spoke to them about the state government’s (Selangor’s) education programme. Utusan and quite a few BN-related papers got a hold of the story and went to town with it.

A good chunk and summary of the whole case can be found on the Nut Graph.

My personal take on it?

If this picture is true, and it seems to be, then I do agree that the MP in question, Teo Nie Ching, did commit a faux pas in entering the mosque. Her faux pas isn’t that she was a non-Muslim entering the prayer hall of a mosque, but that she did not demonstrate enough respect to the religion. i.e. I believe she should have worn at least a loose head covering, which she seems to have done so at a later function.

It’s unfortunate though, that a simple gesture as visiting the house of worship of another religion has been turned into a political issue. Make no mistake. I don’t see this as a religious issue at all, not when there are Muslim scholars, even within Malaysia, who see no wrong in a non-Muslim visiting a mosque if they have business to conduct with said Muslims. No, I do not mean scholars like Nik Aziz who does have a political stake in the outcome.

I’m talking about Selangor’s own mufti (a Muslim scholar who is, as Google tells me, also empowered to proscribe a fatwa or Islamic religious ruling) Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid who wrote a letter that stated,

“According to history, the Prophet (while he lived) in Medina did not repulse any visits by Jews or Christians who wanted to meet him even when he was in the mosque of Medina,” said Tamyes in the letter addressed to Jais’ chief assistant director in charge of mosques. They would come with a request, seeking justice (in a dispute) or for an administrative or other matter. It is understood from such incidents that there is no prohibition in Islam for meetings to be held within mosques other than the Masjid Al-Haram in blessed Makkah so long as they are held with good intentions.”

That view is also shared by former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin who believes there is nothing wrong with a non-Muslim visiting a mosque as long as it was with good intentions, also quoted in the same piece.

So, from my point of view, this is not a religious matter at all. This is a simple misunderstanding that has been blown out of proportions to make it look like a religious attack when it is none. I wonder, does this cancel the fasts of all those who claim that Teo is a dirty person thus for entering a mosque?

[Poetry] Setiap Bayang Ada Cahayanya

Merunsing
Hatiku berpusing
Kegelisahan bertambah
Di ambang merdeka kini

Kekecohan
Di jalanan, mahupun di kampung
Di bandar dan di rumah
Semuanya gemuruh

Dalam kegelapan ini
Teringat suatu peribahasa
Di mana bayangnya, di situlah cahaya

Dengan cahaya wujudlah gelapan
Dalam sinaran adalah bayangnya
Untuk setiap yang inginkan kemusnahan
Wujudlah lebih ramai yang inginkan keamanan

Negaraku bukannya yang termoden
Negaraku mungkin terlalu runsing
Tapi yang adanya macha
Tiada warna, tiada sempadan

Mereka yang mementingkan diri
Terlalu inginkan kuasa dan wang
Sehingganya negara yang menjadi mangsa
Rakyatnya yang merana

Dalam bayangan wujudlah cahaya
Dalam runsingan wujudnya jawapan
Dalam kegelapan adalah harapan
Dalam rakyat adalah pendirian

Kepada mereka yang inginkan kemusnahan
Kepada mereka yang inginkan kuasa
Baliklah, iblis, ke nerakamu
Tinggalkan negaraku Malaysia sekarang!

Ditulis sempena Kemerdekaan Malaysia ke 53 dan Hari Malaysia ke 47. Inspired by a quote from the Mothership, “who would like to remind you that in this ever present darkness, there’s always someone nearby with a light. And if you’re willing, you can be that light.”

Chibi Tudung is cute!

 Chibi Nun says: A nun can be covered from head to toe in order to devote herself to God, right?  Then Chibi Veil girl says, but then, if a Muslim girl does it, why is she being oppressed?
Original image taken from Tiara’s blog

This got me thinking while I was talking to Jhameia about why people (read: Caucasian Christians) get so uptight around veiled women. The following proposal is not fully thought out and so may require some fine-tuning?

For me, I feel that part of the reason why the veil threatens such males (and to an extent, the females) so much is that they are confused about the sexuality and “availability” of veiled Muslim women.

For instance, the veiled Christian nun sends a strong message; I am a woman devoted completely to God, and thereby unavailable to you, ever, by virtue of my vows. This means that no one can ever own a nun, because they are owned by God.

A veiled Muslim woman, on the other hand, signifies that she is devoted to her God, but is still available for carnal relations because her veil merely signifies her commitment to God religiously but does not signal her inavailability to marriage. In other words, she confuses the white Male by being both available and unavailable at the same time.

Confused? Here’s another example to tell you to illustrate the point. It’s the same as a woman who goes to a bar, enjoys herself on the dance floor, lets herself be filmed by a camera crew while she’s dancing, and then protesting LOUDLY when her top’s pulled down to show her breasts.

Does that sound fucked up to you? GREAT, BECAUSE IT REALLY DID HAPPEN.

In essence, it is the simple idea that any woman who behaves in a manner that may be deemed “wild” or “disruptive” deserves not only to be oppressed, but also discriminated against. This discrimination need not be overt, but it can be subtle. As subtle as a woman who seems “surprised” that her daughter chose to wear the veil/tudung instead of a bikini.

