Local Muslims need global perspective, say academics

An academic says local Muslims are generally exposed to West Asian schools of thought.

SERI KEMBANGAN: Two academics have called for open-mindedness among Malaysian Muslims so they can gain knowledge from expressions of Islam in other parts of the world.

International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) president Mohd Daud Bakar and former IIUM rector Mohd Kamal Hassan told FMT they believed there was much that the local Muslim community could learn from foreign scholars.

Kamal said local Muslims were generally exposed to West Asian schools of thought and many were not familiar with the thoughts of scholars from Europe, America, Australia, South Africa and certain parts of the Arab world.

Noting that most local Muslims subscribe to the Shafi’i school of legal thought, he said they should try to familiarise themselves with the thoughts of other legal schools.

Daud said not many local Muslims were exposed to the different ways Islam is communicated in various parts of the world.

“I travel a lot and I’ve seen that every locality approaches Islam from its own niche,” he said.

He acknowledged that differences of opinion were inevitable and said tolerance was a key factor in responding to these differences. He spoke of the ethics of disagreement that the classical Muslim scholars were known for.

However, he cautioned against tolerating anything that could harm the peace of the nation.

Commenting on the recent controversy surrounding Indian-born preacher Dr Zakir Naik, he said foreign preachers should still be allowed in Malaysia as long as they have the tact to avoid offending sensitivities.

He said the authorities should screen foreign preachers by checking their credentials and track records before allowing them into the country.

Kamal agreed with Daud, saying foreign preachers must understand the limits imposed by the law.

“If they comply with the requirements of the law and also of the the immigration department, then I think it’s not an issue,” he said.