Scholar calls for debates on fatwas

Zuhairi-Misrawi

KUALA LUMPUR: A fatwa issued by any individual or group is only an opinion and need not be turned into law, according to a scholar representing Nahdatul Ulama, the world’s largest Islamic organisation.

Zuhairi Misrawi, speaking at a symposium here yesterday, noted that religious leaders were constantly issuing contradictory fatwas on certain issues.

This was why, he said, it was important for scholars to have debates on such issues.

He spoke of a current controversy in Indonesia related to the bid by Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama to defend his post in elections in February.

He noted that a group of religious leaders, including those from the Indonesia Ulama Council, were saying that Muslims are not allowed to vote for officials who happen to be Jewish or Christian.

Purnama, more fondly known as Ahok, is a Christian.

Zuhairi said he and many other scholars were in disagreement with those telling Muslims to reject Ahok, who, he added, had a track account of bringing improvements to Jakarta.

“We have criticised ulamas holding such views,” he said. “They have their own views, but other ulamas, like myself, also have our views.”

On October 13, thousands of Jakarta citizens participated in a demonstration led by a radical Islamist group, Front Pembela Islam, to protest against Ahok.

Human rights lawyer Firdaus Husni also spoke at yesterday’s symposium. He criticised Malaysian groups that would not speak up on religious issues in the belief that such matters should be handled only by recognised religious leaders.

“It should not be that way,” he said. “However, it seems that years of political propaganda have made our society one that accepts without questioning.”