Gun-toting cops in masks treated us like criminals, say Shia Muslims

(FMT) – Details have emerged of rough treatment allegedly given to Shia Muslims detained in a raid by Johor Islamic authorities during a private religious event on Monday, including a claim that a gun was trained on one of them.

Witnesses told FMT that a Yemeni national who was among the eight detained in the raid by the Johor Islamic Religious Department (JAINJ) in Kempas, Johor Bahru, was attempting to leave the scene when a masked police officer grabbed him from behind and aimed a gun at his head.

It was also alleged that another detainee, under whose name the premise was rented for the private ceremony marking the Ashura – an important occasion observed each year by Shias worldwide – was threatened by a police officer after apparently leaving the door open to allow guests to leave.

“The officer was warned by an ustaz there not to manhandle the group. He told them that their job was only to maintain the security that night.

FMT is unable to independently verify the claim although the Johor police and JAINJ have been contacted for a response.

Women and children were among more than 50 Shia Muslims observing the Ashura when they were raided by Johor religious authorities on Sept 9.

It is understood that two detainees lodged separate police reports at the Larkin police station today.

A witness told FMT that JAINJ failed to produce a warrant to raid the premise, a private residence in Taman Bukit Kempas.

He said about two dozen officers showed up during the raid, accompanied by masked policemen.

“Some of the JAINJ officers climbed over the fence to break into the house. It is an offence to break into a private premise,” he told FMT, adding that the police had overstepped their boundaries by taking part in the arrests.

“It was a raid conducted by JAINJ. Police should only have been there to maintain order,” he said.

In the raid on Sept 9, eight people, including a Yemeni, an Indonesian and two Singaporeans, were arrested.

One witness said the detainees had their hands cuffed behind their backs and were “treated like criminals”.

They were brought to JAINJ in a black truck and released on bail after being detained overnight.

A Yemeni national in handcuffs, one of eight Shia Muslims detained in Johor on Sept 9.

The eight are accused of violating Section 9 of the Johor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment through the offence of being in contempt of the sultan, mufti as well as fatwa.

Similar arrests have been made in raids against Shia Muslims in Selangor.

Shia, with a substantial following in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and several parts of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan, is the second largest branch of Islam.

But Malaysian religious agencies have over the years been enforcing a fatwa declaring Shia teachings as “deviant”, with raiding parties mostly targeting local Shias.

A witness at the raid in Johor said a police officer had kicked one of the detainees for questioning the action against them.

“This officer said, ‘Don’t talk too much or else I’ll beat you up.’ The man replied, ‘Go ahead, beat me.’

“However, nothing untoward happened,” he told FMT.

A Shia Muslim spokesman meanwhile said raids against the community were nothing new, especially during the Ashura ceremonies held in the first 10 days of the Islamic calendar month of Muharram.

But he said this time, detainees were treated harshly.

“In the past, their statements were taken and they were released. But this latest raid was harsher.”

He added that Shia Muslims accused by JAINJ had never been charged in court.

“They have no case. They just try to scare and shame us.”