Civil Society Joint Statement
30 Jun 2016
All are citizens, no more "kafir harbi" or "kafir dhimmi"
We, the undersigning civil society groupsm take the following positions in response to the categorisation of some citizens as "kafir harbi”.
1. The categorisation of humans into “kafir harbi” (non-Muslims who fight against Muslim rulers) and “kafir dhimmi” (non-Muslims who accept the supremacy of and protection from Muslim rulers) happened in the ancient time when most countries were mono-religious and human rights were not recognised and upheld. In such ancient context, when countries waged wars against each other, wars between countries appeared as wars between religions. In fact, some wars were fought in the name of faith when the strongest motivation was often territorial conquest in the pursuit of power and wealth. Due to the lack of religious freedom, whether or not Muslims could profess Islam often depended on the strength of Muslim political power. The dichotomic division of non-Muslims into "kafir harbi" who must be killed or "kafir dhimmi" who are subservient to Muslim rulers, must be understood in the context of deep inter-religious enmity.
2. When the modern world consists of multi-religious nation-states, the dichotomy of hostile "kafir harbi" and the subservient "kafir dhimmi" is not only irrelevant but also dangerous, both internationally and domestically. Internationally, "wars between nations" cannot be seen as "wars between religions" as modern nation-states are more aligned by convergence in geopolitical and economic interests than by commonality in religion. Domestically, when a crime is committed by a non-Muslim against a Muslim, the non-Muslim offender is a criminal who breaks the laws of the nation-state and must be tried in due process, just as if s/he is a Muslim. The non-Muslim criminal is not a "kafir harbi" whom Muslims should take laws into their own hand to execute. Any call for lynching will only destroy a nation because it invites retaliations between citizens. And if such call is made and received in the name of religion, then the nation will eventually burn in the fire of communal riots.
3. Great Muslim thinkers like Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawy have called for terms like "dhimmi" to be abandoned and for non-Muslim members of a nation to be recognise as “muwatinun” (citizens) just like their Muslim counterparts. This is in fact nothing new. According to Egyptian scholar Dr Fathi Osman, Muslims and non-Muslims indeed enjoyed equal citizenship in Madinah under the leadership of Prophet Muhamad s.a.w. because Madinah itself was also a multi-religious society. In fact, according legal scholar Al Ghunaimi Mohammad Talaat, the "dhimmi" status for the non-Muslims disappeared with the Ottoman Empire - the last Caliphate -- proclaimed in 1839 the principle of equality between Muslims and Christians.
4. Born in 1963 with the merger of Malaya, Singapore (left in 1965), Sabah dan Sarawak as equal partners, Malaysia is a civil federation hosting a plural society. The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims are one of fellow citizens (muwatinun) with equal rights and equal responsibilities. They are neither enemies to each other nor "the protector" on one side and "the protected" on the other side. The use of terms like "kafir harbi" or "kafir dhimmi" is not only hurtful to non-Muslim Malaysians, but also carries the negative connotation that Malaysia is but a project of Tanah Melayu (Malaya)'s territorial expansion.
5. The revered position of Islam as the official religion for the Federation and all states but Sarawak should be well preserved by all parties and must not be abused by any party to suppress freedom of thought and expression or to marginalise other parties so much so that the good name of Islam is tainted. Article 10 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia guarantees the freedom of expression for citizens regardless of ethnicity and faith while Article 8 guarantees equality of all citizens before law. This is in line with the true spirit of Islam in celebrating differences in opinion and upholding religious freedom.
6. Given the important roles and influences of Islam in the public life affecting all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the diversity of opinion on the status of Islam and the process of Islamisation including the implementation of the Hudud and Qisas punishments is expected. On any changes to the laws, especially those which affect the spirit and basic principles of the nation expressed or implied in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Federal Constitution, all citizens of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, are entitled the right to express their opinion. In fact, to voice views and to debate on issues involving public interests so that the best consensus may be attained is not a right, but a responsibility of elected representatives, political parties, civil society organisations, scholars and intellectuals, the media and any concerned citizens.
7. Negating others who hold different views in Islam or Islamisation, whether it is calling Muslims "kafir" or calling non-Muslims "kafir harbi" will only divide the Muslim community and the larger Malaysian society. Statement that killing "kafir harbi" is acceptable will in fact open the door for violence and communal/regional conflicts. Thus, this practice of "takfir" (ex-communication and ostracisation) which denounces the existence of Malaysia as a nation-state and threatens its territorial integrity must be rejected by all Malaysians.
8. All holders of public office must love Malaysia and all Malaysians. Non-Muslim Malaysians must be accepted as citizens ("muwatinun") and compatriots (ukhwah wataniah) of Muslim Malaysians. Whoever intends to split the Malaysian people with religion and even to legitimise the killing of others who reject the implementation of the Hudud punishments by calling them "kafir harbi" is not fit to hold public offices. Their service should be terminated so that their poisonous thoughts do not spread and get mistaken as the nation's official policies.
9. Malaysia is blessed to have religious leaders, scholars, intellectuals, politicians, civil society groups, political parties that are courageous to reject the practice of calling Muslims "kafir" and calling non-Muslims "kafir harbi". Their moral courage to stand up for truth and justice greatly contributes to both the good name of Islam and the harmony of Malaysia.