Zaid: Insulting religious leaders is not insulting the religion

PETALING JAYA: Political leaders should not be put on pedestals so high that they cannot be criticised or made the subject of rude comments.

Directing this message to Muslims in his latest blog posting, former law minister Zaid Ibrahim said there were a variety of speeches and actions that constituted blasphemy in Islam, for example, insulting Allah or the Prophet Muhammad, but insulting a PAS leader, or even a Mufti, is not one of them.

Zaid’s posting was in response to the recent arrest of former journalist Sidek Kamiso for “insulting Islam”, over the latter’s tweet on the death of PAS spiritual leader Haron Din.

Describing Sidek’s arrest at 4.30am, as “police high-handedness”, Zaid questioned the need for the former to be treated like a jihadist from Islamic State, and the subsequent request to remand him, which was rejected by a magistrate in Johor.

“He was just tweeting for God’s sake, and how serious can that be?

“I don’t know what the tweet was all about, but I am concerned that some people are so easily worked up that they invoke ‘insulting Islam’ as an offence when I don’t think they even know what it means,” said Zaid.

Zaid added that, for example, if he wanted to say something rude about (PAS president) Abdul Hadi Awang or (PAS information chief) Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi, it’s not “blasphemy.”

“Some people might be so high on Islam’s list of spiritual persons that we should probably not make fun of them out of personal respect, but no one is equal to Allah. Insulting them should not attract a criminal charge.

“They (Muslims) should not jump straightaway to the conclusion that, because some of their leaders who wear turbans are ridiculed, Islam has been insulted,” he said, adding that politicians are not “protected” from insults, even when they die.

Zaid asked the police force to steer clear of pressure from parties “who are always looking for any excuse to demand the arrest of this person or that, and who are uneasy when someone expresses an opinion they disapprove of. Islam needs no defender of that kind.”

He said Sidek should be given a fair hearing to a proper charge under the law, and not have his case clouded by “the rage and anger of PAS supporters”.

Zaid also claimed that the Royal Malaysian Police was a shadow of its former self.

He charged that today, the force was much despised and the people “fear” the police, rather than trust them.

Zaid urged the police to practise restraint and conduct themselves professionally at all times.