Suhakam: Turkish writer Akyol’s detention blemishes Malaysia’s ‘moderate’ reputation

Mustafa Akyol was detained by the police on Monday night after immigration authorities prevented him from boarding his flight at the airport. He was released after Jawi questioned him yesterday morning. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Mustafa Akyol was detained by the police on Monday night after immigration authorities prevented him from boarding his flight at the airport. He was released after Jawi questioned him yesterday morning. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 27 — The detention of Turkish author and columnist Mustafa Akyol has tarnished Malaysia’s international reputation as a moderate nation, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said today.

Suhakam also said it believed the actions by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi), which had applied for an arrest warrant in order to question Akyol after he spoke at a roundtable discussion on apostasy last Sunday, were not government policy, but that the religious department had been allowed to take “arbitrary” measures.

“Such extreme action in our multireligious, multiracial and moderate Malaysia in our view is repressive, undemocratic and intended to be intimidating.

“There is no question that this must be stopped by the government and such actions that reflect hostility, narrow-mindedness and intolerance of civil, intellectual and religious discourse should not be committed again,” Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said in a statement.

Akyol, author of Islam without extremes: A Muslim case for liberty, a 2011 book that argues for Islamic liberalism, was detained by the police on Monday night after immigration authorities prevented him from boarding his flight at the airport. He was released after Jawi questioned him yesterday morning.

Jawi said in a statement yesterday that it had applied to the Kuala Lumpur Shariah Court to issue a warrant of arrest after Akyol failed to turn up for questioning over his involvement in the roundtable talk on apostasy organised by Muslim group, the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF), at the Royal Selangor Golf Club.

The religious department was investigating Akyol for failing to obtain official credentials before speaking about Islam, which it claimed was a Shariah offence.

According to the IRF, Akyol safely left Malaysia last night.

Razali said Jawi’s actions only emboldened those who pushed for polarisation and for the superiority of a certain group or religious belief over others.

“There can be many Malaysians who interpret such actions as the government being inclined towards accommodating them. Suhakam strongly counsels the Government to take stock of the drift towards religious extremism and fears that if such situations continue, Malaysia would change qualitatively for the worst,” said Razali.

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