Malaysia bans Shias from promoting their faith
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia said on Wednesday that Shias in the country, who have been termed a ‘deviant’ sect, are barred from promoting their faith to other Muslims but are free to practise it themselves.
Some 200 Shias were arrested in December by religious authorities who accused them of threatening national security in multicultural Malaysia, where most of the 16.5 million Muslims are members of the Sunni sect.
“We don’t prohibit Shia adherents to practise but there are (laws) that don’t allow preaching to adherents of Sunnah Wal Jamaah (Sunnis),” Islamic affairs minister Jamil Khir Baharom told parliament according to state media. Jamil Khir said the government had made ‘various efforts’ to halt the spread of the faith in the country, including issuing fatwas against the sect and the ‘monitoring and control of materials promoting Shia faith.”
Mohammed Khusrin Munawi, a former religious department head in Selangor state who led the December 16 raid, has said that Shia Islam represents a threat because ‘fanatical followers of the sect consider other Muslims infidels’.
Shia community leader Kamil Zuhairi Abdul Aziz said on Wednesday that Shias in Malaysia do not preach to other Muslims. “Although we keep a very low profile, live in harmony with Sunnis and non-Muslims and practise our religion within our community, we have been persecuted by the authorities for many decades,” he told AFP. “In fact, we are not the ones who are spreading our faith. By arresting us and making this an issue, the state religious authorities are giving us the publicity and spreading our teachings.”
The estimated 40,000 Shias in Malaysia are one of several Islamic sects under close watch by religious authorities, who crack down hard on so-called deviant groups. A 1989 Islamic law and a 1996 fatwa by Malaysia’s top Islamic clerics banned Shiism, declaring it a deviant ideology. Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with civil courts running in parallel with Islamic courts where Muslim Malays can be tried on religious and moral charges. afp