By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
20 November 2015
The following quote is from a readers comment on an article praising the response to the recent Paris attacks by an articulate young Muslim media personality:-
The comment was, “I am just waiting for the grand mufti to lead the way”.
The sarcasm that oozes out from the statement above is not perhaps appreciated by the readers outside the country. It is based on the Grand Mufti of Australia’s parallel statement to the press.
The Mufti as the ‘leader’ of the Muslim community had issued a statement on the tragic events in Paris but it caused huge ‘misunderstanding’ in the media. The statement was given in Arabic and was translated into English. It was alleged by the mufti’s minders that it was misquoted and had lost is essence and real meaning.
The Mufti of Australia is an Egyptian (Sunni Muslim) and is referred to as Professor and Doctor A religious academic from the oldest madrasa in the Muslim world, Al Azhar, the beacon of light.
Unlike many muftis who stand out like the proverbial sore thumb in their ‘Islamic’ gown and weirdo headgear; this mufti presents himself in public dressed in the best of Western style clothing. That is a welcome change from the pseudo holy apparels that are worn by most religious leaders.
The grand Mufti has been living in the country for over two decades now, and was elected by the Australian National Imams Council. Who elects them is not the subject here. One assumes the council comprises only of Sunnis. If so, then it says a lot about imams’ council: the prayer leaders of the churches representing ALL Muslims.
Much like the one previous grand mufti of Australia years ago, the current grand mufti conducts media interviews in Arabic language too and therefore requires an interpreter to translate his statements into English—the language of the country,
After the media had analysed his statements, it raised a storm over what was thought he had said. The Grand Mufti’s statements then needed number of attempts to “explain what he had really meant”. Very often it is too late and the damage is done to the Muslim community’s standing in the nation as a whole!
Under the highly charged political atmosphere of today and the focus of the world on the so called ‘Islamic’ terrorism; it is so important that the Muslim political leadership in countries such as Australia, a modern Western country, should comprise of politically savvy, articulate and of high diplomatic calibre so that the “spins” that the media may present to the world is nipped in the bud at source.
It is probably true that his presentations to the media in the Arabic language are not tinged with the holiness of the Arabic language, but is due to his lack of confidence in English language. Nevertheless it is a big loophole for others to misconstrue his statements.
And who can blame them. After all, the medium of communication of the nation is the English language and anybody masquerading as a citizen of the country and representative of a community must be a speaker to articulate his/her intent in the language of the land.
The misunderstanding, and then because of it, the misrepresentation of the community is a huge setback in an already volatile climate.
Fortunately there is no shortage of well educated, politically savvy and articulate young Muslims men and women to speak on behalf of the Muslim community in the country. The unfortunate thing is the general attitude of the Muslims to look for ‘guidance’ from the keepers of the religions and houses of worship. Hence the double edged sword of the vested interests of the guides on one hand and ignorance of the community in general on the other is a cause for concern.
It is a big setback to the community that it should think it necessary to be represented by purely religious scholars in today’s enlightened world of the West. In a country like Australia where rightly or wrongly the cliché: ‘religion and politics should not mix’ and where the church is for worship and the Parliament a house of politics; the Muslims should still be hanging to the apron strings of the prayer leaders like Maulana and Mufti to represent them. This is a dilemma and retrogressive step.
It therefore becomes necessary to address this leadership claim that of mufti, grand or not, in terms of the faith Islam, the source of which is the Quran.
The Messenger is addressed in the two verses, Chapter Four ‘Nisaa’ verses 127 and 176 with identical words, thus:-
4-127 & 176, they ask you for an edict– fatwa and then the Messenger is directed to say unequivocally that- God gives you these instructions…
Fatwa it seems is an exclusive domain of God and not even a Messenger/Apostle can issue one. Therefore for anybody, scholar or not, to hold the title Mufti and act as if he or she can issue a fatwa even in religious terms, is clearly playing god!
This title in the context of leadership is therefore misleading to say the least and smacks of duplicity to heavily bolster the political position by giving it religious overtones so as to mislead the religious community.
It is unfathomable that those who are supposed to be scholars of the Book should perpetuate this double dipping for the sake of maintaining their status and position.
In many Muslim countries, and particularly the named “Islamic” states, have this titled position on government payroll, contrary to the Book and history of the very early period of Muslims.
Mufti was not a position created by the Messenger Muhammad or by the early Khalifsof the first century. Religiously and or politically there seems to be no justification for the position of mufti or grand mufti to represent the Muslim community today. It was a position created much later by the rulers in order to create a buffer between themselves and the public; should the public rise against them; which has happened a few times.
The leadership issue for the Muslim community in the West is an important issue to resolve. In the ostensibly democratic countries where Muslims have migrated to make home, often going back generations must adopt democratic means to elect their representatives on the basis of political acumen, educational merit and not on religiosity and religious scholarship alone.
Religions by their very nature and their different ideologies are inherently divisive and therefore hinder the process of integration and harmony in the country and peaceful coexistence in the world at large.
All religions, it is said aspire for peace through love and kindness to fellow human beings. But there is no evidence of that throughout human history. If it was true then how is it that many of the world conflicts were and are based on religious differences?
What is evident today is that Islam is extensively used as a religion by many countries and people in conflicts; to implement their particular political and strategic agenda. It is most important that the people who claim to be leaders of Muslims community in the West are fully cognisant of and aware of various agendas camouflaged as “Islam”.
It is the leader’s duty to steer the community safely out of the mire by not pontificating on the causes and effects in foreign languages, creating further complications of “misunderstanding” which the media is quick to manipulate for its purpose. Unfortunately that is its allotted and accepted task!
For a leader and representative to use foreign language is a clear indication of ghetto mentality and insularism on his/her part, which does not auger well for their future generation who might end up stranded and confused between the two worlds.
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer