Suhakam urges govt to check drift towards religious extremism

Razali-IsmailKUALA LUMPUR: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) today “strongly counselled” the government to check the drift towards religious extremism as shown by the detention of an internationally respected Turkish author and journalist last weekend.

Suhakam chairman Razali Ismail said the “extreme action” by the Federal Territory Religious Department (Jawi) was “repressive, undemocratic and intended to be intimidating”.

“There is no question that this must be stopped by the government.

“Such actions that reflect hostility, narrow-mindedness and intolerance of civil, intellectual and religious discourse should not be committed again.

“Such action only emboldens those who push for polarisation and superiority or pre-eminence of one group or one religious belief over another,” Razali said in a statement.

Turkish national Mustafa Akyol was detained on Monday night at the KLIA by police on the instruction of Jawi for allegedly speaking on Islam without official credentials.

He was released yesterday after spending 17 hours in detention and has since left the country.

Jawi director Abdul Am Jusoh said in a statement yesterday that Jawi was satisfied that Akyol had not been informed by the organiser of his visit, the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRE), that credentials were required from the religious authorities for anyone to teach Islam in Malaysia.

Razali said the incident blemished the reputation of Malaysia as a multi-religious, multiracial and moderate nation which it professed internationally.

It had also added serious uncertainties to all Malaysians as to how arbitrary actions could affect the fabric of Malaysian society, he said.

“Suhakam does not believe that the action of Jawi reflects a changed policy of the government but, evidently, a sector of government has been allowed to take arbitrary measures albeit as interpreted by them in defence of their interpretation of principles.

“There can be many Malaysians who interpret such actions as the government being inclined towards accommodating them.

“Suhakam strongly counsels the government to take stock of the drift towards religious extremism and fears that if such situations continue, Malaysia would change qualitatively for the worst,” Razali said.