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DESTRUCTIVE CYBER VOICE
Social media has given birth to a new way of spreading information where one single person can have the power of dispersing his thoughts or opinions or the opinion of others by the masses with the click of a button and a few shares. Whether it is credible and trustworthy information being disseminated or not is something else to ponder.
In Malaysia it is quite a popular trend for people to engage and communicate via social media to share news and thoughts on what comes to mind. Even most of our politicians from both the ruling party and opposition’s side have their own official social media accounts that have been set to be used as part of their leadership to reach out to the public’s concern.
According to Internet World Stats, December 2012, there were 17,723,000 internet users in Malaysia (representing 60.7% of the population) at mid-year 2012. More than 11 million people age 15 and above accessed the internet from a home or work location in Malaysia in August 2011, according to a report by comScore, Inc. (comScore, October 2011) The number of Malaysians accessing the internet reached 41% in 2010, a 15% increase over the previous year, according to The Nielsen Company’s Mobile Insights Survey. The highest usage was recorded among people aged 20-24: almost six in ten (57%) regularly use the internet, spending an average of 22.3 hours online per week. Once online, Malaysians primarily use social networking sites. Almost three-quarters (71%) are keeping in touch with friends and family via these sites, a 24% increase from 2009. Instant messaging and reading local news rounded out the top three online activities. (The Nielsen Company, April 2011)
Some of the reasons people love social media is the desire for community, the desire to belong. This is one of the main purposes why we join groups and organizations. Social Media permits us to belong to a community, not dictated by space or location, and in general, these communities tend not to be exclusive, nor do they have insurmountable barriers to enter. We can even be in association with several communities that probably do not habitually blend well. With community, come that sense of family and belonging (when our own families might be dysfunctional) and a sense of unity (when our world is branded by segregation and confrontation).
Many Malaysians may feel that they are unrepresented or voiceless on what they believe and stand for, as if others, including those in authority and great organizations aren’t listening to them. Sometimes it is not necessarily that those in power are not listening to them but could it be that sometimes what they ask for is something that is not obtainable regardless of who is in charge? Or perhaps there is a hidden agenda involved with all the problems, disputes and unsatisfactory issues that is constantly being raised up especially when it is based on manipulated truth? I am not disputing that there are cases where it is genuine that those in authority are not really interested in attending to the needs of those who are in need of help. But then again all cases must be viewed and analysed individually and fairly before any one has the right to allege and ridicule those involved. Now, if people feel that they are not being heard or if they feel the need to broadcast their concerns or justify and argue their reasons on a certain issue where the mainstream media might not have the chance to cover, it is through Social Media that people can voice out their opinions with the chance of being heard.
But with this power to say what we want and how we want regardless of the consequences has perhaps taken a toll towards the peace and harmony of fellow Malaysians especially involving topics on politics and current issues that is politicized. To my opinion, Malaysians love to politicize every issue possible to scorn those who do not share the same opinion or political stand and unfortunately many are insensitive towards the feelings of others. This has somehow shattered our social harmony further because we are marginalized to what flag and political party we support. Could it be that Malaysians are irresponsible people especially when it comes to voicing opinions, sharing thoughts and news which hasn’t even been proven to be credible and true? Do Malaysians also think too much about petty issues which causes resentment that blocks the society’s further development? I do blame the social media on this to a certain degree but not entirely. The birth of keyboard warriors to circulate news via social media and blogs which is ever so often based on hearsay, fake proof, half-truth and exaggeration has somehow caused confusion in the minds of the public on what is perceived to be true.
Look at the case of Sekolah Kebangsaan Seri Pristana in Sungai Buloh where the Head Master was brought in questioning by the local authority for an overstated case. Instead of solving the matter in the proper way, the issue was politicized heavily. This is just one of the many. Then there is the ‘Alvivi’ case, surely there are other bigger issues that are deemed more important to give attention to, then we have the Chetz aka Maznah Mohd. Yusof issue, Sharifah Zohra’s famous ‘Listen, listen, listen’ story that went viral and the list goes on. The case which involves politicians I will not touch because we are aware of the party they represent and their main agenda but talking about the case which involves the common public where foolish people politicize the issue, I feel to be an irresponsible act. When will our society mature? Not that they shouldn’t comment on issues as such but what I am stressing on here is in the manner which Malaysians choose to look at things and the way they say it.
