Muslims need freedom to think, not imposed religion, says Turkish author
Banning books and words, such as “Allah”, will not make one’s faith stronger but merely serve to make societies more ignorant about the world, a Turkish author says.
Speaking at a forum titled “Is political Islam a threat to democracy?” at Sunway University in Petaling Jaya, Mustafa Akyol said not being able to counter challenges with intellectual responses was a sign of Muslim stagnation.
He related an incident where he expressed his views to a Turkish Islamic scholar that Christian missionaries should be free to distribute Bibles in Turkey and say what they wanted to say.
“And he said to me, ‘but these Christian missionaries are so well informed, we don’t know anything to counter them’.
“And I said to him, ‘so we will forever remain uninformed?’,” said Akyol, a columnist with the International New York Times.
He added that certain states took the view that banning books and certain words were the best way to avoid confusion among the people.
“Yes, they won’t be confused forever as they will not know much about these ‘disturbing’ ideas, but then there will be no need for them to learn new things or develop themselves either,” he added.
Akyol also said he often wondered why was it always that “others confused Muslims” but never the case of “Muslims confusing others”.
“I wonder why we Muslims don’t confuse other people, but other people always confuse us.
“And I wonder how we would feel if certain concepts from our tradition are banned in Christian-majority countries, for instance, what if there was a ban on Muslims from uttering the word ‘Jesus’ on the basis that it could confuse Christians?
“We wouldn’t be too happy about that.”
Akyol added that insults to Islam should instead be “tolerated legally but countered intellectually”.
During question time, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir said in order for there to be intellectual discourse on Islam, the presumption would be that there were intellectuals able to counter these arguments.
She, however, said in many Muslim countries, the level of education was poor resulting in inadequate capacity to respond in a reasonable and intellectual way.
“For example, people want hudud because they are unable to think intellectually the impact of such a law, simply because they are not educated,” said Marina.
Akyol agreed with her observation and said this was the reason states needed to put their efforts into educating the people by opening up rather than banning websites and books.
“What we want from the state is not religion, but freedom.
“Let the state give us our freedom, we will follow our own religion.
“And if we don’t, it’s between us and God,” he said.
When asked by Marina whether part of the Islamic authoritarian political project was to keep their people dumb, Akyol said it was the reality that some preferred to maintain the status quo.
“For instance, if you are a member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia, the world is perfect, great, wonderful.
“Why would you need to change things?
“Therefore, we should criticise elites who take the role of blockers of free thought.” – January 26, 2016.