Constitution guarantees freedom to worship, Suhakam says after raids against Shiahs

Shiah is Islam’s second-largest denomination and practised by an estimated 15 per cent of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, but is regarded as deviant here. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Shiah is Islam’s second-largest denomination and practised by an estimated 15 per cent of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, but is regarded as deviant here. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 10 ― The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has called for Islamic authorities to not curtail the right of Malaysians to freely practice any religion, as guaranteed by Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

The commission expressed concern over the recent raid on Shiah Muslims in Gombak on Saturday, which also saw children being detained.

“Unless Malaysian authorities, NGOs and civil society respect and tolerate the religious practices of all persons, we cannot truly profess to be a diverse and multicultural nation,” Suhakam said in a statement.

Article 11 states among others that every person has the right to profess and practise his religion, but cannot propagate their beliefs to Muslims.

In Malaysia, only the Sunni denomination of Islam and its Shafie school of jurisprudence are considered official.

Shiah is Islam’s second-largest denomination and practised by an estimated 15 per cent of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, but is regarded as deviant here.

It reminded all parties that Malaysia endorsed the Amman Message in 2005 under then-Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, which specifically recognises the legitimacy of various existing Islamic practices in addition to two other thrusts which focus on maintaining intra-Islamic harmony.

The document was signed off by approximately 200 Islamic scholars, heads of state, academics and political leaders worldwide.

“Suhakam hopes that brotherhood and compassion will be the bedrock upon which our society is founded, rather than the reactionary instinct to hate and mistreat others for their differences. The right to freely practice any religion should be enjoyed by all people, without fear of reprisal.

“We are always open to hosting conciliatory dialogue that will contribute to the improvement of intergroup relations and hopes that the government will take fair and constructive steps towards providing equal rights for all religious groups in Malaysia,” said the commission.

Saturday’s raid saw 23 people arrested by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) at a Shiah centre. 25 Jais officers were present and brought the detainees, including four boys aged 13 to 17, to the Islamic complex at Gombak where they were informed they are being investigated for contravening the fatwa on Shiah teachings.

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