PETALING JAYA: A human rights activist is banking on religious affairs minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri to put a stop to hateful comments targeting the Rohingya refugee community in Malaysia, after a shocking video showing one such refugee being verbally abused by a local man.
Afiq Noor, who is attached to rights group Lawyers for Liberty, said Zulkifli, the former federal territories mufti, must come out with a strong stand for the Rohingya.
He said the harassment against members of the Rohingya community was against the spirit of Islam.
“What is happening to us in this Ramadan month? This is the negative effect of hateful narratives on social media becoming reality.
“Most people argue that we are not a party to the treaty on refugees, therefore, we are under no obligation to accept and treat them with dignity and humaneness.
“Maybe they forgot that the Federal Constitution provides protection to all peoples. Article 8 clearly states that every person regardless whether they’re a citizen or not shall be treated equally,” he told FMT.
Afiq said Malaysia was also party to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Cairo Declaration, which among others called for the protection of refugees by member-states.
Yesterday, FMT reported an incident in which a Rohingya grass-cutter was harassed by a local man, as seen in a video shared on Facebook.
A four-minute video posted on Facebook showed the local shouting at the Rohingya for failing to understand a request to recite the Islamic declaration of faith to prove that he was a practising Muslim.
It comes amid a spike in xenophobic comments aimed at the Rohingya in recent weeks, with religious leaders and rights activists appealing for calm.
The wave was triggered in part by a report falsely claiming that Rohingya refugees in Malaysia are demanding citizenship. It followed the authorities’ controversial move to push back boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya people fleeing Myanmar.
The Malaysian Islamic Organisations Consultative Council (Mapim) expressed worry over the latest incident.
“This shows that this xenophobic sentiment has spread and it is possible that it has gone out of control,” Mapim president Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid told FMT.
He warned that if the trend continues, other refugee communities could face a similar backlash.
In the video, the grass-cutter who was on his way to work was also scorned for breaching the movement control order (MCO).
Afiq said the man in the video probably had to work during the ongoing MCO simply to survive.
He also asked if “Musa’adah Covid-19”, a special fund launched by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) to help those affected by the MCO, would also be used to benefit the refugee community.
“The fact is many of them are still struggling and have to work during this MCO period.
“With such a negative narrative against them, you expect our refugee brothers and sisters to queue up and seek help?” asked Afiq.
Afiq previously reminded Muslims who oppose the presence of Rohingya in the country that the earliest Muslims during Prophet Muhammad’s time were also refugees.
“They fled their homes to a country ruled by a Christian for protection not once, but twice,” Afiq wrote on Twitter earlier this month.
Afiq warned that should any refugee in Malaysia die of hunger, “their blood would be on our hands”.
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