JNN 22 April 2014 Kuala Lumpur : On 21st April 2014, at 2.30pm Mr Mohd Kamilzuhairi Abdul Aziz, a local Malaysian Shia cleric was arrested while giving an opening speech at a luncheon organized by his group. The luncheon has been held for many years to commemorate the birth of Lady Fatimah Al Zahra, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Around 10 policemen in uniform, an amount of religious officers from Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Selangor State Islamic Department) and officials from ROS (The Registrar of Societies of Malaysia) arrived in Taman Sri Gombak, at the luncheon and arrested him after a little argument.
Mr Kamil Zuhairi was brought to Selayang Police HQ in the state of Selangor and was interrogated for more than 6 hours. At one point, policemen and officials from ROS went to his house to find for documents related to the existence of Shia Jafari (the Twelvers) community in Malaysia.
The Registrar of Societies of Malaysia is a department under the Ministry of Home Affairs that handles non-governmental organizations and political parties.
According to Gombak Police Chief, ACP Ahmad Ali, the arrest was made after ROS lodged a police report on the existence of Ja’fari movement whom are not registered as an association .
However it is important to note here that on 24 July 2013, Secretary General of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi, said that it is decided by the Home Ministry that any Shia movement are not recognized and considered illegal. This according to him is in accordance with Section 5 of the Societies Act 1966. He was commenting an attempt by a Shia organization to apply to register with the The Registrar of Societies of Malaysia in the state of Melaka on June 18 2011, but was rejected on August 4 of the same year.
Datuk Othman Mustapha, Head of Jabatan Kemajuan Agama Islam Malaysia (The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia under Prime Minister’s office) once stated that Shia is a banned faith in Malaysia under Sharia law, and any movement or activities as a community is also illegal and can be arrested under civil law.
On 29th July 2013, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said that Malaysian government tolerates Christians, Hindus and other faith but wont allow Shia faith to exist as Malaysian Muslims are only entitled to be Sunni followers. He also stated that Shia is not a school of thought and we will not recognize it as a religion.
Malaysian government’s ill treatments against Shia adherents are resulted from a 1996 fatwa banning, outlawing and declaring Shia as ‘a deviant teaching’.
Mr Kamil Zuhairi was released with two guarantors before midnight and the investigation is still ongoing. He is given a date to appear in court and is suspected of violating section 42 of the Societies Act. Mr Kamil will be given two months by ROS to give explanations or he will face charge.
We denounce this act of the State as opressive as it violates the fundamental rights of human beings. The State should be reminded of its obligation to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to assemble peacefully and associate freely. We believe this matter should be taken into consideration by Mr Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association.
Malaysia has a serious human rights problem, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), which released a 100+ page report entitled “No Answers, No Apologies” detailing abuses by Malaysian authorities. The report comes on the heels of accounts that Malaysia arrested infants from the country’s minority Shiite Muslim sect, based upon the “crime” of engaging in Shiite religious practices.
International attention has been given to Malaysia after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing last month, and human rights watchdogs welcome the focus.
“Unjustified shootings, mistreatment and deaths in custody, and excessive use of force in dispersing public assemblies persist because of an absence of meaningful accountability for Malaysia’s police force, the Royal Malaysia Police (RMP),” says the HRW report.
The human rights abuses are directed at all sectors of Malaysian society, however significant media attention has been drawn towards the plight of Shia Muslims in Malaysia, who are facing increased discrimination on a daily basis.
“Among the marginalized in Malaysia, there is a single group perhaps more marginalized than many. They are the people that Malaysia has forgotten. They are the Shiite Muslims” says Loyar Burok, a popular Malaysian blog. The article is entitled “Shiite Muslims in Malaysia: A Cultural Genocide.”
The issue of anti Shia human rights abuses is slowly becoming endemic to the country’s populace. On Reddit, on a discussion of human rights abuses in Malaysia, one user wrote “In Malaysia, Shia is considered deviant […] You also not allowed to form a group to practice your faith. Yes we are stern in protecting our faith and our children faith and to keep it pure from innovation. Regarding Allah words, it was the right move, because there were underground movement to spread confusion among muslim youth in the country.”
When questioned about the morality of the behavior of the Malaysian government, the same user replied with a horrific account of conditions in Malaysia: “They were not oppressed, most probably they would end up in rehabilitation center to correct their faith.”