KUALA LUMPUR: A local Shia group has blamed religious authorities for being part of a systematic campaign to vilify the minority Muslim community, saying it has encouraged criminal action against them including forced disappearance as revealed recently by Suhakam.
Komuniti Shia Malaysia, a support group representing followers of Shia Islam – the school of thought frowned by Malaysian Islamic authorities – said there has been a spike in Shiaphobia through the use of the mainstream media as well as mosque pulpits.
It said the recent findings by Suhakam, the government’s Human Rights Commission, only confirmed the community’s fears on their personal safety.
“Our community including Amri has never been given the right to defend themselves although the Constitution gives us the freedom to hold to our conviction.
“We are Malaysian citizens who live within the freedom allowed by the Malaysian Constitution,” the group said in a statement to FMT.
It said there has also been fear mongering to whip up anti-Christian sentiments in the country.
On Wednesday, Suhakam declared Pastor Raymond Koh and Amri Che Mat victims of “enforced disappearances”, and blamed Bukit Aman’s Special Branch for their abductions based on testimonies from some 40 witnesses during its year-long inquest.
Amri, a Perlis-based activist who runs a charity organisation, is believed to be a Shia follower, and had in the past been questioned over his belief by state Islamic authorities.
In January 2018, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, who was present during a raid on Amri’s home, criticised him for practising Shia Islam, the second largest sect in the Muslim world which Malaysian Islamic authorities label as “deviant”.
But Asri rejected suggestions that he was involved in Amri’s disappearance, who witnesses said was abducted on Nov 24, 2016 just 500 metres from his home in Kangar.
The Shia support group said there have been attempts to use state institutions to justify “evil and inhumane” acts.
“The rulers, police and Islamic institutions must be defended and this small group targeting the minority like us should be identified, brought to justice, punished and removed,” it said.
It welcomed any move to convene a royal commission of inquiry as a follow-up to the Suhakam findings, but said there should also be efforts to fight hate speech.
“We call for positive efforts to fight Shiaphobia and Christianophobia as long as they do not violate the constitution,” said the group.