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Summary of My Talk on Muslim Cosmopolitanism

Muslim Cosmopolitanism: Recovering a Forgotten Stream

Written by Jay Willough for the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences

On November 8, 2013, Dr. Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied (National University of Singapore; Fulbright Fellow, Columbia University) addressed the topic of “Muslim Cosmopolitanism.” The event was held at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) headquarters in Herndon, Virginia.

He began his talk with a personal example: He is the child of an Arab father and an Indian mother, his culture is Malay, he prefers to talk in either Malay or English, and he understands basic Chinese. Thus, he is a living example of his assertion that “being Muslim is part and parcel of being able to appre- ciate many cultures … We are all hybrids,” and therefore it is only natural for Muslims to embrace diversity. While this was true for the first millennium of Islamic civilization, it is, unfortunately, “not the case today.”

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Islam and Muslims in Modern Southeast Asia

The following is a summary of my talk to a group of youths in Malaysia. It is written in both English and Malay:


Extracted from my FB post. Thanks to Ahmad Salik Ahmad Ishak

Takeaway #11 from Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied‘s talk on “Malay Muslim Thinking – Lessons from History” at Masjid Assyafaah Darul Hadith on 16 Feb 2013

Question: The target group of Radio RIA is the Malay youths but during solat times, they do not play the azan. They also have programmes such as “Misteri Jam 12” that talk about ghost stories. Is this destroying our community and if so, what actions should be taken?

Not many of our Malay youths listen to RIA. They prefer the English radio stations. And not many of us listen to radio for azan anymore. The more dangerous influence is actually the internet. We can suggest for Radio RIA to close down but that would not make the Malays better.

Even when it comes to learning Islam, many of us today prefer to go to the internet instead of attending religious classes. The asatizahs at youtube are more interesting than those at the mosques because the religious teachers at the mosques keep on talking about the same topics such as the chapters on water and solat.

But there is a lot of bad influence in the internet. We must be careful of what our children do with the internet. Do not buy for your children an iphone unless you want to destroy them. New technology gives us a lot of freedom but it also destroys us. Our children have not learnt the meaning of freedom because they have limited knowledge. Do not become parents that always give but do not observe. If they have access to internet, they will surely go to all the negative websites and this is what we need to monitor. When our children are ready to become muslims, then they are ready to have iphones. We must protect our children from influences that corrupt their faith and identity.

Extracts from my FB post. Thanks to Ahmad Salik Ahmad Ishak

Takeaway #7 from Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied‘s talk on “Malay Muslim Thinking – Lessons from History” at Masjid Assyafaah Darul Hadith on 16 Feb 2013

Allah says in the Qur’an:

31:6 And of mankind is he who purchases idle talks (i.e. music, singing, etc.) to mislead men from the Path of Allah without knowledge, and takes it (Al-Qur’an) by way of mockery. For such there will be a humiliating torment in the Hell-fire.

If we love entertainment so much, we will be among those who are astray. The first thing that the colonizers did was to make the Malays addicted to entertainment. We were made stupid by the west and we forgot about Islam. When the westerners came, Malay minds became corrupted. We began to love the world and left our religion. We became addicted to entertainment. We glorified culture and belittled religion. There is a Malay saying: Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat – Let your children die but never let tradition die.

To follow tradition, Malay weddings need to be grand. It doesn’t matter if they need to borrow a lot of money as long as their weddings are grand. Such traditions corrupt the Malays. During the prophet’s time, a companion had nothing but slippers and the prophet allowed him to use it as mahar (dowry). We make it difficult for something that the religion has made easy.

Anyone who tried to reform the Malays were attacked and stopped. A lot of Tassauf scholars tried to change the Malays but they were sidelined. They rejected the writings by Syaikh Tahir Jalaluddin and Raja Ali Haji and glorified the secularists instead. In the 20s, the Malay magazine Al-Imam, described people who wore sarbans as talisman sellers who were conning the Malays. Because the Malays did not hold dear to Islam anymore, they made use of the religion to gain profit. The religious scholars then were known as ulama’ su’ (evil scholars) because they preach Islam for their own popularity.

This was the problem with the Malays for more than a hundred years.

Extracts from my FB post. Thanks to Ahmad Salik Ahmad Ishak

Takeaway #8 from Dr Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied‘s talk on “Malay Muslim Thinking – Lessons from History” at Masjid Assyafaah Darul Hadith on 16 Feb 2013

Allah says in the Qur’an:

31:30 That is because Allah, He is the Truth, and that which they invoke besides Him is Al-Batil (falsehood), and that Allah, He is the Most High, the Most Great.

The problem we are facing in this era of crisis of the mind is that we are worshiping false gods. If we ask the Malays whether Allah is their god, they will say yes but if we ask them if they are afraid of ghosts more than they are afraid of Allah, they will also say yes. If we ask them if their prophet is Muhammad, they will say yes but if we ask them if they are living their lives according to the ways of the prophet, they will say: I don’t know and I don’t care. This is because today we believe in a religion that is wrong and this is one of the effects of colonization to our minds.

We are faced with many wayward ideologies and our children accept them without much thought. One of this is Liberal Islam. In one of Ulil Abshar’s book, he wrote that the prohibition of marriage between a Muslim and a non-Muslim is no longer relevant. He also said that Al-Quran did not prohibit such marriage. When our children read such books, many of them choose civil marriages.

A lot of our children have also murtad (left the religion). The number of Malays holding on to Islam is decreasing and the number of Malays becoming without religion is increasing. Why is this so? There is a problem in their thinking.

Another wayward ideology is the Syiah Rafidah. Historically, the Malays have never had any problem with the Syiahs because the Syiahs that came to this region were among the Indians. They kept to themselves and did not disturb others. But today, we see the new Syiahs becoming very aggressive in trying to change our religion to become more like theirs. The Syiah ideology is wayward because they curse the companions of the prophet and this group is becoming more and more influential by the day.