Saturday, February 14, 2015

The danger of religious indoctrination


The Malaysian government has expressed concern that quite a number of Malaysian Muslims are going to the Middle East to join the Islamic State (IS) forces to fight. In fact, Muslims from all over the world are doing so, even those from the Western countries, Australia, and so on.

While the government may be puzzled as to why Muslims are so gullible and are so easily persuaded in taking up arms and in risking death in such a dangerous pursuit, it is really not that mysterious as to why this is happening.

I would blame this on the religious education these Muslims are being subjected to. In fact, you can even say it is religious indoctrination because sometimes this is what it boils down to.

Muslims are taught that jihad is mandatory upon all Muslims. And Muslims are further taught that if you die in the cause of jihad you will die the death of a syahid (martyr) and get to go straight to heaven. Hence what these Muslims are doing is merely what they believe is their religious obligation, to which the reward will be heaven.

The problem lies with the way Muslims are being educated. When religion is oversimplified and jihad translates to fighting for God and Syahid as the reward for doing so, you will have many Muslims going over to the Middle East to fight just like the Christians did during the Crusades of about 1,000 years ago.

Religious education cannot be oversimplified to the point that Muslims become misinformed. No doubt jihad is part of the Islamic doctrine but jihad exists in only certain situations. And the current situation in the Middle East, which is a civil war between Muslims of different sects, cannot be interpreted as coming under the ambit of the cause of defending Islam against non-Muslim aggression.

Muslims must not forget that the first civil war between Muslims during the time of the Caliphs of Medina divided the Muslims for good and until today this division is still a problem in the Muslim world. This is not quite what Islam means by jihad.

The onus should be on the religious authorities to impart proper Islam teachings on Malaysian Muslims. Islam should not be politicised to the extent that Malaysian Muslims become militant and think this is what Allah has commanded.

As we say in the academic world, there are no bad students -- there are only bad teachers. And if Muslims become misguided we should blame the teachers and not the students. Hence the government needs to take more interest in what and how we teach Muslims lest Malaysians become too militant and think they are serving a noble cause through militancy.

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