The recent killing of 12 journalists in Paris is “expected”, to those who always have the impression that Muslims are terrorists and will kill those they who cross their path.
This suggests a trend, when this “sensitive” group of people are furious, they will kill. I am a Muslim, and most Muslims do feel angry when our faith is being ridiculed. I am sure that people of other religion would also get angry when their faith is mocked.
But, as shared by L. A. Abdul “Ridiculed but Never Felt offended” (NST, Jan 13), she always felt ridiculed but would definitely not resort to “killing off” those who cross her. “Killing off” is never a call of jihad in Islam.
This reminds me of an occasion when I was in the United Kingdom several years back. We were told that there would be an assembly by the local students to express their dissatisfaction on matters related to Muslims in the country. Muslims were told not to attend the assembly. The justification appeared to make sense. They expected us to be angry and violent, so it would be best we kept away. And also to show that we never support such terrorist attacks to those who insult the religion.
The assembly ended peacefully. To some, this is something “unexpected” from the “expectedness”. We have to come out of the expectedness (and prove it) if we want to live in harmony. Our response, on such issues, must be intellectual, by providing space for different religions to understand Islam.
In the context of Malaysia, spreading accurate information about all the main religions could be the first step (“Religious Tolerance is Needed to Counter Extremism” NST, Jan 13), but the next question is, who should carry out this duty?
Maybe we can consider to introduce a committee that includes those who are expert in comparative religion studies, theology and related fields. Media can also play a role here, by airing interesting debates that can enrich understanding among religions and races in this country. A study in the United States suggests that, one of the most effective ways to promote understanding on such matters, is through TV programmes such as open debates.
Besides that, a study conducted by one of the researchers at Universiti Sains Malaysia showed that many new media users stay away from writing issues related to Islam as they fear a backlash. However, there are reports related to events in Islam that are posted on blogs, Facebook and Twitter.
More religious scholars must write and make full use of the social media and respond fast when critical issues emerge at both the national and international level. Let’s assist the audience to interpret news and events correctly and in line with Islamic principles.
We have to do this fast, because the more we keep quiet, the wider the misunderstanding gap will be. The more often a tragedy like this (Paris) happens, the least chance we have to build the confidence of the world of Islam, which is a religion of peace. Dr Siti Suriani Othman, Senior lecturer communications programme, Faculty of Leadership and Management, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USIM). NST Home Opinion 14 Jan 2015