Suhakam warns against ‘instinct to hate’ after anti-Shia raids

A truckload of detainees including women and children outside a Shia Muslim centre in Gombak, Selangor on Sept 6, 2019.

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has criticised recent raids against Shia Muslims by religious authorities, saying their constitutional right to freedom of religion has been violated.

“Unless Malaysian authorities, NGOs and civil society respect and tolerate the religious practices of all persons, we cannot truly profess to be a diverse and multicultural nation,” Suhakam said, adding that the right to freely practise any religion is provided by Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

Police in Johor and Selangor have raided private functions by Shia Muslims in recent weeks, as they mark the death anniversary of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and a central figure in Shia Islam.

It is believed that at least 40 people including women and children as well as foreigners were arrested in the raids.

The raids drew support from Muslim organisation Ikram as well as Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari.

Religious authorities in Malaysia have over the years been enforcing a fatwa declaring Shia teachings as “deviant”, with raiding parties mostly targeting local Shias, and sermons in Selangor frequently condemning its followers as heretics.

Suhakam in its statement also reminded authorities of the Amman Message, a document endorsed in 2005 by Muslim leaders worldwide including former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The document, signed by 200 Islamic scholars, heads of state, academics and political leaders, recognises the legitimacy of various Islamic schools of thought, including Shia, as part of Islam.

Suhakam also warned against “reactionary instinct to hate and mistreat others for their differences”.

“The right to freely practise any religion should be enjoyed by all people, without fear of reprisal,” it said, adding that it was ready to host dialogues between groups.