By the looks of it, it has become the battle between the two parties and their supporters. The whole idea is to condemn as much as possible our opponent party even by using harsh and swear words to demoralize and back-up blindly at all cost the party that we support. And the main mission for attack is to appear as the better one while disparaging the other. It is the battle of ideas and perception. Who is on the right path? And who will win the battle of perception? Even if we do not support any particular party at all, for those who misleadingly call themselves neutral because they say they are academicians who look at things from an academic point of view or even common people who say they are on the fence in deciding between the two parties, they are not innocent from criticizing heavily and sometimes blindly the party that they surreptitiously hate, even if they were to do it subtlety regardless of what good that party might have done for the country or achieve for the people.
“Truth is a battle of perceptions. People only see what they’re prepared to confront. It’s not what you look at that matter, but what you see.” — Emily Thorne.
And when different perceptions battle against one another, the truth has a way of getting lost and the monsters find a way of getting out. And because the society’s mind has been filled with junk issues which could be true, half-truth or totally deceiving, we have become a society of ‘mami jarums’ who constantly talk and talk about issues without substance and do not care on the lack of evidence. No, the idea is not to lead the society in continuous ignorance but educate the society to become responsible citizens when it comes to sharing news, comments, what is in thought. To start with one thing that has appeared as essential to me, that I am not sure if outside media outlets are addressing, is the importance not just of media – but of a divided media contributing to a divided people. And a psychologist once said to me that, “the public loves to persecute even before the person, case or issue is investigated and has come to a fair verdict.”
I’d like to copy a quote said by Doe Zantamata which explains a lot about the behaviour of people – “The Law of Mirrors” states that one can only see what’s in them, regardless if it is what is actually present in reality or not.
“He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.” – Thomas Jefferson
Also a lot of Malaysians praise the West highly in many aspects where they look up to the West in matters of social freedom, freedom of speech and secularism as a faith to follow. The trend now is to write and speak freely on matters and current issues using philosophical terms and jargons and constantly comparing Malaysia on certain cases with other countries to have a seemingly intellectual coating and effect on what they say. Even those born as Muslims talk and speak as if they are now atheists themselves (something of which used to be taboo in the past) whether they realize it or not due to the heavy influence of secular thoughts and teachings driven from the West. There is nothing wrong with using a philosophical quote as long as the message is not a blasphemous one. If Malaysians should know, especially those who hold a strong value to democracy where their belief is that the West is the best practitioners of that word, then they will be disappointed to know that if it is anything regarding the West’s stand on democracy is their hypocrisy by calling for democracy on the one hand and supporting dictators with the other. Despite this and that teargas canisters have clearly written on them “made in the USA” the anti-government demonstrations and the mood in the country has emphatically not been anti-western or anti-US.
What Malaysians should consider for the future peace and harmony of the country is the urge to unite regardless of political stand and preferences. Do not trust any news based on hearsay or even trust anything without investigating further on the issue and do not contribute to the back biting, gossip, rumour, smear and slander that could hurt the society further. Just imagine how an internet gossip can go viral through social media and up to this date, it has not brought any positive outcomes.
WHAT DOES ISLAM SAY ABOUT SMEAR, SLANDER & BACK BITING
The Islamic religion teaches to never gossip and back bite especially about the personal or private affairs of others. Gossip is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, views and slander and now the expansion of horizon for gossip has increased tremendously with the birth of the internet and usage of social media. Gossip is used derogatively by its reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted.
“Just because something isn’t a lie does not mean that it isn’t deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.” ― Criss Jami
Alhamdulillah that Islam is a religion that endorses love and kindness. It is a religion of peace that rejects dishonesties, back biting, gossip, smear and suspicion which is categorized amongst the most destructive of major sins. To ridicule and smear another brother will sow animosity and discord among people and lead to ruin. The disgusting act causes conflicts between people and the action is more destructive when done using social media for the fact that it reaches more people.
