PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) says it is "extremely concerned" by the recent raid on Syiah Muslims in Gombak, which included the arrest of children.
Suhakam said the right to freely practise any religion is provided by Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.
"In 2005, the Amman Message, which specifically recognises the legitimacy of various existing Islamic practices in addition to two other thrusts which focus on maintaining intra-Islamic harmony, was signed off by approximately 200 Islamic scholars, heads of state, academics and political leaders throughout the world, including an endorsement by then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi," it said in a statement on Tuesday (Sept 10).
It said that unless Malaysian authorities, NGOs and civil society respect and tolerate the religious practices of all persons, the country could not truly profess to be a diverse and multicultural nation.
It hoped that brotherhood and compassion would be the bedrock upon which Malaysian society is founded, rather than the reactionary instinct to hate and mistreat others for their differences.
"The right to freely practise any religion should be enjoyed by all people, without fear of reprisal," it said, adding that Suhakam is always open to hosting conciliatory dialogue that will contribute to the improvement of inter-group relations
Suhakam also hoped that the government would take fair and constructive steps towards providing equal rights for all religious groups in Malaysia.
It was reported that the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) had last week arrested 23 Shia Muslims, including children at a congregation in Gombak before they were released.
Jais was reported as saying that the arrests were made under Section 12 (C) of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Enactment 1995 and that they would continue to monitor the activities of Syiah followers.
In Malaysia, the propagation of Syiah teachings is banned.
Syiah is the second-largest branch of Islam after Sunni Islam, which is also the official code of the religion in Malaysia.
A 1996 fatwa or decree by the Fatwa Committee of the National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs stated that Muslims in Malaysia must only follow the teachings of Islam "based on the doctrine of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah on creed, religious laws and ethics".
In addition, the publication, broadcasting, and distribution of any books, leaflets, films, videos, and others relating to the teachings of Islam that contradict the doctrine of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah is prohibited and deemed unlawful.