The As-Sajjad Movement says the government's assurance of toleration does not reflect the situation on the ground.
Husin Sajjad, secretary of the As-Sajjad Movement, said the latest statement on the issue by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom was in stark contradiction with what he said less than a month ago and belied the situation on the ground.
“On July 27, Jamil said that severe action would be taken against those found to be followers of Syiah Islam,” Husin told FMT.
At a press conference yesterday, Jamil said Syiah Muslims were allowed to practise but not preach their faith. He was explaining Putrajaya’s 2005 ratification of the Amman Messages, an international treaty opposing discrimination against Syiah and other non-Sunni Muslims.
âIt is not wrong for them to practise Syiah Islam, just like it isnât wrong for Malaysian Chinese to practise Buddhism,â Jamil told a press conference. âBut they canât spread the ideology to local Muslims, who are Sunnis.â
Husin said Jamil’s statement did not reflect the standard practice of Malaysian religious authorities.
“How would Jamil explain the recent arrest of Dr Nur Azah Abdul Halim and Mohammad Ridzuan Yusof?” he said, referring to a raid in Kamunting on Aug 6 by the Perak Islamic Religious Department. Besides arresting the two persons, the raiders confiscated books, CD recordings and posters.
Husin also referred to a December 2010 lightning raid on a Syiah community centre in Gombak, in which officers from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) arrested more than 200 people, including several foreigners.
“Those people were practising, not propagating, Syiah Islam,” he said.
âIn short, Jamil’s assurance does not hold water.â
Husin alleged that the government had political reasons for persecuting Syiah Muslims.
“The ruling coalition is playing the Sunni-Syiah divide card so as to be seen as a champion of Islam. They do this in order to gain Malay support.â
Husin also took a swipe at former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed, saying he too had been contradicting himself when commenting on the issue.
“Dr Mahathir and Iran’s ex-president Seyyed Mohamed Khatami jointly appealed for Sunni and Syiah unity in May,â he said.
âSince then, Mahathir has changed his stand, claiming that the presence of Syiah Muslims in the country would result in a Sunni-Syiah conflict.”
On related matter, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM )Institute of the Malay World & Civilization research fellow Mohd Faizal Musa poured scorn on the government’s apparent witch-hunt against the Syiah followers
“The government said that there about 250,000 Syiah followers in the country. So what you going to do with these people? Are you going to burn them or imprison them?” he asked when met at the sidelines of the National Conference on Non-Discrimination conference held at the Singgahsana Hotel today.
Faizal also said that about two thirds of Syiah followers in the country were practicing it for generations, learning the religious system from their forefathers.
“From my research, most of them adopted the teachings from their forefathers. So are we going to punish them for practicing their forefathers’ teachings?â asked the academic.