IT’S hard to know what constitutes “fighting the good fight” any more. On the one hand, youth from all over the world rushing to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, renamed the Islamic State (IS), are strongly discouraged from doing so. Early this month, more than 100 imam from the United Kingdom signed an open letter urging British Muslim youth against going to fight in Syria and Iraq; encouraging them, instead, to make aid donations and to express their support from within the UK “in a safe and responsible way”.
On Friday, British imam and ulama from both sides of the Shia and Sunni divide came together and released a video condemning IS and its fight, and warned Muslims against creating sectarian divisions within the religion. On the other hand, fresh attacks and counter-attacks between Israel and Palestine this past week have resulted in an outpouring of condemnation against Israel, with international Muslim aid dollars swiftly flooding into Palestine.
When exactly can one fight against an oppressor and when can one not? And, what is the difference between going to someone’s country to fight and sending money for the people of that country to fight? The difference between providing succour to the oppressed and supporting terrorism can sometimes be the same blurry line. And, is killing “all right” for as long as the other side is of a different religion? What does that say about our understanding of the morality of killing?
Against the backdrop of Malaysia learning of the ignominious success of its first suicide bomber last month, the education minister urged more schools to set up “Criminalise War Clubs” to create awareness among students that war is a crime against humanity. Set up by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, the club aims “to teach children that they have to distance themselves from war and killings, and conflicts of any nature”. Yet, despite having been established 15 months ago, only three schools have set up chapters.
Contrast that with IS’ social media reach, and society should wonder which signpost Malaysian youth will be taking more note of. Having a Hitler-glorifying member of parliament does not help, either. With the forces of evil making aggressive bids for the minds and souls of our young, it is imperative now, more than ever, that leaders do not hesitate to condemn terrorists, murderers and their admirers. Leaders have to be unambiguous about not supporting the bad guys and not be shy to say it. Neither should they try to hedge their bets by trying to appease the lunatic fringe. Where is the voice of the National Fatwa Council? And, why don’t Friday sermons condemn IS? Or, is there no “right” or “good” to stand up for any more? NST Letters 13 July 2014