PETALING JAYA: The arrest of social activist Kassim Ahmad for allegedly insulting Islam portrays the religion as "hard and unmerciful", former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wrote in his blog chedet.cc Friday.
Expressing his disappointment over the incident, Dr Mahathir said: "We want to become a moderate Muslim country.
"But this event makes it appear as if we are trying to become a Muslim country that uses force to ensure Muslims live in fear of being arrested for going against fatwa (edicts) created by those in power," he said in his blog chedet.cc on Friday.
Kassim was arrested on March 26 and charged in the Putrajaya Syariah High Court the next day with insulting Islam and contravening a Federal Territories fatwa on groups that questioned the Hadith (practices of Prophet Muhammad).
He allegedly committed the offence during a talk entitled 'The Thoughts of Kassim Ahmad' at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Presinct 8, Putrajaya, on Feb 15 and 16.
Dr Mahathir said there were many in the country that insult Islam, belittle the Prophet and Allah, create their own fatwa and even spread cult teachings, but no action was taken against them.
"They take action against Kassim, who is old and unwell," Dr Mahathir wrote.
He added that Islam was not a "hard" religion but one that advises.
"It is a moderate religion that does not intend to be a burden to its followers or force them," he said, adding that some quarters were not happy with a religion that is "soft, considerate and fair."
"They want a draconian Islam," he said.
Dr Mahathir also criticised people who are responsible for Islam in this country, saying that it now seemed like the Prophet's teachings would be considered more sacred and obligatory than the word of Allah in the Quran.
"If Islam becomes a hard and cruel religion that gives more importance to sects than the Quran, then there will only be fractions and enmity among the Muslims," he said.