KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 — Vocal human rights lawyer Siti Kasim has pleaded with Malaysians to stand with her and speak out against creeping extremism in the country’s religious institutions.
In a 5.47-minute video posted on her Facebook page as well as uploaded on YouTube last night, Siti urged Muslim and non-Muslim citizens to “take a further step” to address the “clear and present danger to our society” after an Islamic preacher was caught criticising a royal decree against a Muslim-only laundry and denigrating ethnic Chinese as “impure”.
“Is it only me or does anyone else feel this dread of extremism covering over our beloved Malaysia these days?” she asked at the start of the clip.
“It seems the extremists and radicals are everywhere these days stopping at nothing to have others bow to their demands and take the rights of others away,” she continued, and listed as examples the recent successful objections for non-Muslims to hold events with alcohol, the past numerous arrests of Muslims from the Ahmadiyyah denomination and the ban against a book titled Islam Without Extremes.
To Siti, the preacher whom she addressed as an “ustad” represents a “radical” figure in a position of religious authority who is allowed to speak freely and is therefore a cause of real concern for society.
She later mentions “Zamihan” as the possible name of the preacher in the video, but only once, and noted that his position as an officer with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) was unclear.
“It’s not surprising that this guy, this ustad, this Zamihan his name or whatever, he is actually, or he was or he claims he was in Jakim but no longer. But this is the type of people we have in Jakim ok. I’m not saying all, but if we have this type of people in our religious institution, we need to be worried about it, right?” she said.
In a separate posting on her Facebook account later, Siti named one “Zamihan Md Zin” as among several preachers who had accused her of being “murtad” or apostate.
“This is spreading hatred of the other and this is how extremists radicalise their followers; by making the other, those who are not like them, non-Muslims, even Muslims of different sects as people who are less than them.
“When people are less than you, impure, they are less human. So it allows you to hate them and do things to others a decent person won’t. This is how you breed radicals, extremists and terrorists,” she said in the video.
She expressed her gratitude to the Conference of Rulers for their statement yesterday denouncing extremists and extremism.
But she maintained that Malaysians must also demand their government take action and “weed out such extremists and radicals and their teachings from our society and especially from our religious institutions” to preserve the country’s peace, harmony, moderation, inclusiveness, and respect among its peoples.
“This is not about Islam actually. This is about preserving the harmony, inclusiveness, and progressive nature and peacefulness of our society and nation,” said Siti.
Muslim preacher Zamihan Mat Zin was arrested yesterday following controversy over his Sunday video lecture in which he complained about “a sultan” who criticised a Muslim-only laundry and made racist remarks against the Chinese whom he suggested as unclean as they allegedly did not wash after urinating and defecating.
He is being investigated under the Sedition Act 1948 and the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
In a statement last night, Jakim director-general Tan Sri Othman Mustapha also confirmed the preacher works as its caderisation officer, attached with the Home Ministry in the Kajang Prison.
Othman also said Jakim’s disciplinary board is conducting an internal inquiry on Zamihan.