SHI’ITES: A SECURITY THREAT?
The arrest of 200 Shi’ite followers by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) on 16 December 2010 has raised some disturbing questions.
If those arrested are “fanatics and a threat to national security” as stated by the JAIS Director, Datuk Muhammad Khusrin Munawi, shouldn’t he support his allegation with incontrovertible evidence? If they are a threat to national security, why were they arrested by the JAIS and not the Police under the relevant security laws? JAIS is in charge of religious affairs, not national security matters. Shouldn’t the JAIS Director also substantiate his claim that members of the group known as Hauzah Ar Ridha Alaihissalam believe that other Muslim groups are “infidels” and it would be lawful to kill them?
In the absence of proof, the discerning public may begin to wonder whether the arrests are directed at Shi’ism as such. After all, there are Islamic Religious Departments and Muslim politicians in Malaysia who regard Shi’ite teachings as “deviationist.” They are obviously wrong.
There is no need to emphasise that Shi’ism is a legitimate part of Islam. Shi’ites subscribe to the same fundamental principles of the religion and practise the same basic tenets of the faith, as the majority Sunni Muslims do. Like the Sunnis, they too have contributed immensely to the growth of Islamic civilisation. There are about 180 million Shi’ites today who belong to the larger Muslim family ( ummah) of 1.7 billion people.
It is of course true that there are certain Shi’ite concepts and rituals that are not acceptable to the Sunnis, and vice-versa. But that does not justify labelling either party as “deviant” or “infidel.” Besides, variations in rituals and conceptual differences among the four main doctrinal schools within the Sunni community are generally accepted by Islamic scholars. To promote greater unity and solidarity within the ummah, the same consideration should be extended to the Shi’ites.
What this suggests is that historically rooted and politically generated antagonisms should not be allowed to distort and destroy ties between the two communities. Sunni-Shi’ite animosities, often manipulated and exploited by vested groups within and without the Muslim ummah, have already led to the killing and maiming of thousands in recent years, especially in Pakistan and Iraq. It is undoubtedly the most divisive ideological split within the ummah today.
Fortunately, some modest attempts are being made by both Sunni and Shi’ite theologians and thinkers in various parts of the world to improve relations between the two groups. This is a positive development that we in Malaysia should support. JAIS officials and other ill-informed individuals in Malaysia should help, rather than hinder, the process.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar,
International Movement for a Just World (JUST).
19 December 2010.