The Islamic Renaissance Front views the calls for the removal and ban of Shiite literature and material from the Islamic World Expo in Kota Bharu with grave concern.
We regard this as a continuation of the unnecessary and increased alienation, if not persecution, of our Shiite brothers and sisters that have been occurring for decades now.
It goes without saying that this also contradicts the very idea of having an expo that claims to be about the Islamic world.
There is far more to the Islamic world than Sunni Islam, especially of the conservative kind that has dominated Malaysia.
In further response we reiterate the following:
- Shiite Islam has been a deep and enduring part of Malaysian and nusantara history and thus should not be viewed as a faith tradition that is "alien" to us.
- A great deal of the animosity expressed towards Shiite Muslims is based on unfounded and uninformed suspicions.
- Many significant contributions to Islamic intellectual history were - and continue to be - made by Shiite Muslims, such as Ibn Sina, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, Ali Shariati and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, among many others.
The Ummah faces more pressing problems that should be dealt with together - through inter and intra-faith cooperation - than to waste their energies over sectarian bickering.
It is indeed shameful that while Muslims are often the first to call for books to be banned and women to be policed, they have absolutely nothing to say about the state of the global economy or the deteriorating environment or the pressing and global need for multicultural harmony.
Instead more and more venom continue to be spewed over trivial matters.
More specifically, should PAS really want to be taken seriously as an alternative to the sorry state of Malaysian politics, it must demonstrate, in all seriousness and confidence, its commitment to pluralism and freedom.
It should not on one hand present itself as a more moral force than Umno while at the same time replicating some of Umno's insular and parochial policies.
The polite term to describe that would be "inconsistency", but many would not hesitate to simply call it flat out lying.
Based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
This has been the basic tenet of the Quran in matters concerning faith.
To say that the act of banning Syiite literature was to preserve aqidah or creed only shows an inkling of how totalitarian PAS could become if they were to rule this country.
We therefore demand the immediate end of all persecution of Malaysian Shiites in the name of freedom of religion and conscience. They are as much members of the Muslim community as Sunnis.
The goal is to find a productive synergy towards working together to ensure a just world for all. This is the far more urgent and difficult task we face.
Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa is director of the Islamic Renaissance Front