KUALA LUMPUR: Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin today defended himself against criticism over his opposition to Shia Islam, after academics and rights activists questioned him for saying that followers of the second largest branch in Islam were a threat to national security.
Asri also took issue with those who pointed out that none of the hundreds of terror suspects arrested in Malaysia were Shia Muslim but followers of the militant IS group whose ideology resembles that of Wahhabism, the doctrine followed in Saudi Arabia.
Asri today referred to the 1979 Iranian revolution, the popular uprising led by Ayatullah Khomeini which overthrew the powerful Shah dynasty, saying the ideas of the revolution would undermine democracy.
“There would be no more democracy as greater powers are given to religious quarters, making them seem like God’s representatives in every action,” he told FMT.
Shia is the second largest branch of Islam, with a substantial following in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and several areas in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Malaysia’s Islamic authorities regard its adherents as “deviant” following an edict issued by the national fatwa council in 1996.
Earlier, Islamic Renaissance Front director Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa said the ideologies of the Saudi clergy and IS were similar, and it was wrong to condemn Shia Muslims as dangerous to national security.
His views were also echoed by rights lawyer Eric Paulsen and prominent academic Syed Farid Alatas, who said none of those arrested for terrorism were Shia Muslim.
Asri accused Farouk of “double standards”, saying while the activist rejected theocracy, he was sympathetic to Iran.
“If you don’t accept a country ruled by the ulama, you must also oppose Shia belief because it will lead to the establishment of an undemocratic country,” he said.
Asri is frequently accused of promoting Wahhabism, a claim he has denied.
In 2016, he criticised Malaysia’s top anti-terrorism officer Ayub Khan Mydin Pitchay, for linking the works of 13th-century Sunni scholar Ibn Taymiyyah to Muslims influenced to extremist ideologies.
Ibn Taymiyyah’s works, considered controversial for its views on non-Muslims and other Muslims, are primary sources of Wahhabi literature.
Asri’s renewed attack on Shia Islam comes in the wake of the inquiry by the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) into the mysterious disappearance of Perlis activist Amri Che Mat, whom he had once questioned and accused of promoting Shi’ism.
Amri’s wife had told the inquiry that Asri’s officers could have played a role in her husband’s disappearance.
Asri then told the media that Amri was a Shia Muslim and therefore could be a threat to national security.