Last week, a seminar on the Amman Message to take place at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) was called off.
Police cited a message on an anti-Shia Facebook page urging people to bomb the venue. When the organisers were informed, IAIS took the precautionary measure of cancelling the event.
There are questions unanswered in this episode.
Was the man who threatened the attack arrested? His name was clearly mentioned. His group was clearly mentioned.
The police seemed efficient when it came to nabbing a poor man who insulted the police and a frail Chinese man who insulted the Prophet, and we all know what happened to Wan Ji Wan Hussin for his remarks on the royalty.
Why the delay? Why the silence on the investigation into a bomb threat? The public need to know.
How come such a brazen threat was made by an unknown group? Was it supposed to be their debut attack? No one has heard of this group or the man named by the police.
Secondly, why target an academic institution?
IS has claimed responsibility for attacks on churches, nightclubs, concerts and hotels. But I find it hard to believe that they would target an institution of higher learning, a place not many would set foot in to listen to intellectual discourse.
The pattern just does not fit. Was the threat made up to provide an excuse to cancel the event?
The posting “Let’s all go and bomb this place” seems to me more like a call to rally than a serious threat. A message such as “Let’s bomb this place and finish off the liberals” would have been more convincing for a terrorist threat.
Why was an academic event targeted? Academic events hardly raise any strong consciousness among the public simply because academics are mostly those who hold discourse among themselves. Even the media shun many academic conferences and forums because academics seem happy talking among themselves, using jargon that only they can comprehend. Folks and politicians with a simple understanding of “Ketuanan Melayu” would not care two cents about the discourse anyway.
So why target a conference that nobody seems to care about?
The Amman Message marks the acceptance of the eight schools of Islam and yet the group was named as an anti-Shia group. The sermon every Friday at a government Islamic school near my house in Kajang always ends with a loud cry against the “forces of evil”: LGBT, Shias, liberals and progressives.
I have, therefore, surmised that the group reflects the prevalent attitude of Muslims against Shias.
The fact that the Facebook account received tens of thousands of likes further indicates that extremist conservatism is fully entrenched in Malaysia.
But most frightening of all is the silence that followed the cancellation of the event.
Where are the voices from the public universities funded by Malaysians’ tax money? There are many faculties of social sciences and faculties of Islam with thousands of academics who should welcome the conference and the Amman Message.
Why the deafening silence from the Islamic institutions? Is it indifference or ignorance? Or, perhaps, a sigh of relief that such discourse on Islam will not take place?
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.