Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Qur’an project not what was reported


There were loud protests from the Malaysian Consultative Council for Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) regarding the Islamic Information and Services Foundation’s (IIS) “One Soul One Qur’an” project that was launched by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently.

“We have not distributed any Qur’an yet. It has not started. It will not be distributed randomly among non-Muslims but through religious organisations. It's up to non-Muslims to take them or not. We are also not taking down their personal information,” said IIS in its statement clarifying what is really going on.

Actually, back in 1998, IIS had a similar project called “Hotel Qur'an Project” in which it distributed Qur’ans to hotels all over Malaysia to be placed in hotel rooms side-by-side with the Gideon’s Bible. That project was approved by JAKIM with the endorsement of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

This project of 17 years ago was announced in all the newspapers and was even covered by the primetime TV news. Somehow it did not receive the loud protests that it is receiving now. I suppose it was because the announcement then was that the Qur’ans would be placed side-by-side with the Gideon’s Bible so they could not protest the plan to place the Qur’an in hotel rooms without also protesting the Bibles.

It looks like the negative response was a bit too premature and was based on the misconception that the move was aimed at converting non-Muslims to Islam, which IIS has denied. Their aim is merely to allow non-Muslims to understand Islam to dispel the notion that Islam is a violent religion that preaches extremism and radicalism.

I have heard many comments from people asking as to why the moderate Muslims, what we would probably call the silent majority, remain silent and do not speak out against extremists, especially in light of what is going on all over the world involving extremist Muslims.

Well, here we now have moderate Muslims attempting to do precisely that, and an effort that is supported by Dr Mahathir, someone who has spoken out against extremist Muslims and radical Islam. I feel we should give IIS the benefit of the doubt and allow them to embark on this project of information and see what they go from there.

We always condemn extremist Muslims as being misguided and ill informed about what ‘real’ Islam is. We also always blame the education system for breeding extremist Muslims.

And then when a moderate Muslim organisation like IIS takes up the challenge to counter extremist Muslims and radical Islam we also condemn them and refuse to lend them our support.

I suppose this reminds me of that 1960s song, ‘Give peace a chance’, and what IIS is asking for is just to give peace a chance. I would support them until and unless it is proven that they have an ulterior motive other than bridging the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims by better educating everyone regarding Islam.

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