The education ministry recently announced a task force to re-look the Islamic education curriculum in government schools.
In line with the vision of Malaysia Baru, the task force invited feedback from all Malaysians. Immediately, Muslim and Malay groups said the move was undermining the sanctity of Islam by allowing non-Muslims to participate in the survey.
The main criticism is that non-Muslims should not comment on Islam.
Islam is a Malaysian issue, not just a Muslim one. I don’t want to use simplistic arguments, such as Dr Zakir Naik being allowed to comment on other religions, or a mufti who comments on Hindu practices.
Non-Muslims could ask if the Islamic education syllabus should address the use of derogatory terms on them.
Perhaps they could raise the issue of Quranic recitations being blared for hours from mosque loudspeakers, disturbing Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Does it require a degree from Al-Azhar to tell that it is wrong to disturb others?
Prophet Muhammad once admonished imams who recited lengthy chapters of the Quran during prayers, as it was hard for the elderly and those with young children.
Once, the caliph Umar Abd Aziz recited the Quran loudly in the mosque in the wee hours of the morning with the intention of waking people up for prayers. An elderly Muslim then told him to recite silently.
Perhaps the Islamic syllabus could also address the silence of some Muslims when non-Muslim lives are destroyed in terror attacks, leading some to ask if they are only concerned about Muslim lives.
Perhaps the curriculum could correct the perception that all non-Muslims are enemies.
Perhaps non-Muslims could ask to re-look at how gender issues are addressed so that wife-beating can be considered a crime.
During the time of the Prophet, women were treated so badly that Prophet Muhammad had to carefully change this culture by recommending to the Arabs that they be tapped lightly instead.
What about changing the way some Muslims treat minority groups such as Shias and Ahmadis, or those among the LGBT?
The curriculum should also warn students against performing the haj and umrah using dirty money.
Lastly, non-Muslims may want to ask that a new Islamic curriculum teaches students to treat non-Muslims with dignity.
The Prophet once stood up to pay respects to a funeral procession of a Jew, much to the surprise of the Muslims. When asked, he replied, “Did he not have a soul, too?”
Students should also be told how early Muslims sought protection from a Christian king in Abyssinia. Thus, young Muslims should be taught dignity and respect for people of other faiths who strive to do good.
We must learn to accept constructive comments on our faiths to help us co-exist peacefully.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.