Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Shi'as are not Muslims"

I've heard people mention this many times, even among relative moderates here in Indonesia.  Sometimes it's not about Shi'a, sometimes it's Salafis, Sufis, Wahabis, or others I may never even heard of.  Well my degree is in IT but I've been to a Shi'a prayer once so I'm an authority on this topic (/end sarcasm).  There are differences in practices and traditions between Shi'a and mainstream Sunni, even the shahada (declaration of faith), the first pillar of Islam, is slightly different between the two.

Regardless of the ideological differences, we need to really think about how sectarianism has been the strongest driving force behind the chaos in the Arab world.  When somebody proclaims religious legitimacy, 'my Islam is more Islamic than yours', it creates animosity, and inevitably fuels conflicts.  Islam teaches its adherents to study everything on Earth and in the heavens, and it's up to individual decisions to choose what he/she believes in, but I've never seen scripture giving you, any student of Islam, the right to declare other Muslims as heathens or apostates.

If you're feeling nostalgic, remember how Islam reached its golden age by embracing rich cultural heterogeneity and pursuit of scientific endeavors.  Ibn Sina, the father of modern medicine, al-Khawarizmi, who wrote the foundations of algebra -- they may not be household names but they really should be.  At least they should be household names for Muslim families from Nigeria to Indonesia

What the (Muslim) world needs is more unity in diversity, nation building, and economic, social and scientific pursuits -- and less bickering over tribalism and minor differences in the way we look, speak, and pray.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On Sectarianism

If you ever wonder about how the heck the Muslim world gets divided by sectarian lines, Israel vs Palestine, Shia vs Sunni, Kurdish vs everyone else, check out a recent op-ed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin on President Obama's foreign policy.

"...The whole world weeps waiting for American leadership in these troubled times as Islamic savages commit genocide against the Christians of the Middle East and terrorize innocent people in cities across the globe..."

There are obvious errors and misperceptions: ISIS has primarily killed Shi'as, Yazidis, Kurds, Sunnis that don't pledge allegiance to ISIS, their own people, and so on; they're not committing genocide against Christians because, well, Christians had mostly fled and there's not that many of them left in the battleground.   However the implication of her (somewhat bizarre) rant is clear.  She has tranformed a civil war pitting local tribes and factions within Iraq and Syria, into a total war between Muslim and Christian civilizations.  The entire world is forced to choose sides. That's how sectarianism becomes the defining factor for the world we live in.

We are better than that. Don't fall for this nonsense.