PETALING JAYA: Shia Muslims in Malaysia should be allowed to freely practise their religion not only based on the Federal Constitution, but also to fulfil an international declaration signed in 2004 by Malaysian leaders, including former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, says the moderate group G25.
“The Amman message is an expression of the spirit of religious pluralism that defines the understanding and practice of Islam. Its main objective is so Muslims around the world would be united and free to live without sectarian conflicts and strife,” said G25 in a statement today, referring to a document signed by some 200 Muslim scholars and leaders.
The group was responding to the authorities’ renewed crackdown on Shia followers in the country.
The Selangor Islamic Department (Jais) last week arrested some 50 Shia Muslims for taking part in Ashura, an annual mourning ceremony observed by Shias to mourn the death of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
Shia Islam is the second largest Muslim denomination but local Islamic authorities have labeled it “deviant.”
G25 said the crackdown on Shias ran contrary to religious freedom, and said Jais should base its action on the Amman Message to avoid sectarian conflicts in Malaysia such as those in the Middle East.
“Jais must align itself to the fact that Malaysia is a free democracy which respects the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the country,” it said.
“In the case of Shiites, they are recognised as an accepted sect of Islam, and that any form of assembly cannot be misconstrued as propagating a religion other than Islam.”
It added that Shia Muslims’s rights were guaranteed by the constitution and followers should be allowed to practise as long as they do not disrupt public order.
The Amman Message was signed in Amman led by Jordan’s King Abdullah II, bringing together some 200 senior Islamic scholars worldwide representing different schools of thought.
The document recognises the validity of all eight Islamic schools including Sunni and Shia, as well as Salafis and followers of Islamic mysticism.
Apart from Abdullah Badawi, other Malaysians who signed the document included ministers Khairy Jamaluddin and Shahidan Kassim, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, former minister Dr Abdul Hamid Othman, and prominent academics Dr Kamal Hasan and Dr Mohammad Hashim Kamali.
The split between the Shias and Sunnis is the result of disagreement with regard to the choice of successors to Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis recognise the first four caliphs as the rightful successors, but Shias say they should be chosen only from the Prophet’s household.
The sect is widely practised in Iraq, Iran, Bahrain, Kuwait and some parts of Saudi Arabia, where some 15% of its population are Shia Muslim.