A REJOINDER TO IKIM’S WAN AZHAR AHMAD
By: Kassim Ahmad
1 May, 2009
The Malaysian cabinet recent ruling on conversion of children be in accord with the wishes of both parents brought praise from non-Muslims, but opposition from Muslims. Dr. Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad if IKIM wrote a strong article in his Tuesday column (see The Star, 28 April, 2009) denigrating human rights. In his arguments, he went so far as to argue for plurality and relativity of values. “What is perfectly moral in certain cultures might not be the same in certain other cultures, ”he intoned, wiping out the universalism espoused by Islam.
He went so far as to inveigh on secularism to denounce human rights. “The current international framework of human rights is largely – if not completely – based on secular philosophy,” he says. This is strange. Islam does not view the human being as consisting of two contradictory parts: the mind-body duality. Therefore, his rejection of secularism is misplaced.
The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights adopted on 10th December, 1945, also called Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is universal precisely because it reflected universal humanistic values of freedom, justice and peace. These are moral values embedded in the lives of the Human Community and are applicable universally. According to the teachings of Islam, God sent His messengers to all human communities throughout history, from Prophet Adam right up to Prophet Muhammad, including such major prophets as Abraham, Moses and Jesus. It is these divine teachings that have resulted in that important legal document of the Human Family. For Wan Azhar to dismiss it as “secular” belies ignorance and a narrow exclusivist frame of mind.
Incidentally, his remarks that “… freedom of religious conversion enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is antithetical to Islam. Islam has its own way of dealing with such an issue. No one has the right to interfere in matters they do not understand,” betray a sad state of contradiction in his understanding of Islam and an attitude bordering on arrogance. I am a Muslim and I am proud to find the Muslim scripture, the Noble Quran, stating the principle of absolute freedom of religion ahead of the Universal Declaration by 14 centuries!
Of all the prophets, Muhammad was the only one that God sent to the whole of mankind, the others being sent to their national groups. Now that Muhammad’s teachings in the Quran have become universal should be a matter of happiness and celebration rather than sorrow and opposition!