And why did you not, when you heard it, say? “It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to God, this is a most serious slander” (Quran 24:16)
Islam instils that our relationship with other people to be with sincerity and responsibility. It should be a relationship where people have respect for the honour, reputation and privacy of others. We are not only held responsible for our own behaviour and actions but also for anything else over which we have control or influence over, in our society or the world around us.
Verses: Let’s see what the Quran states about backbiting and slander – This is the Book, in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear God. (2:2)
O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, in deeds some suspicions are sins. And spy not neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear God, verily, God is the one who accepts repentance, Most Merciful. (49: 12)
When we reflect deeply over this assimilation it should be enough to keep us away from backbiting! Do not treat the issue of backbiting and slander with indifference because it is a great sin.
Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God (24: 15)
Many of us back bite and gossip without thinking. We think it is minor matter, however God reminds us to be careful and even though we think we are doing something little it is in fact very big in the sight of God! God teaches us to speak out against slander and try to put a stop to it. Many people are so busy spreading the slander they hear that they do not even stop to think if it is true or not. Satan wants us to use our tongue to create conflict and hatred.
Say to My servants that they should only say those things that are best, for Satan does sow dissensions among them, for Satan is to man an avowed enemy. (17:53)
Are we falling into Satan’s trap? We can all analyze ourselves.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Do you know what backbiting is?” They said, “God and His Messenger know best.” He (peace be upon him) then said, “It is to say something about your brother that he would dislike.” Someone asked him, “But what if what I say is true?” The Messenger of God said, “If what you say about him is true, you are backbiting him, but if it is not true then you have slandered him.” (Muslim)
We should guard our tongue from sins and use our limbs in acts of obedience.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Who protects his tongue from unlawful utterances and his private parts from illegal sexual intercourse, I shall guarantee him entrance into Paradise.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
“I asked the Messenger of God: Who is the best Muslim? The Messenger of God (peace be upon him) replied, “He is the one from whom Muslims are safe from the evil of his tongue and hands.” (Muslim)
Deriding people in their presence by making negative facial expressions or by hand gestures while they are unaware is also a form of backbiting. We need to beware of the slipping of our tongues.
“When man wakes up in the morning each day, all parts of the body warn the tongue saying, ‘Fear God as regards us for we are at your mercy; if you are upright, we will be upright and if you are crooked, we become crooked.’” (At-Tirmidhee)
Backbiting and slander is so widespread that it has become the topic of people’s meetings and an avenue for expressing their anger, misgivings and jealousy. The social media is one medium that harvests back biting and slander since it is so easy to spread lies and speak ill of people and also one of the fastest ways to broadcast fabrications. Those who indulge in backbiting are oblivious of the fact that they are only harming themselves. This is because of the fact that on the Day of Resurrection both the wrongdoer and the wronged will stand before God, Who is the Just Judge, God will then give this wronged person from the good deeds of the person who wronged him in accordance with his wrong by backbiting.
Some situations allow us to inform others of what someone has done. It is allowed for us to inform the authorities when someone does injustice to us or others. It is allowed for us to inform someone who can help a perpetrator from committing further vice. It is also permissible for us to tell whoever seeks our advice on a person for business dealings or marriage. In this case it is not allowed for us to hide what we know about the person so that the enquirer will not be deceived. All these types of speaking about others are lawful.
Islam teaches us that if people are being ridiculed or backbitten in our presence, we should defend their honour. If we neglect this, we shall deprive ourselves of ever needed help and mercy from God – If a man’s Muslim brother is slandered in his presence, and he is capable of defending him and does so, God will defend him in this world and in the next. But if he fails to defend him, God will destroy him in this world and the next. (Baghawi). What will we do the next time we are tempted to backbite or hear slander in our presence? Right now the choice is ours!
We ask God the Most High, the All Powerful, to teach us that which will benefit us, and to benefit us by that which we learn. May God grant blessings and peace to our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his family and companions.