Published in The Malay Mail Online
The persecution of Shiah followers in Malaysia is not exactly a new thing. Nor are witchhunts against those deemed as threats to the precious Muslim community.
What makes the recent attack against PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu all the more distasteful, however, is the fact that it was state-sanctioned.
It was a move that might even be called wickedly clever, if it was not so painfully obvious in its steps.
Perhaps now some of us would have noticed how the recent attacks on human rights advocates have set up the stage for this farce.
In recent months we have seen attacks towards Shiah followers heating up, with the almost concerted involvement of everybody from state leaders, federal ministers, Malay kings, religious authorities, to Muslim NGOs.
The starting point of this recent witchhunt was possibly when the Mentri Besar of Kedah, Umno’s Mukhriz Mahathir, called for an anti-Shiah fatwa in his state back in July this year.
Following that, we saw the chairman of the Kedah Council of Regency, Tunku Annuar Badlishah, putting his weight behind the proposal.
In the month after, the mufti of Perlis continued by advising Sunni Muslims against marrying Shiah followers.
The nation’s foremost Islamic authority, Jakim, even penned a Friday sermon last month spurring Muslims nationwide to run “jihad” against what it called the “Shiah virus”, going so far as accusing Shiah followers of being sodomites.
It culminated in the Umno general assembly last week, where members urged Putrajaya to change the definition of Islam in the Federal Constitution to only mean the Sunni branch.
In the same assembly where Umno was touted as being as “more Islamic” than opposition PAS, a pledge was made to unmask Mohamad, who was accused of being a Shiah.
Simultaneously in the last few months, Muslim and Islamist NGOs such as Ikatan Muslim Malaysia (Isma) held talks and seminars demonising the Shiah teaching, backed by their so-called Shiah research unit.
It was around this time that the same coalition, spearheaded by Isma, launched an attack against the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the Universal Periodic Review (Comango) which is lobbying Malaysia to ratify international human rights conventions.
Isma specifically, even went on a media blitz, including spreading leaflets at mosques during Friday prayers accusing Comango of trying to dislodge the special position of the Malays, and Islam as the religion of the federation.
In its crusade against Comango, Isma tried to convince Malaysians that should the coalition succeed in pressuring Putrajaya, it would open the floodgates towards apostasy and LGBT practices, among others.
Unknown perhaps to most of Isma’s audience, however, is that one of the international human rights conventions that Putrajaya had been recommended to ratify — not just by Comango, but several other nations during the United Nations’ peer review — was the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Signing the ICCPR would make Malaysia obliged to recognise its citizens’ individual liberties, granting them freedom of thought and freedom to profess their religions under its Article 18.
In short, the very freedom that would have protected Shiah followers from any state-sanctioned persecution that they are facing now.
It is this very same freedom that Malaysians have denied their fellow humans and citizens, thanks to pressure from certain quarters who wish to allow such persecution.
Any man with half a brain would question the 10 alleged proofs of Mohamad’s Shiah links as announced by Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday.
Much like in any witchhunt, the so-called “evidences” are laughably flimsy, circumstantial, and make little sense.
Most of them are hearsay from individuals aligned to the prosecutors themselves, and are far from concrete.
But also, much like any witchhunt, there seems to be no need to prove Mohamad “guilty”, when sullying his name and damaging his political sway is enough.
In addition, the rationale behind this attack on the Shiah had been weak, with Ahmad Zahidi invoking the strife in the Arab world as proof that Sunni and Shiah followers should not stay in the same land.
In truth, showing compassion towards the Shiah is not the catalyst towards a Muslim cold war. But persecuting them surely is.
History has shown that it is perfectly possible for Sunni and Shiah to exist cordially without sectarian violence, but only when one denomination does not try to oppress the other.
We are a long way away from recognising each citizens’ individual rights, and that loophole has allowed the powers-that-be to attack its political foes through their beliefs.
Today, we see this happening to those labelled as Shiah. It is certainly not impossible to see this happen in the future to any minority group.