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Paradox on Religion

Religion becomes a serious matter once confronted to cases of terrorism, radicalism and extremism. Meaning, when a terror case emerge, the religion of the deed-carrier (a k a the terrorist) always comes into spotlight. And in the end, it’s the religion which gets the blame.

This scape-goat scheme could be seen from two directions. First, from the subject’s point of view: religion is made to a camouflage means for terrorism. It’s made into a mask to cover crime. Second, from the victim’s point of view: religion would be considered as the primary cause for violence. Religion would be closely identified with bombs and swords. Religion would be seen as ferocious, and antagonistic.

The Jakarta Thamrin bomb case happened in mid-January this year is a good example. It sparked speculations among the experts and observers. Most of them saw the case as linked to the ISIS-related issue of religion-political problems, as well as with other extreme-radical groups. Resentment toward the government allegedly thought as the motives behind the case, with the oppressing ban of not to join ISIS or other extreme groups as the reason. The restriction had gone to the point where several society members who had gone to Syria were withdrawn to Indonesia. This made their hope of being jihadis for the khilafah islamiyyah vanished into thin air; while to these people being a jihadis in a battlefield meant a great deal: defending their religion with the eternal Paradise in Heaven and partners of beautiful seraphim as the reward.

On the other side, this case caused a negative appraisal toward religion, especially Islam. Outsiders and insiders as well identified Islam (read: religion) as a doctrine of terrorism. This largely owing to the fact that extreme and radical jihadis like those from ISIS or Al Qaeda often used holy verses (from the Holy Book) as the justifier for their deeds. Verse of their choice is, for instance, Chapter 2 Verse 191: “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And al fitnah (slander) is worse than killing. And fight not with them at Al Masjid al Haram (the sanctuary at Mecca), unless they (first) fight you there. But if they attack you, then kill them. Such is the recompense of the disbelievers.”

It’s not a rare story that acts of these extreme-radical groups frustrated many, and in the worst case it even open a gate for some Muslims to choose to leave Islam.

This remind us of the book Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out (Prometheus Book, New York: 2003). This anthology edited by Ibnu Warraq (a pseudonym), a “retired” Muslim who was born in Rakjot, India. In this book a couple of ex Muslims testified loudly on how degenerate the extreme-radical groups really are in several Islamic-based countries like Pakistan, Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and such. 

It is worth to note that before became apostates the writers of the book are college-graduates cum Muslim activists. It was because they witnessed the horrific fact of extreme-radical groups that they decided to “retire” from Islam. The majority of them even chose to exit their homeland and reside in the West, in countries like the US, Canada, Australia and Western Europe contries, based on these considerations: first, if they stayed in their original country they would be killed due to the label of “murtad” (apostate), and second, the atmosphere and the guarantee for freedom of religion is far more conducive.

This book is an important source to ponder, as a critic toward the many degrade acts done by the extreme-radical groups. They need to quit spreading violence, murder and terror masked in religion.

Paradox

Ali Sina’s writing titled “Why I left Islam: My Passage from Faith to Enlightenment” gave a testimony about the paradox of “scape-goating” (religion) in his country, Iran. According to Sina, ever since Ayatollah Khomeini toppled down the Pahlavi dynasty’s dictator Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1979, the secular state ideology changed to “Islamic ideology”. Instead of upholding “God’s sovereignty”, what really happened was the upholding of “Khomeini’s sovereignty” through his special secret service, the SEVAK (Sazamane Etelaat Va Amniate Kechrar, translated: Karrar Information Systems and Security). Khomeini and his proponents executed anyone who denied to submit under his political-religious authority. This applied without exception, even to his ex-allies.

Thus when Imam Khomeini was ruling human lives was a dime a handful. Thousands of Iraqi were slain as the “effect” of the Gulf War. Thousands followers of the Bahai Faith tortured under the accusation of being apostate. Thousands Iranian were imprisoned for rejecting the political-religious authority of the Imam.

What befell the women was beyond tragic. Before being killed they were raped by Khomeini’s “sharia army”, with a unbelievably stupid excuse: rape was considered a consecration from sins obtained from assaulting the Ayatollah, and then it would double-functioned as a ticket to Paradise.

These traumatic experience left Ali Sina lost his faith in Islam, and drove him to “retire” from Islam. He then founded a foundation for advocating freedom of faith, “The Faith Freedom Foundation”.

Ali Sina wasn’t alone in this kind of testimony. There were also Abul Kasem from Bangladesh, Sheraz Malik of Pakistan, Anwar Shaikh, Pakistani-British, Nadia from Morocco, Samia Labidi from Tunis, Azad from India and many more. They all felt traumatic and lost their faith in Islam, ending with their apostasy and fled their home country.

If we pay close attention to this, and matter-of-factly speaking, those book writers are not different from the extreme-radical groups that they criticized so ardently. Both of these groups make religion as a scapegoat.

The extreme-radical group used religion to mask terrorism. Using “shariatization”, “khilafah Islamiyah” or “Islamic base” meaning to create peace, justice and prosperity, wrapped in the utopian “rahmatan lil ‘alamin”, they actually took atrocious turn in what they did, fully contrasted with the “rahmatan lil ‘alamin” concept.

Meanwhile, the authors of the books blamed religion for their traumatic experiences. They consider religion as the culprit responsible for flaring radicalism and terrorism. They identified religion with swords and bombings. Whereas actually their traumas were the result from the acts of the extreme-radical groups misinterpreting religion teachings. Not because of the teachings itself.

Therefore it is very crucial to differ between the interpretations of a religion with the religion itself. It’s impossible that a religion would teach terrorism and extremities. It would be a paradox to the nature of religion, where no religions want chaos and destructions.

The sadistic acts of the extreme-radical groups are fit for the realm where interpretations of the teachings of a religion is linked to certain interests. This could be interests in power, politic, economy, etc. Thus interpretations of a religion is not the same with the religion. Terrorism, radicalism and extremities are not the teachings of a religion.

By: Adang Saputra, social and religous analyst

Bahasa Indonesia version of this article has been published in NU Online as a part of Wahid Foundation's Media Syndication Program. 

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