KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin accused Malaysia’s Muslims today of putting their greed and avarice over their duty to help their Rohingya brothers in the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the seas of Southeast Asia.
He said Malaysia had already failed the Rohingya once by remaining silent over their state-sanctioned persecution by Buddhist “terrorists” in Myanmar, and is now repeating its failure by standing by silently to watch them suffer and die.
“When European countries that are not even Muslims try to save refugees in their waters, we who overdo it with a ‘salawat perdana’ (mass prayer) that cost hundred of thousands, are willing to watch people die out at sea because we fear our prosperity being shared by others,” he said, in what appears to be a dig at a large-scale Islamic prayer and concert held at Dataran Merdeka last New Year’s Eve.
“Then we say ‘we Muslims are the best’?!... It is feared this loss of humanity will draw the wrath of God in the seas and on the land. We seek Allah’s protection for all the rakyat who are innocent,” he said.
An estimated 6,000 to 20,000 migrants fleeing ethnic persecution in Myanmar and poverty in Bangladesh are currently adrift in the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca, after having been abandoned by their traffickers with little food or water.
The United Nations has labelled the situation a massive humanitarian disaster.
Reports from foreign media crews that have caught up with the packed vessels say the migrants are starving and desperate for help, having gone with very little food and water over the months they have been at sea.
Most were thought to be headed here, but after more than 1,000 migrants came ashore in Malaysia and Indonesia in the past week, both countries have declared their intention to turn away any more boats carrying fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh natives.
Asri said today the faithful have forgotten that it is entirely up to the Almighty to decide if they will continue to enjoy whatever prosperity that they have now, and warned that their selfishness could prompt Allah to unleash his divine wrath.
“If a disaster did not befall them, surely they would not risk their lives. But because of our greed, our fear that our prosperity will be shared by others, we cast them out to fight for their lives out at sea,” the popular Islamic scholar said on his Facebook page.
“We forget that if Allah wills it, whatever prosperity in hand will disappear. Just look at 1MDB. Where did that prosperity go,” he said, referring to debt-laden state-owned firm 1 Malaysia Development Berhad.
“We are still searching for the remains of those who are almost certainly dead on a plane that crashed into the sea, while those who are still alive we leave to die out at sea. Where is our humanity?!” he added, in an apparent reference to the still-missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Putrajaya had initially stated that it turn away any seaworthy boat carrying the migrants from Malaysian waters, adding that it does not recognise their refugee status.
The federal government’s position irked Malaysians, who have since launched efforts to gather food and medical supplies to distribute to the refugees adrift at sea.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said yesterday that “necessary actions” are being taken for the refugees that were of international and regional importance.
It is however unclear if these steps include allowing the boats to dock, which Putrajaya previously said it would not permit.