KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 6 — The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has slammed a recent crackdown against Shiah Muslims in Kelantan, describing it as a decision that can be construed as “a move towards extremism”.
The commission said the constant raids, arrests and detention by religious authorities working together with the police amounts to “a government-led persecution of the Shiah”, even as the Federal Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.
“The glaring inequality facing religious minorities has not changed since the coming to power at the federal level of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and despite the government’s promise to end discrimination in a moderate, progressive and tolerant Malaysia,” its chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said in a statement.
It also called for action from the Council of Rulers, saying the monarchy has a responsibility towards sectors of the Malaysian population victimised for their religious beliefs.
Suhakam also urged Putrajaya to take steps to guarantee legal protection and rights for all religious minorities, and to strengthen freedom of religion rather than restricting the constitutional right.
On August 31, Kelantan police chief Datuk Hasanuddin Hassan was quoted as confirming the arrest of 11 Shiah followers in a late-night Kota Baru raid together with the Kelantan Islamic Religious Affairs Department.
There were reportedly 50 people, including three children and 21 women, on the premises during the raid.
Several items, including books believed to be on Shiah teachings, were also seized.
Kelantan state executive councillor was quoted in Utusan Malaysia the next day as saying that the state government has long received information about the group, but could not act on them due to lack of evidence.
In recent years, Putrajaya, which endorses only the Sunni denomination of Islam, has stepped up its campaign against Shiah teachings and followers in Malaysia.
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 by Malaysia.
The division between Sunni and Shiah resulted from a political split over the leadership succession after the death of Prophet Muhammad, with Shiahs maintaining that Muhammad had designated his cousin and son-in-law Ali as the rightful heir.