On the 26 of November 2016, Amri Che Mat’s car was found near the Perlis Timah Tosah Dam in Perlis, Malaysia with its windows shattered. From then on, the whereabout of Mat remain unknown.
Mat was a foreign exchange trader, a husband and father to four minor children. He was also the co-founder of Perlis Hope, a charity organization active in the community.
Previous to his disappearance, Mat had received numerous warnings from the Perlis Religious Department to reduce his social activities. The local mufti (non-Shia religious leader), Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, had shown up on Mat’s doorstep along with local law enforcement questioning him and his family about their Shia beliefs. Asri and other local religious leaders had made assertions that increased prominence of Perlis Hope activities could be a “threat to national security”.
Recently, witnesses have come forward stating that Mat’s car had been stopped by five vehicles close to his home around 11:30 pm on November 24.
Locals have compared the disappearance of Mat to that of Pastor Raymond Koh, who was also abducted in a “military-like assault” by his home on February 13, 2017. Neighbors recall seeing five cars, two of which were SUV’s, and 15 men stopping Koh and pulling him out of his car in broad daylight.
Despite the emerging facts and the continued violence against minority groups in Malaysia, little has been done by local law enforcement. Norhayati Mohd Ariffin, Mat’s wife states she has lodged numerous police reports over the past year, yet her case was not taken seriously. During investigations, the Koh family recalls the same procedure- instead of investigating the crime, the police questioned the Pastors social activities.
Religious Freedom in Malaysia
In 1996, Shia Islam was officially referred to as deviant. Although officials have said private practice of Shiism is permitted, Shia Muslims, along with other minority groups face constant discrimination. In 2017, $10 Billion were spent on the building of the King Salman Center for International Peace that aimed to “bring together Islamic scholars and intelligence agencies”. Funded and educated by conservative Wahhabi schools, religious authorities in Malaysia have welcomed intolerance against nonconformist to their definition of Islam and the new center, sources say, is a way to increase resources to identify and locate religious minority communities and their leaders.
Prejudice against minority groups have become systematic in the nation as law enforcement, too, ignores acts of violence that threaten these communities. The lack of due-process for direct violence welcomes increased bigotry and targeting of these groups. Further, lack of safety for religious minorities in the nation creates a power vacuum, allowing other religious extremist organizations such as the Kumpulan Mujahiddin Malaysia (KMM) to become active in the region.
Decades long religious intolerance in Malaysia not only threatens the diversity in the country, but it also reduced pro-social efforts. Perlis Hope is a charity organization that provides aid to those in need in the area. By providing well needed social services, Perlis Hope, and its likes, are creating stability for their constituents.
Intolerance in Malaysia is a growing threat to the nations security. By targeting religious minority leaders, authorities have created opportunities for the expansion of extremism and violence to the nation.