Islam allows its followers to be racist. That is what UMNO Supreme Council member Tan Sri Annuar Musa said at a rally in Kuala Lumpur on 16 September. The rally was in support of embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. It was also to assert Malay authority in Malaysia.
At the rally, Tan Sri Annuar said, “I am racist but it’s racism based on Islam. Racism is allowed in Islam.” He then quoted a hadith (saying of the Prophet) on assobiyah (Arabic term for pride in one’s tribe), which he interpreted as justifying racism.
How Tan Sri Annuar came to the conclusion that pride in one’s tribe translates to allowing for racism is a great mystery to me. His speech and the entire “red shirt” rally in Malaysia do not help Muslims the world around. These actions come at a time where Muslims are unfairly profiled and viewed with great suspicion around the world.
One victim of this suspicion and unfair profiling is Ahmed Mohammed in Texas. He built a clock to impress, hoping to impress his teachers. Unfortunately, instead of impressing his teacher, she felt threatened when he showed it to her. The school alerted the police because they thought that Ahmed had built a “hoax bomb”. Ahmed was subsequently arrested, handcuffed and fingerprinted.
Thankfully, there is a happy ending to this story. The police eventually did not charge Ahmed. Not only that, his story caught the attention of the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and even President Obama, who invited them to Facebook HQ and the White House respectively.
The happy ending of Ahmed’s story could well be the exception. Unless more concerted effort is taken to prevent the fault lines of race and religion from driving us apart, the world will be a much darker, more dangerous place.
Thankfully, there are people who are working hard to fight such divisiveness and bring us together as a united humanity.
Ironically, Ahmed’s father is one of such people. Instead of resenting the community for the unfair treatment of his son, Ahmed’s father, who is originally from Sudan, responded in the most inspirational way. He showed immense hospitality to the crowds of media personnel gathered outside his house, smiling and feeding them.
Another of such individual is Pope Francis.In November 2014, Pope Francis visited the historic Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Alongside Istanbul’s Grand Mufti, Pope Francis bowed his head in long prayer facing the direction of Mecca. This was seen as an important demonstration of the Pope’s commitment to the inter-faith dialogue. Pope Francis also emphasized his belie that dialogue can help bring an “end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism”.
I hope that we have more people who have the same convictions as Pope Francis and Ahmed’s father, and less people who hold the same views as Tan Sri Annuar. For the sake of humanity, I hope that we can come together and become stronger, not because we are the same, but because we are different.