Edit: With regards to the “oppressed” statement in the picture, and to explain the rest of my entry, when I say oppressed in this context, it is to say that a veiled Muslim woman is an oppressed woman. In other words, she cannot be seen to choose to wear the veil out of her own free will, because most Caucasians (in this context) believe that a Muslim woman dons the veil because she is FORCED/PRESSURED to do so, hence the oppression. The very idea that a woman may CHOOSE to wear the veil because she feels more comfortable in it flies in the face of a lot of people, especially who cannot understand a woman choosing to do something because it is her own choice.

Headdesk time!

In reply to Perkasa saying that Islam shouldn’t be put on the same level as other religions…

DPM: Inter-faith panel just a ‘small fry’

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin today moved to placate Muslim concerns that the establishment of the inter-faith panel would undermine the status of Islam.

Speaking to reporters in Sungai Buaya, Hulu Selangor said the panel was made up of “small-fry” and was legally toothless and thus, was no threat to Islam.

“It is just an avenue to allow space for better understanding between religions in the country,” Muhyiddin said.

He added that that the body not a commission and it has no powers to influence the country’s policies.

“They are just small fry, (with) a small role played within the Prime Minister Department,” he said.

Muhyiddin said this in response to Malay rights pressure group Perkasa’s criticism of the panel, which was established under the National Unity and Integration Department, led by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Koh Tsu Koon.

The panel would be headed by former Kota Bharu MP Ilani Isahak and include representatives from the Islamic Development Department, Institute of Islamic Understanding and the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

Ibrahim argued that the panel should be headed by a prominent Muslim scholar and as it stands, the panel seemingly sidestepped the Rulers Council which is the highest governing body on matters concerning Islam.

Muhyiddin also brushed aside Ibrahim’s criticism of Ilani’s credentials, adding that the senior lawyer was qualified for the job.

“She has vast experience so let’s give her a chance,” he said.

[Civicness] Silence is not an option

I happened to read this post from the Merch Girl‘s blog before I read Haris Ibrahim’s take on a dead Hindu man who was declared a Muslim at the last minute.

The first emotion that came to me was rage. I’m VERY angry at the way those in the position of power will attempt to do anything and everything they can to get money. That, and the fact that according to most of these “Muslims” there needs to be NO sensitivity spared for those mourning the loss of their beloved.

It is as though to these people, that a bereaving family does not deserve to be treated like human beings because they are not humans. That it’s perfectly fine to submit flimsy pieces of evidence (a conversion cert that did not even match the signature of the deceased!) and call that person a Muslim. Did I mention that these monsters also thought it fit to take away a BREAST-FEEDING CHILD FROM HER MOTHER because she was “of the wrong religion” and needed rehabilitation?

I’m sick of being treated like a second-class citizen because some people associate the idea of “Official Religion” with superiority. That debate is halted because calling into question the way Islam is treated in this country is an insult to that religion.

I’m sick of being told what to say, and what I cannot. I’m tired of being insulted. I’m so tired of watching my country get stolen despite the fact that we voted. I’m tired of racists who insist that I must recognise myself as a Malaysian first, but yet insist that they are Malays first before the country.

I’m sick of people who don’t know their jobs trying to tell me what to do. I hate that lies are so common here in Malaysia. That daughters, sisters and mothers who need safety are treated like animals to satisfy animals.

I’m tired of being ignored because I am a woman. I’m tired of watching my sisters be attacked because they are women, and they are women with powerful voices.

I will NOT remain silent. I WILL remember. I WILL SPEAK. I will WRITE. It is the only thing I can do.

3:10 Success Rates

Excuse me for clogging up your feeds. Sorry about that

I’ve got a few questions for Information Minister Dr Rais. According to the article I just translated here, his statements raise more questions than they do answers. First off though, I would like to tip my hat off to him, for at least not joining in the gossip about Maya Karin (though Utusan seems to want him to).

Studies carried out in Malaysia between 1995 to 1998 discovered that only three out of every ten mixed marriages succeed.
I’d like to know what is his definition of success. Some couples could be together and still have a failed marriage; they argue, fight, and cheat on each other without actually getting a divorce.

The reality was there were a lot of hardship a mixed couple would face.
Isn’t this the same no matter what the circumstances of your marriage is? No matter the culture, marriage is not a bed of roses. Ideally, this could be bad translation on my part, but reading the context, Rais seems to paint the picture that only mixed marriages have problems while it is smooth sailing for the non-mixed marriages.

Children getting kidnapped back to their home country
I find it very amusing he said this, he’s completely forgotten about this. So how, Mr Rais? Why does Indira have to raise her children as Muslims and not as Hindus? Are you going to overturn the previous and unjust sentence meted out to her children?

Also on the home country thing
Sir, did you mean international mixed marriages, or did you just mean mixed marriages in general? You see sir, I ask because I’m a child of a mixed marriage. My family’s as Malaysian as you can get. I dare say that we’re really Bangsa Malaysia, or 1Malaysia, whatever you want to call rojaks like us. Both my parents are Malaysian nationals.

Thus, while I can understand your worry about children snatching internationally, I feel you do a discredit to everyone else.

Which brings me to my last question: Sir, do you have any friends who are of mixed blood like me?