Friday, November 16, 2012

Nurul Izzah’s No Compulsion view – A case of misinterpretation

By: Choo Sing Chye

The recent HAKIM members’ letter (1) to Malaysia Today had prompted me to write this article. Since I am not an expert in Islam, I will not delve into the merits of the letter, and also, what had been said in the press by UMNO politicians and supporters. I only comment on the common faults of politicians in construing something that had not been said.

For a start, the letter hinges (not equates in quality) on the Greek Sophist Protagoras’ (500-430 BC) notion of “Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, and of things that are not that they are not.” (2)

Simply said, “things are to me as they appear to me and to you as they appear to you.” And it is the task of the Sophists (professional teachers) according to Protagoras to use intellectual discourse to convince the minority to accept the better set of beliefs. (3)

The apparent distinction between Protagoras and the HAKIM’s members’ proposal in this particular context of argument, is the targeted group.

Protagoras intents to influence the minority (perhaps non-Greeks or non-Sophists) with a better set of intellectual arguments and the HAKIM’s members, within the Muslim group with the truth.

UMNO leaders and supporters arguments

One common fault of the Malaysian politicians are that they are not precise in their arguments. In Nurul’s case, they literally do not put a limit or a precise boundary on the attributes to her no-compulsion view. They do not care whether or not the attributes belong to her.

Nurul’s no-compulsion view is CONDITIONAL and the majority of criticisms veered away from the intended point.

Now let’s go back to the common fault which I will emphasize by using the Aristotle’s Infinite term, “not-man” which has an infinite meaning.

Examples of not-man are Samsung Galaxy S3, the moon, television, worms, chicken, monkey, car, pistol, , wok, sand and etc., etc., etc. We can literary fit the entire universe between man and not-man, leaving nothing out. (4)

In fact, if they assign these meanings to not-man, they are not wrong. But what is wrong is that they have assigned these to a reflective view in an “infinite” fashion. This should not happen because between Compulsion and no-Compulsion, there is absolutely nothing. This is what one calls the Law of Excluded Middle as opposed to the “Infinite” term.

The Excluded Middle

In the Excluded Middle, it is either Compulsion or no-Compulsion.

Take the examples of yes and no or wise and not wise. There is nothing in the middle. We cannot say middle yes or middle wise. It is either yes or no, wise or not wise. Therefore both cannot be right or true, and at the same time wrong or false. (5)

Now we are left only with the compulsion and no-compulsion.

We cannot quarrel over attributes between compulsion and no-compulsion because there are nothing in the middle. We can only dispute attributes within the compulsion or the no-compulsion.

Thus, when we argue on attributes within compulsion or within no-compulsion, we are treading into an area that needs an advance degree of competence or an above average knowledge on the subject matter. This is what Protagoras and the authors of letter from HAKIM’s implied.

Removing the doubt.

It is without doubt, there are caveats in Nurul’s “no compulsion” view. And it is very important to spot these caveats before one launches an argument.

Thus, in this instant to detect these caveats, I will use the Connotation (Logic) expression.

But first, let us get a grasp on the use of Connotation in this issue. Here I will use the term house as an example.

What is a house? What does the term mean? What does it denote?

To a layman, a house can denote a city mansion, a rural lodge, a cottage, a suburban, a villa, a royal palace and it can also mean sheds, sties, caravan, caves, tree house, abandoned car and so on. (6)

But to an architect, he will definitely not agree with the layman and also will not argue with him/her. It will have no end! Thus, the architect will Connote the term house to arrive at the final accurate description.

i) The architect would use the words building or
    structure to exclude caves.

ii) He/she will imply permanency to exclude tents,
    booths and caravans.

iii) And when he/she mentions fitness for human habitation, he/she intends to exclude sheds, abandoned car and sties.

So, in finality, a house is a permanent building fit for human habitation and nothing else. (7)

Now we come to Nurul’s “no-compulsion” view. What are the caveats that she has used to exclude all her opponents’ insinuations.

The Caveats.

Nurul: “So I am tied, of course, to the prevailing views(8)

Here by saying that she is 'tied' to the 'prevailing view,' and she has put caveats to her 'no compulsion' view.

Q. What are the caveats?

A. They are the “prevailing”’ (predominant).
     and “tied” ( obligated) view.

Q. What is meant by prevailing view?

A. Prevailing view is the view that is held by 
     the Muslim Majority.

Q. Who forms the Muslim Majority?

A. Malay Muslims form the Majority in the Muslim Community. They conform to the official tenets of Islam in Malaysia with Sultans as the head of Islam.

Other Caveats

There are limitations and you know…”

You believe so strongly in your faith, that even me, being schooled in Assunta with a huge cross in the hall and an active singing Catholic society will not deter you”. (9)

The words “limitations,” “believe...strongly,” and “deter” are qualities of strength towards faith and these qualities are synonymous to the “prevailing” view.

Consequently, one would say in finality that the prevailing (predominant) views held by the Malaysian Muslims encompass none of Nurul’s opponents’ insinuations. Thus, this prevailing view has excluded Nurul from the accusations that her opponents had levelled at her.

In sum, when we are dealing with comments or views that are not indicated or said verbally, we should tread very carefully and not to compound the situation.

So, in its absence, we cannot have a runaway perception in its place – it is not fair to put words into somebody’s mouth.

At time like this, it is helpful that we refer back to the ‘Theme’ of the forum.

I welcome intellectual comments only.
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1) “Stemming the incoherence of misguided Muslim pundits,” written by Muhammad Husni Mohd Amin, Wan Mohd Aimran Wan Mohd Kamil, Muhammad Syukri Rosli and Wan Ahmad Fayhsal Wan Ahmad Kamal 

2) “An introduction to Political Philosophy,” A.R.M.
     Murray, Published by Cohen and West 
     Ltd, London, 1953.

3) ibid.

4) “Logic,” A.A.Luce, Published by The English
     Universities Press Ltd (1958)
5) ibid.,
6) ibid.,

7) ibid.

8) Transcript of Nurul Izzah’s Q&A forum: ‘Islamic state: Which version? Whose responsibility?’ (MalaysiaKini)

9) ibid.