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Daily News Analysis

PRC survey confirms ideological failure of secularism in Southeast Asia

Crescent International

Image Source - Pixbay Free Content

The recently-published Pew Research Center’s survey (September 12) titled Buddhism, Islam and Religious Pluralism in South and Southeast Asia once again highlights the failure of ideological wars against Islam.

The survey merely confirms the regenerative power of Islam, even if that was not the survey’s intention.

Those familiar with the historical background of Muslim countries in Southeast Asia, know that the region experienced intense ideological conflict during the period from 1960s to 1980s.

Communist insurgencies, often backed by China and the USSR, battled US supported groups for political and ideological dominance of the region.

Throughout the Cold War era, Indonesia in particular, experienced the presence of hard core pro-Soviet and pro-western forces among its ruling elite and the broader society.

This dynamic exposed Indonesia to staunchly pro-leftist and pro-capitalist soft power and intellectual narratives.

During the Cold War, much of the Muslim world was recovering from direct colonial rule and entering the period of neo-colonialism.

Islamic forces in Indonesia and Malaysia were marginal and had little or no political impact in society.

They were mostly used by the US led blocs as leverages against communist expansion in the region.

Considering that 11 years after the end of the Cold War, the US launched its war of terror, trying to undermine Islamic revival worldwide in a systematic manner, the results of the recent survey by PRC are somewhat encouraging.

PRC’s survey states that “…Muslims in Malaysia, where Islam is the official religion, overwhelmingly support using sharia as the national law (86%)… Today, 64% of Indonesian Muslims nevertheless say sharia should be used as the law of the land. A majority of Muslims in the country likewise supported making Islamic law the official national law when asked in 2011-2012.

“Muslims in both Indonesia and Malaysia are more likely than Buddhists surveyed in neighboring countries to favor high-profile roles for religious leaders in politics.

“For example, most Muslims in Indonesia (58%) and Malaysia (69%) say religious leaders should talk publicly about the politicians and political parties they support, while roughly half or fewer of Buddhists in Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Thailand favor this level of religious interaction in politics.”

It is often said that numbers do not lie but when numbers are not used in the proper context, they can misrepresent reality.

For example, PRC’s survey claims that 62% of Sri Lankan Muslims pay respect to the Hindu deity, Ganesh.

Its research does not provide context to what ‘respect’ means.

Does respect in PRC’s survey mean that Muslims worship the deity, or they believe that it is prohibited to insult the deities of others?

The Qur’an clearly states (Surah 6, ayat 108) not to insult the deities of others.

Trying to present the Sri Lankan Muslims’ respectful attitude towards others deities as worshipping them is totally off the mark.

Every Muslim is aware that this would amount to shirk (associating partners with Allah) and put them outside the fold of Islam.

In Islam, shirk is considered to be the gravest of sins and is unforgiveable (31:13).

Twenty-two years after the most multidimensional global attack on Islam (following the events of 9/11), it is now becoming clear that those who hoped to marginalize Islam at the political level have failed.

From Egypt to Indonesia, Muslims have not lost confidence in putting forward Islam’s socio-political agenda as the primary alternative to foreign imposed dogmas and trends.

PRC’s latest survey is a minor, but important manifestation of this reality.

It merely confirms what Muslims have always believed and upheld.

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