PETALING JAYA: A celebrity preacher’s call for Muslims to refrain from cleaning up the houses of worship of non-Muslims is wrong on two fronts, a prominent Turkish scholar said, adding that such remarks are offensive.
Mustafa Akyol said in today’s modern world Muslims are fellow citizens with people of other faiths, or even those without any religious faith at all.
He said the status of citizenship implies a civil contract based on mutual respect, similar to the Constitution of Medina which was signed by the Prophet Muhammad with Jews and the polytheists of Medina.
“In Malaysia, Hindus are similarly fellow citizens, and Muslims should help them when they are in need.
“This would not be a violation of Islamic principles. Quite the contrary, it would be a reflection of Islamic ethics,” said Akyol, a senior fellow on Islam and modernity at the Cato Institute, a US-based libertarian think tank.
He told FMT that while the Quran does include condemnation of “mushrikun” (polytheists) in Arabia during the Prophet’s time, these group of people were also oppressors who tortured the first Muslims in Mecca for merely saying, “Our Lord is one”.
In other words, the Quran’s condemnation is against a specific people — Meccan polytheists who persecuted the first Muslims, he explained.
This condemnation could not be extended to other non-Abrahamic faiths around the world. “That is also why, in Islamic history, Hindus were accepted as ‘the People of the Book,’ who, according to Islamic law, deserve religious freedom.”
Yesterday, celebrity preacher Azhar Idrus was reported as saying that Muslims could clean up mosques and surau, but not non-Muslims’ houses of worship that were affected by the floods.
In a Tiktok video, Azhar made reference to the story of Prophet Ibrahim, who demolished idols in a temple in his town.
“So, don’t interfere. It’s your own matter and your own religion. To idol worshippers, we don’t want (to interfere),” he said, according to a report in The Vibes.
“We have our own religion. We can clean up mosques and surau, but we do not wash idols. And through that, we can differentiate those who are faithful from those who are impious.”
His comments, which earned the ire of netizens, come in the wake of a video that went viral on social media featuring a group of students from the International Islamic University Malaysia cleaning a flood-hit Hindu temple in Klang.
Akyol said he believed Muslims did no wrong by respecting Hindu temples and even helping restore them, even though they do not believe in Hindu gods.
“But we honour Hindus as fellow human beings, who, just like us, deserve sympathy and respect,” he said.