Help end the oppression, Shia Muslims tell Suhakam

Dozens of Shia Muslim followers in Selangor and Johor were recently arrested in raids on private functions.

PETALING JAYA: A group of Shia Muslims, including those arrested during a raid by Johor religious authorities on Sept 9, have taken their case to the government’s human rights commission Suhakam, alleging pressure from “powerful individuals” in stepping up state discrimination against them.

FMT has learnt that the group of 13 met with a Suhakam commissioner and other senior members of the body yesterday, and among others spoke of how Shia Muslims were barred from enrolling their children in school or registering their marriages.

They also told Suhakam that politicians as well as “powerful individuals” in Johor are involved in “oppressing” the community.

“The problem is not limited to the religious authorities or even the state mufti,” a spokesman for the community told FMT on condition of anonymity.

“The pressure from these people complicates matters,” he added.

Shia, with a substantial following in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and several parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan, is the second largest branch of Islam.

But its teachings are labelled as deviant by Malaysia’s Islamic authorities, who have in the past raided the private religious events of its adherents.

Fatwas have been issued in most states declaring Shia Muslims as deviant, while mosques in Selangor have for years included a prayer condemning the school of thought during Friday sermons.

Islamic authorities in Selangor and Johor raided private Shia Muslim functions early this month, as adherents observed the Ashura, the death anniversary of Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad and a central figure in Shia Islam.

Dozens of Shia Muslim followers, including foreigners, were arrested in what was labelled by Suhakam as a violation of constitutional rights.

In one such raid in Kempas, Johor, Shia Muslims said the policemen who accompanied officers of the Johor Islamic Religious Department had manhandled them.

In several police reports filed after the incident, it was alleged that a policeman trained a gun on one of the participants of the private religious event.

Witnesses told FMT that two dozen officers showed up during the raid, accompanied by masked policemen, some of whom climbed over the fence to break into the house where about 50 Shia Muslims including women and children were observing the Ashura. Johor police are investigating the allegations.

Shia Muslims who met Suhakam yesterday urged the commission to help stop oppression against the community.

It said Suhakam would help arrange a meeting between the group, the state religious department and the Malaysian Islamic Development Department.

Suhakam was also told that the current crackdown on Shias was a continuation of the previous administration’s policies.

“The phobia towards Shias has seeped deep into the Muslim community, with sermons of hate against Shias only making it worse.”