Muslims must set an example as Islam is religion of unity - Minister
KUALA LUMPUR - The Malay proverb "Bahasa menunjukkan bangsa", loosely translated, means "language reflects one’s identity". But it has a deeper meaning in that language and one’s way of speaking are reflective of not only a person’s personality but also his/her race.
Islam itself firmly demands its followers to use polite speech so that the message they convey goes straight to a person’s heart. In fact, speaking courteously is also a part of the preaching method taught by the Prophet SAW.
However, lately, this element of courtesy seems to have disappeared - in cyberspace particularly - with netizens plastering social media with abusive words, lies and slander.
Commenting on this, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Dr Mohd Na’im Mokhtar urged Muslims to immediately stop using abusive language in cyberspace, saying that such a culture should not be allowed to proliferate and "infect” future generations.
According to the minister, people should emulate the noble characteristics of Prophet Muhammad SAW as stated by Allah SWT in verse 21, Surah al-Ahzab which, in general, means the Messenger of Allah is the best example to follow for those who wish to receive the blessings of Allah and reap rewards in the hereafter.
"Logically, people will stay away from a person who is harsh and rude. When we live in a community, there’s one basic thing we all have to understand and practice which is understanding other people way before they understand us.
"Allah has endowed our nation with a blessing which may not be found in other countries, namely the existence of (people of) various races and religions. We must realise this and make an effort to learn about the customs and cultures of other people.
"When we live in a unique society such as ours, whether we like it or not, a situation involving public engagement can occur anytime and this requires us to prove that Islam is a religion that values unity. And, eventually, the non-Muslims will see for themselves the beauty of Islam through the beauty of our character,” he told Bernama when met recently.
COMMITTING A SINFUL ACT CONTINUOUSLY
Stressing that it is a sin to slander others, Mohd Na’im said Muslims must be mindful of the fact that any abusive or slanderous message posted by them on social media will be deemed a "source of continuous sinning” if it is shared and circulated by other netizens.
"We shouldn’t spread something (information) about a person without checking. If the information is not true, (our action) may forever smear the reputation and credibility of the person who is being slandered.
"When using social media, we must ask ourselves what our main intention is... is it to attract as many ‘likes’ as possible and increase the number of followers? This is not right as Islam stresses that we closely examine any piece of information before sharing it with others.
"Just imagine if we were to spread (information) without verifying it first and it turns out to be slander ... as long as that information is shared by other social media users, we’ll be forced to bear the consequences of sinning continuously,” he explained.
SOCIAL MEDIA SLANDER
Meanwhile, dean of the Faculty of Leadership and Management at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia Dr Faizal Kasmani said there are still many people out there who do not understand the real meaning of slander owing to their shallow knowledge as well as failure to think of the long-term effects of their actions on the victims of slander.
Basically, any information appearing on social media is an unfiltered viewpoint or idea expressed by the person posting it, he said.
"A person (social media user) may be presenting an opinion or information from his/her viewpoint, so others must verify its truth before circulating it.
"In general, slander or libel refers to an act in written, visual or oral (format), including in social media, that belittles a person, causing that individual to be ridiculed, insulted and hated.
"Therefore, as social media users, we must always be sceptical and ask ourselves who is sending the information. Has the information been verified? Is it from a trusted source? Why must the information be shared? Is it a form of slander that can affect the credibility of a person?” he said.
Faizal added that the public must also take it upon themselves to verify any information found on social media by checking it against news reported by trusted media organisations.
"If a person doesn’t conduct verification and makes baseless allegations, he/she can be charged in a civil court under the Defamation Act 1957 and if found guilty, the perpetrator will have to pay special damages,” he said.
He said such perpetrators can also face criminal charges and be charged under Section 499 of the Penal Code which carries a maximum jail term of two years or a fine or both. - BERNAMA