â€œHumbug!â€ That was the reaction of a local Shia leader to yesterdayâ€™s claim by a minister that the government was not preventing the practice of Shiâ€™ism in the country.
Hussain Sajjad, secretary of the As-Sajjad Movement, said the latest statement on the issue by Minister in the Prime Ministerâ€™s Department Jamil Khir Baharom was in stark contradiction with what he said less than a month ago and belied the situation on the ground.
â€œOn July 27, Jamil said that severe action would be taken against those found to be followers of Shia Islam,â€ said Hussain.
At a press conference yesterday, Jamil said Shia Muslims were allowed to practise but not preach their faith. He was explaining Putrajayaâ€™s 2005 ratification of the Amman Messages, an international treaty opposing discrimination against Shia and other non-Sunni Muslims.
â€œIt is not wrong for them to practise Shia Islam, just like it isnâ€™t wrong for Malaysian Chinese to practise Buddhism,â€ Jamil told a press conference. â€œBut they canâ€™t spread the ideology to local Muslims, who are Sunnis.â€
Hussain said Jamilâ€™s statement did not reflect the standard practice of Malaysian religious authorities.
â€œHow would Jamil explain the recent arrest of Dr Nur Azah Abdul Halim and Mohammad Ridzuan Yusof?â€ he said, referring to a raid in Kamunting on Aug 6 by the Perak Islamic Religious Department. Besides arresting the two persons, the raiders confiscated books, CD recordings and posters.
Hussain also referred to a December 2010 lightning raid on a Shia community centre in Gombak, in which officers from the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) arrested more than 200 people, including several foreigners.
â€œThose people were practising, not propagating, Shia Islam,â€ he said.
â€œIn short, Jamilâ€™s assurance does not hold water.â€
Hussain alleged that the government had political reasons for persecuting Shia Muslims.
â€œThe ruling coalition is playing the Sunni-Shia divide card so as to be seen as a champion of Islam. They do this in order to gain Malay support.â€
Hussain also took a swipe at former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed, saying he too had been contradicting himself when commenting on the issue.
â€œDr Mahathir and Iranâ€™s ex-president Seyyed Mohamed Khatami jointly appealed for Sunni and Shiite unity in May,â€ he said.
â€œSince then, Mahathir has changed his stand, claiming that the presence of Shia Muslims in the country would result in a Sunni-Shiite conflict