Letter to Y.B. Mejar Jeneral Dato’ Seri Jamil Khir Bin Baharom/ Malaysia
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department
Y.A.B. Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak
On behalf of Shia Rights Watch, I am writing to highlight the ongoing human rights violations toward Shia Muslims in Malaysia and to ask for action to prevent future violations.
Malaysia is a multi-religious and multiracial nation and Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Shia Muslims are all minorities in the society. However, Shia Muslims are the only minority group that faces increasing unfair treatment and violation from the government. Although Shia are Muslims, their faith is considered “deviant” in Malaysia and by the Malaysian government.
SRW is writing to highlight that prohibiting the practice of any religion is against human rights and a clear violation of a number of Articles in the International Bill of Human Rights (IBHR), The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, and the Islamabad Declaration that Malaysia is affiliated with.
It is shocking to learn Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, stated that banning Shia teaching is not against human rights as the Kedah government announced that it would ban the Syiah (Shia) teachings in Kedah.
SRW is also concerned about the abolishment of The 40th Special Conference of the Fatwa Committee of the National Council for Islamic Religious Affairs that Malaysia convened in1996, which discussed the status of Shia in Malaysia and “decided that only the Zaidiyyah and Jafariyyah Shia sects are accepted to be practiced in Malaysia”. Abolishing such a law will only increase intolerance among the citizens. Malaysia’s consideration or decision to ban the Shia from practicing and teaching their faith is clear violation of human rights laws according to Articles 2 and 22 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration of 2012, which Malaysia has committed to in the presence of President Barack Obama in Phnom Penh on November 18th 2012. The Articles state:
Every person is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth herein, without distinction of any kind, such as race, gender, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, disability or other status.
Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. All forms of intolerance, discrimination and incitement of hatred based on religion and beliefs shall be eliminated.
Also, Malaysia’s stand against the Shia population is contrary to Islamabad Declaration (2007) which was signed by Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, Home Minister at the time to represent Malaysia at The Thirty Fourth Session of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers on 15-17th May 2007. Islamabad Declaration (2007) states that:
“No Muslim, whether he or she is Shi’ite or Sunni, may be subject to murder or any harm, intimidation, terrorization, or aggression on his property; incitement thereto; or forcible displacement, deportation, or kidnapping. All Muslims to refrain seriously from any provocation of sensitivities or sectarian or ethnic strife, as well as any name-calling, abuse, prejudice or vilification and invectives.”
Moreover, recently SRW was informed that The Home Ministry is urged to immediately ban printed materials such as books and novels written by Syiah (Shia Muslim) followers. This ban limits the Shia’s access to their educational sources and is not acceptable.
The fact that you are promoting anti-Shia laws and do not consider it contrary to human rights is unexpected.
Ever since the 1980s the Shia Muslim community has been facing stigma and violations of rights including arrests, attacks on private practices in community centers and confiscation of properties. A report published by Shia Rights Watch clearly detailed the violations toward Shia Muslims in Malaysia. According to the many Shia that complain about the situation of Shia; they are afraid to practice their faith in public.
S.R.W believes it is important for the Malaysian government to recognize Shia as Muslims and give them the human rights that they are entitled to, just like any other citizen in the country. Freedom and respect to religions must be observed in Malaysia and all citizens should be treated equally.
To this end, SRW urges the Malaysian government to:
- Stop anti-Shia activities and respect basic human rights of Shia regarding their religious freedom,
- Free and drop charges against detained Shia Muslim ,
- Put a stop to anti-Shia fatwas and religious documents,
- Allow Shia to practice their faith freely,
- Rather than applying pressure to the Shia community, violating their rights and provoking them to retaliate, Malaysia should be working together with this minority group to ensure that the well -being and the rights of the community are preserved. The government should promote policies and practices that ensure the right of every religious group to exercise its faith free from legal, political, or economic restrictions. This includes the Shia Muslim minority.
- Peace is only obtainable under understanding and respect for others.
Director of SRW