You can’t be neutral on a moving train

Islam propagates amar makruf nahi munkar. Basically, this means we should uphold what is right and oppose what is evil, as mentioned in Surah al-’Imran, verse 3:110 of the Quran: “You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah.”


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Today, I want to address my article to the Muslims. Non-Muslims can of course still read this article because this would certainly apply to all Malaysians whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists or whatever, even if they are Atheists or Agnostics.

I have chosen the title You can’t be neutral on a moving train from Howard Zinn’s memoirs, which was made into a documentary about his life. You can read a bit more about the man below.

I have previously also mentioned the name Yusuf Estes, an American Christian who converted to Islam in 1991. He was a Muslim Chaplain for the United States Bureau of Prisons through the 1990s and a Muslim Delegate to the United Nations World Peace Conference for Religious Leaders held at the U.N. in September 2000.

Yusuf Estes once said that he loves Islam but he hates Muslims. He also said that if you want to see true Islam at work then you would have to go to the Christian West. You will never find it in Muslim countries.

Now, Yusuf Estes was not born a Muslim. He converted to Islam at the age of 47. Hence he became a Muslim because he loved Islam and not because he happened to have been born a Muslim — and therefore had no choice in the matter, like most Malaysian Muslims. And one thing you will find about these types of people, especially westerners or Caucasians such as Yusuf Islam a.k.a. Cat Stevens, Dr Gary Miller, etc., is that when they become Muslims they study Islam in depth, have a great understanding of Islam, and end up preaching Islam. In fact, these people can put most Malaysian Muslims to shame with their understanding and practice of Islam.

The reason I am mentioning the ‘credentials’ of these renowned Muslim converts is that these are not people to be taken lightly. They are ulamaks (scholars) in their own right. And many of these people have a very low opinion of Muslims. Yet they embrace Islam and serve Islam. But they are terribly unhappy with the conduct of Muslims and do not think that Muslims really understand Islam and most times do things contradictory to Islamic teachings.

Now read what Howard Zinn said in the graphic below:

What Howard Zinn said is actually very Islamic: our problem is civil obedience. We obey what we should disobey and disobey what we should obey. That is the problem facing the world today, Malaysia included.

Islam propagates amar makruf nahi munkar. Basically, this means we should uphold what is right and oppose what is evil, as mentioned in Surah al-’Imran, verse 3:110 of the Quran: “You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah.”

Amar makruf nahi munkar is in fact mandatory in Islam. It is a must. And some scholars equate amar makruf nahi munkar to jihad, the real ‘holy war’ that Islam talks about, not blowing up innocent women and children, as what some misguided Muslims imagine jihad to be.

Okay, so what does all this have to do with each other? What is the relationship of these many bits of information? Simple, really, if we are true Muslims, then jihad is mandatory for us. And part of jihad is amar makruf nahi munkar, which in itself is also mandatory, as mentioned in the Quran. But are the Malaysian Muslims doing jihad and practicing amar makruf nahi munkar? You tell me.

There are many examples I can quote to prove that Malaysian Muslims are not true Muslims. Nevertheless, let me quote just one example: how we choose the government. In Islam, if a government is evil, then it is the duty of all Muslims to oppose the government — mainly because we are supposed to oppose evil, hence if the government is evil then we must oppose the government.

But how many Malaysian Muslims see this? The government is chosen through the general elections. But the general elections are fraudulent. Hence we get a government that has not been legitimately chosen. A government chosen through fraud is a fraudulent government. In short, the fruit of a poisonous tree is poisonous.

On 28th April 2012, BERSIH 3.0 is going to organise a sit-in as a mark of protest against these fraudulent elections. Let us see how many Muslims turn out. There are supposed to be 16-17 million Muslims in Malaysia. Will we see 1% ‘true Muslims’ turning out on 28th April? Will we see 0.5% ‘true Muslims’ turning out on 28th April? I suspect we will not even see 0.3% Muslims turning out.

Yes, you can scream about Islam and foam at the mouth about gays and lesbians until the cows come home. At the end of the day, it is not how many times a day you pray or how many days a year you fast that makes you a true Muslim. It is whether you practice jihad and amar makruf nahi munkar. Don’t come and preach to me about this being haram and that being haram. That is fardu ain. That is between God and me and has nothing to do with you. Let us talk about fardu kifayah. Let us talk about your duties to the ummah. And fardu kifayah, if not done, gets transformed to fardu ain and will become the sin of every Muslim in that community if neglected.

That, my dear Muslims, is what true Islam really is. So what are you going to do on 28th April 2012? You tell me. You are the ones screaming and foaming at the mouth trying to defend ‘true Islam’.  You can’t be neutral on a moving train. No action means you endorse evil, you support evil, you are collaborating with evil, and you are also evil. That is the long and short of it.


Howard Zinn (August 24, 1922 – January 27, 2010) was an American historian, academic, author, playwright, and social activist. Before and during his tenure as a political science professor at Boston University from 1964-1988, he wrote more than 20 books, which included his best-selling and influential A People’s History of the United States.

He wrote extensively about the civil rights and anti-war movements, as well as of the labour history of the United States. His memoir, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, was also the title of a 2004 documentary about Zinn’s life and work.