WASHINGTON, April 29, 2014 — The past fall, the Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) held a seminar entitled “Confronting the Syiah Virus” (“Syiah” is the Malaysian word for Shia). At the event was Malaysia’s Home Ministry Security and Public Order assistant secretary Zamihan Md Zain Al-Ghari, who according to the Sun Daily said “there [is] an immediate need to stop the [Shiite] teaching[s].” The Anti Shia Alliance convention was held just a few short months later, expressing similar viewpoints to those espoused in the seminar.
Tardjono Abu Muas, head of the Anti Shia Alliance, told the Jakarta Globe “Our government should be like the Malaysian government,” referring to Malaysia’s unprecedented crackdown on Shiite beliefs and practices in the latter country, and Al-Ghari’s remarks.
“When [Shias] becomes too big to condone, it becomes a militant group,” said Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar several months ago, to Malaysia’s top news periodical, The Sun Daily. The same paper reported that the spread of Shia individuals “through businesses, education, political parties and non-governmental organisations [sic] … was being monitored by the authorities.”
Malaysian Shiites are not being accused of actual militant tendencies or viewpoints, instead Inspector General Abu Bakar is declaring a policy viewpoint of regarding Shiites as militant when their popularity reaches a certain level.
“The Malaysia Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has stressed that all branches of Shia teachings deviate … and violate Islamic law,” reported the Malaysian Insider. The report is titled “Shias are not Muslims.”
Last month, Malaysian authorities arrested several infants and small children, amongst others, in a crackdown after a celebration commemorating Zainab bint Ali, granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad. Photos were widely circulated, and the Malaysian government was criticized for diverting resources to a sectarian witch-hunt, rather than search for the missing Malaysian Air flight.
Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has refused to entertain talks on the topic of Sunnism and Shiaism, believing them to be irrelevant and unproductive.
“There is no need for a dialogue because it has nothing to do with human rights. What is there to discuss?” he told Free Malaysia Today (FMT) News, possibly giving insights into his viewpoint on Shiites.
Earlier this year, a retired Islamic scholar, or “Imam” was arrested for having possession of Shia texts, which Malaysian authorities view as illegal.
Reporting on the situation, the Wall Street Journal said “A 1996 fatwa forbidding the practice of Shia Islam has recently received renewed attention, leading to raids on and arrests of Shia adherents … Their prayer sessions and religious activities have been interrupted by Muslim religious authorities enforcing the state-sanctioned version of Islam.”
Human Rights Watch Asia advocacy director John Sifton said “Malaysia’s claims of being a tolerant and rights-respecting democracy don’t stand up to scrutiny. President Obama needs to take up concerns that basic rights are under threat, and that civil society is squeezed between restrictive laws and abusive government implementation.”
This week, immediately after speaking with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, President Obama told press reporters “More work needs to be done” regarding Malaysian human rights abuses.
The Sun Daily cites that the population of Shiite Muslims in the country is more than a quarter million individuals.
While ranked the number one university in Malaysia, the school is only at a rank of 582 in the world. Many of Malasyia’s colleges are in the bottom 10,000th tier of schools around the globe.