The fact that the Syiah community in Malaysia is getting vocal about its continual harassment by the authorities is a good sign. As the Gregorian year winds to a close, it's nice that, amidst all the corniness and the cynicism that abound (and the two C words are just mirror images of each other), there are people who are now brave enough to say: Enough!
Malaysia is one of the few ostensibly 'Muslim' countries that bans a person from adhering to Syiah principles. For decades, Muslim school-kids in Malaysia were taught that Syiah is a 'deviant' and even 'bloodthirsty' sect instead of a product of a political schism in the years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). An rony is that Malaysia is a firm buddy of Iran, where being Syiah is the official norm. But if they were really so horrible, why do we acknowledge the 'Islamic Republic' of Iran? I am sure the ayatollah types there would benefit from a firm lecture on 'deviancy' by the likes of JAKIM (when they aren't too busy peeping into people's bedrooms, of course).
The Shi'ites (and, yes, how we used to giggle when we saw this word in print) believe that the prophet's rightful successor is his cousin (and son-in-law, through marriage to his daughter Fatimah) Ali. Although they believe in the same Quran, the corpus of hadith that the Syiah and the Sunni subscribe to are largely different. The former subscribe to hadith narrated by the Prophet's closest family members (the ahlul bait - People of the House) rather than those of the first three caliphs. The fact that Ali was murdered, of course, adds to the cult status accorded to him by the Syiah.
The Syiah community has existed in the Malay archipelago for centuries. To pick just one proof: the names Tongkat Ali and Kacip Fatimah, the energy-boosting (of perhaps more than one type of 'energy', knowwhatimean?) are obviously inspired by the names of a man and a woman revered in Syiah tradition. There is even a Malay Syiah epic, Hikayat Muhammad Hanafiyyah. (More details in this fascinating essay, In Search of Fatimah)
Syiah people comprise perhaps 2% of the Muslim population here; exact figures are hard to come by because no one is allowed to officially proclaim themselves to be one. And yet, the religious institutions representing the other 98% choose to see them as a "threat to national security", as if their religious rituals could shake the foundations of anything. The Sunnis in Malaysian should stop behaving like big fat bullies!
I am not the hugest fan of the Iranian administration; any nation that jails filmmakers for years for supporting opposition parties is not terribly kosher. Not to mention its President's delusional remark that there are no homosexuals in Iran. (When the regime figured out there were indeed a few, they went ahead and executed them.)
Like the Syiah of Malaysia, there are probably only 2% of people in this world who are homosexual. And yet there are various organisations squealing like stuck pigs (to use a non-halal simile) at this "threat to the nation". Further hypocrisy ensues when the "moral panic" is spread only via Muslim religious bodies. If it's really so threatening, shouldn't gays of any religion (or no religion) also be targeted?And what threat are we talking about here, exactly? The threat that all Malay boys will stop listening to rock bands and listen only to Ziana and Siti instead? (Yes. Stereotype. I know).
More people have visited this blog over the past week than at any time since its inception, because people have been Googling "Azwan Ismail." My post also attracted the most comments. Hardly anyone read the bloody brilliant Pablo Neruda translations I have been doing, such as this one on wine. Why? Because Malaysians, especially those who love claiming the moral high ground, are inordinately fond of other people's sex lives. Hence, the prevalence of skodeng (peeping tom) squads. Yes, there is a word for these faux moralists, and that word is pervert.
A blogger whose site is garlanded with Quranic verses also lists with pious enthusiasm the various methods by which gays should be killed. I am surprised he did not know that the Quran acknowledges same-sex attraction, and that the reward for good people who happen to be gay is Paradise. There are three places in the Quran that mention the wildan (heavenly boys) that will serve in the Hereafter:
52:24 Round about them will serve, to them, boys (handsome) as pearls well- guarded.
56:17 Round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness.
76:19 And round about them will serve boys of perpetual freshness: if thou seest them, thou wouldst think them scattered pearls.
The Arabic term for these boys is apparently the same used for enticing (female) virgins, but it's telling that some translators choose the more chaste-sounding 'male servants'. The five lines of 52:24-28 are also significant:
|52:24||And round them shall go boys of theirs as if they were hidden pearls.|
|52:25||And some of them shall advance towards others questioning each other.|
|52:26||Saying: "Surely we feared before on account of our families:|
|52:27||But Allah has been gracious to us and He has saved us from the punishment of the hot wind:|
|52:28||Surely we called upon Him before: Surely He is the Benign, the Merciful."|
Now, what does that sound like to you? Attractive boys are placed in the same category as wine (which is similarly available in Paradise). You see, the Quran will not be a complete book if it neglects the 2%. It's only the humans, in their supreme arrogance, who choose to do so.