When man plays God

Till today this Day of Karbala is ‘celebrated’ by the Shiites. They have never forgiven their enemies and vow to one day seek revenge for what they did to Ali. This is why the Sunnis like the Malaysian Muslims fear the Shiites.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

The AFP report below is most interesting. This is probably the first time that the issue has been brought out into the open and so we can now debate the issue. And the fact that a comment has been made by the newly installed, albeit controversial, Selangor State Secretary means it is very difficult to not debate the matter.

The issue of ‘deviant’ Muslims is not new and has been a problem for almost 1,400 years — since the time of the death of Prophet Muhammad. I have in fact written about this many times although many feel I am not qualified to write about Islam or that I am distorting the truth. Actually, I am not writing about Islam from the theological angle. I am writing about history and you do not need to go to religious school to understand history.

As much as Muslims may disagree with me or resent what I say, we can’t deny one very important fact. And that is Ali, the Fourth Caliph of Medina, who was also the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was in conflict with Aishah, the Prophet’s youngest wife and daughter of Abu Bakar, the First Caliph.

They can say that I am lying or distorting the truth and that the Prophet’s widow and son-in-law did not have ‘bad blood’. In that case how do you explain the War of the Camel where Aishah led a Muslim army from Mekah to attack Medina? And did not Aishah lose that war? And did not Ali capture Aishah and sent her back to Medina a free woman? And did not Ali’s followers get angry and many abandoned him for not upholding the law?

The law of that time was if you rebelled against the Ruler then you would be put to death and your family would be sold into slavery and your property would be confiscated. This was the law of the land then but Ali did not impose this on Aishah. That was why Ali lost support and many supporters abandoned him for not upholding the law and for showing favouritism towards Aishah, his stepmother.

There was another war that Ali was engaged in — also Muslims versus Muslims — and this was the war against Baghdad, who wanted the Islamic Empire to shift from Medina to Baghdad.

Eventually, Ali was assassinated and his supporters formed a movement or political party that was called Shiatul Ali or the Party of Ali, now known as Shiite for short. And Ali’s son, Hassan, was asked to head the movement.

Hassan too was assassinated and the supporters then approached Hussein, Hassan’s younger brother, and asked him to take over the leadership. Hussein was reluctant at first but eventually agreed.

Hussein was asked to invade Baghdad, which had broken away from Medina and had proclaimed independence under its own Umayyad Caliph. Ali was promised the support of the entire Muslim community but when he marched on Baghdad on 10 October 680 no one joined him and his ‘army’ of less than 100 soldiers was massacred by the 1,000 strong Umayyad army.

Till today this Day of Karbala is ‘celebrated’ by the Shiites. They have never forgiven their enemies and vow to one day seek revenge for what they did to Ali. This is why the Sunnis like the Malaysian Muslims fear the Shiites.

But this was not the only conflict between Sunni Muslims and those of the other sects. When the Wahab-Saud Alliance swept across the Arabian Peninsular soon after World War I, all those not of the Wahhabi sect were put to death (Jews and Christians were spared though, only Muslims were butchered). That is why the Sunnis fear the Wahhabis as well.

Actually, whether it is Sunnis, Shiites, Wahhabis, or whatever, they all profess to being Muslims. But they are Muslims of different sects. The only thing is these different sects came about because of politics and the political struggle to dominate the Middle Eastern region (was this not true of the Jews and Christians as well?).

Malaysian Muslims might regard the Shiites, Wahhabis, or those from the other sects, as deviants. The other sects also regard Malaysian Muslims as deviants. All Muslims regard those not of their sect as deviants. So, if all Muslims are deviants in each other’s eyes, then who are the true Muslims? It appears like no one is a true Muslim if you consider the views of the Muslims themselves.


(AFP) – Like other Muslims they read the Koran and face Mecca to pray, but the Shiite community in Malaysia is considered a “deviant sect” and faces harassment in the multicultural country.

Religious authorities in December arrested 200 Shiites as they observed the holy day of Ashura, accusing them of threatening national security in a country where most of the 16.5 million Muslims are members of the Sunni sect.

The majority of those detained were Muslim Malays – who dominate the Malaysian population – joined by followers from Indonesia, Burma, Pakistan and Iran.

Former state religious department head Mohammed Khusrin Munawi, who led the December 16 raid, said that the faith, if left to grow, could undermine security as “fanatical followers of the sect consider other Muslims infidels”.

“For them, the blood of the followers of other faiths is lawful which means that it is okay to kill (Sunnis),” he told the Utusan Malaysia newspaper.

“Shiite doctrine is more dangerous than other deviant teachings (as)… Shiite followers in Iran and India are fighting against other Muslims merely because of different faiths,” he said.

The split dates back to a dispute over succession after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632.

In a country where non-Muslims are constitutionally free to practice their faith, the crackdown on an Islamic sect, which forms the majority in other countries, including Iran and Iraq, has raised concerns.

“Everyone in the country should have freedom of worship,” Reverend Thomas Philips, head of the country’s largest inter-religious council, told AFP.

“But in the Muslim context in Malaysia, they have a different understanding and so it is a very sensitive issue.”

The estimated 40,000 Shiites in Malaysia are one of several Islamic sects under close watch by religious authorities, who crack down hard on so-called deviant Islamic groups.

A 1989 Islamic law and a 1996 fatwa by Malaysia’s top Islamic clerics banned Shiism, declaring it a deviant ideology.

Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with civil courts running in parallel with Islamic Sharia courts where Muslim Malays can be tried on religious and moral charges.

However, Chandra Muzaffar, head of rights group Just, says that religious officials are abusing their power.

“The Shiites are not deviants, they are very much part of the Muslim community and if you deny them, then you are saying that 15 percent of Muslims worldwide are also deviant,” he said.

“They follow almost all the tenets of the majority Sunni sect and the differences are more political and historical so we should engage them through dialogue rather than carry out raids, arrest and prosecute them.”

Kamil Zuhairi Abdul Aziz, 45, the Iranian-trained leader of the Hauzah ar-Redha or “Knowledge House” raided by authorities in December, says they are forced to practice their faith quietly.

“We are Muslims just like any other Muslims in the country but we live in fear as we are constantly attacked verbally and are often arrested and detained by authorities,” he told AFP after prayers at the hauzah, the biggest of 40 Shiite community halls throughout the country.

“Shiism came to the shores of Malaysia in the 14th century when Islam arrived here as many of the Arabic, Indian and Persian traders who brought the religion were also Shiites.

“The authorities must recognise that we are not a recent phenomenon and that we should be respected just like any other faith in the country,” he said in the hall filled with religious banners and pictures of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We do not believe in bloodshed or that we are justified in killing anyone but yet these are the lies spread about us.”

Community elder Muhammad Hassan, 72, said the last waves of arrests of Shiite followers in Malaysia came in 1997 and 2001.

He says his grandchildren are discriminated against in school and higher learning institutions, where religious teachers “criticise Shiites openly although they don’t even understand or are bothered to even study our teachings.”

State religious department head Marzuki Hussin told AFP “the bottom line is that Shiism clashes with Islam in Malaysia and so it cannot be allowed to propagate here as it can cause instability.”

“We are happy to counsel the Shiite community on the practices of Malaysian Sunnis as what they are practising is a violation of our religious laws,” he said.

Kamil, who was among those arrested in the December raid, will answer charges of preventing Islamic officials from carrying out their duties on February 17.

“Our future is very uncertain as we have lived here for centuries but now don’t know for how long we can exist like this on the periphery of society,” he said.

“We are treated as outcasts when we actually contribute much to society. We are fellow Muslims – treat us as such.”