Sunday, 19 June 2011

How to be an Australian



In an attempt trying to be local Australian, I have invited my mates for a barbecue dinner at my place. There is believed that you are not a truly Australian until you grill barbecue and serve it to your mates.

Because I am a Muslim, I got my all meat from Halals butcher place. This was a start of a good “Kedai Kopi” talk in Australia.  We cannot help ourselves to talk about religion, mostly about being Muslim, terrorisms and the idea that Muslims hate Christian and Jews.

Islam is a peace religion but however the extremist have tarnished the goodwill name of Islam. Every religion has extremist, last time we heard about Ku Klux Klan that believe in white supremacy in Christianity and murder the black and burn them on a cross.

The discussion became more interesting as one of the “panelist” is an atheist which lead to a discussion on why the need of believe in God at the first place.

To set the record right and this is my opinion on the discussion.

Islam means a willing and conscious submission to God. It means one can become a Muslim only by one’s own choice.

 “Let one who desires to believe believe”, says the Quran, “and let one who desires not to believe believe not”.

Islam is a word describing an act, it is what a person does. So it does not simply happen to someone, it comes into being with the person’s volition.

But we must not forget the important fact that Islam is also the name of a particular religion, which implies that the submission is not without form; every Muslim submits willingly and consciously to the will of God as prescribed by the religion of Islam.

The religion of Islam, from the very beginning, makes an open call (or a proposition) to all mankind, that they submit to the will of God, by following the religion that He has revealed to His Messenger, Muhammad.

The Quran declares that only in Islam one can find a way of life that inclines perfectly to human nature. It means, to submit to God according to the way of Islam is a natural thing to do, while any other form of submission (i.e. religions) are not only against human nature but also not acceptable to God.

This is what Islam has been saying about itself and other religions. Upon knowing it, one can either agree or disagree with it. By all means, one can use whatever tools or resources at one’s disposal to investigate and verify the claim. Any decent human being would want to know the truth and live accordingly. He would not subscribe to a false religion, belief or ideology consciously and willingly.

To truly make a choice means to have the knowledge of the nature of the thing under consideration, and to act according to that knowledge. Now Islam is the subject matter under consideration: to accept or reject Islam means to judge whether it is a true or false religion.

So, to reject the proposition: “Islam is the true religion”, means to maintain the opposite: “Islam is not the true religion”, and that requires knowledge of what makes a true religion.

Islam’s claim that it is the only true and accepted religion must be understood: first, that Islam is confident of its truth and that its claim is verifiable to anybody; and second, for Islam it is truth that matters, hence, it calls upon mankind to verify its claim to truth and compare it with the claims of other religions.

It is actually a fair deal for those who believe that truth matters. And it is to people with this state of mind that Islam offers itself for their consideration.

As for those who want to maintain the belief and the way of their forefathers, regardless whether it is true or not, the Quran has this to say: “… even though your forefathers understand nothing?”; and for those who still want to reject despite all that has been said: “(ultimately) for you, your religion, and for me, my religion”.

In this regard, we may say that Islam advocates the principles of “free market” when it comes to ideas. However, it is not “free” in the sense that there are no asymmetries of reason and knowledge, objectivity and truth, hence, “anything goes”.

In an ideal free market economy, there is no government intervention and interference, and the economy is left solely to the decision of the market players. Protectionism is thus considered antithetical to the ideal.

By the same token, Islam does not allow compulsion. In fact, it abhors it. The Quran says it clearly: “No compulsion in religion!”

Free market implies the freedom of the market players to determine the price without external interference. What is assumed in a free market is that the players are rational, and that a rational human being will not do anything that is detrimental to his well being.
A rational choice is a choice that may contribute towards the attainment of happiness, not antithetical to it. One’s choice of religion is actually one’s decision with regard to one’s happiness.

To make the right decision, one has to be free, i.e. free from ignorance, because to make a choice in the state of ignorance is contrary to being rational.

Since knowledge is the key to human freedom, proper education is what a responsible government should provide to its citizens. By proper education, we mean education that enables one to make right moral and practical decisions in life, not the wrong ones.

Having said that, let us go back to the earlier statement that truth is what every decent human being desires to know. This statement is, however, “meaningless” to those who believe that truth does not matter, or even if it matters, nobody can know it.

This attitude is not new, and it is futile to argue with the person of this state of mind. Perhaps what we can do is to make him realize the practical and moral consequences of adopting such an idea.

If truth is meaningless or unknowable, then anything goes and all moral judgements would become absurd. So, if a nation believes it has the right to eliminate other nations, no one should be charged with war crime or genocide.

Ideas indeed have consequences. “Those who can make you believe,” said Voltaire, “can make you commit atrocities.”

Hence, we have the duty to believe carefully. The sincerity of conviction alone can in no way help us.

Many people have acquired belief not by honestly earning it in patient investigation, but by stifling their doubts. This is not acceptable as far as Islam is concerned because Islam is not to be founded upon doubts but upon knowledge and certainty.

I consider myself as “poor” Muslim and thus to I need to learn more.

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