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Finding the Kingdom of Heaven

By U-En Ng

If you keep watching after the end of Ridley Scott's 2005 film The Kingdom of Heaven you'll hear a curious song by Harry Gregson-Williams, a British composer, sung by Natacha Atlas—a Belgian Muslim of Sephardic Jewish ancestry:

*"We 'anaa bu' min be-mamlakt il-jannaa, we 'anaa bu' min be-mamlakt il-h'ub. We in-noor il-h'ayaat il-duniaa, La 'ilaha 'illa 'llah"*: And I believe in the kingdom of heaven, and I believe in the kingdom of love. And in the light of life is the world, there is no God but God.

The three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—stem from The same source: There is no God but God, and these non-Muslims are Collectively *Ahl al-Kitab*, or the People of the Book.

"And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation) unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, 'We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).'"

So it is said in the Holy Qur'an at Surah 29: *Al-'Ankabut* (The Spider), but, as we all know with painful clarity today, far too many of us believe that our God is ours alone—no others may be admitted into our Kingdom, and it is right and fitting to make war on the unbelievers.

We are each outraged by the actions of warmongers in the Israeli government. Even Israeli soldiers (but sadly a mere handful) have refused deployment in Gaza and prefer imprisonment for what they believe to be an act of conscience.

No'em Levna, a lieutenant in the Israeli army, was reported by the wire services as saying that "killing innocent civilians cannot be justified. Nothing justifies this kind of killing. It's devilish. It is Israeli arrogance based on logic. It's saying, 'if we hit more, everything will be okay'."

But such sentiments as this have little meaning for the people of Palestine. The cause of peace, however noble, is for them a shrill but ultimately impotent defence against the great machine of war.

Elsewhere, however, this impotence has inspired any number of fire-eating bravos to acts of mindless courage. They believe that we must extract a Jewish eye for every eye the Israelis have put out, and if Jews are out of reach, then their allies will do just as well.

It doesn't matter if these perceived "enemies" are civilians: The Israelis killed women, children, unarmed Palestinians. We shall do the same to them and their friends, and too many of us have come to believe that the path to the Kingdom of Heaven will open to the one who sacrifices his life for this cause.

This is powerful stuff, and the clever politician will make good use of it. In Malaysia, the Palestinian cause has with few exceptions become an exclusively male Muslim cause—we hear talk of the Muslim Brotherhood, of the duties of Muslims to defend their own in Palestine, and many seek to elevate opposition to Israel to the level of personal—and mass—struggle.

It is perhaps for this reason that the authorities clamped down on the Jan 10 candlelight vigil to protest the war in Gaza. Twenty-one people were arrested including DAP MP Charles Santiago, Parti Sosialis Malaysia chief Dr Nasir Hashim and his secretary-general S. Arutchelvam.

"These people were not demonstrating on the issue of Palestinians," said Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar in the Parliament lobby. "They were actually demonstrating on the issue of Sri Lanka. The placards showed they were in support of Sri Lanka. Let us not mix the issues. "This is an occasion of tragedy and sadness, a thing that has happened in Palestine and that Israel is committing state terrorism. Don't mix it up
with other things."

This put Shah Alam MP Khalid Abdul Samad into an ill humour: The issue of Sri Lanka, he said on his blog, was merely an excuse for the police action. "Is it not a matter of principle that we must oppose violence against citizens wherever it might occur?

"Perhaps the Barisan Nasional regards Gaza and Palestine as an issue for Muslims or Malays only, (but) the Palestinians (themselves) are not merely Muslim. Many residents in Gaza are Christian. Indeed there are members and supporters of Hamas who are Christian."

It really doesn't matter if they are Christian or not. The way things are in Malaysia, non-Muslims are not entitled to speak about Muslim affairs—and Gaza seems to be an unfortunate part of this logic.

Khalid has another interesting story: On Jan 8 he accosted a group of silat exponents from Pewaris who had descended on his constituency to build a silat arena beside a Hindu temple, which the group deemed to be illegal.

"You are Malay, a Muslim," said their leader. "Why do you concern yourself so much with this temple?" "Because Islam teaches me to act fairly towards all humanity," Khalid replied. "Although they are not Muslim, they have rights and Islam teaches us to respect their rights."

The chap fell silent, and then admitted that he did not know much about religion.

"We get angry when Israel oppresses the Muslims of Gaza," Khalid continued, "so don't let us follow their example."

The lads from Pewaris, however, chose to ignore him and slaughtered a cow near the temple at a *kenduri* to mark the arena's opening. There are photographs on their blog at

*We 'anaa bu' min be-mamlakt il-jannaa,* but if this truly is the Kingdom of Heaven that such people would make on earth, then I wish no part in it.


John said…

I think by now Pakatan Rakyat should already form a real political party like BN. The rakyat are already behind all three party PAS/DAP/PKR. Also the rakyat can not wait much longer for Malaysia to have a two party democracy system.

Also, congratulation for having another PAS MP in the dewan rakyat.

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