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Religious body will not act on alleged abusers of Islam

The National Fatwa Council today said it will not be taking any action against writers alleged to have abused Islam in their writings as it had not been asked to do so by the Conference of Rulers.

"We are only authorised to discuss matters as requested by the Conference," said the Council's chairperson Dr Ismail Ibrahim during a press conference at Pusat Islam Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

Last January, the Muslim Scholars Association of Malaysia (PUM) lodged a complaint with the Fatwa Council and submitted a memorandum to the Conference urging for action against several individuals for allegedly making offensive remarks on Islam.

Those targetted were Sisters in Islam executive director and Suhakam commissioner Zainah Anwar, malaysiakini and News Straits Times columnist Dr Farish A Noor, The Sun columnist Akbar Ali, acdemic Kassim Ahmad, Universiti Malaya lecturer Dr Patricia Martinez and lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.

However, PUM had unexpectedly come under fire from civil groups for what was seen as an attempt to "criminalize speech".

Memali victims not martyrs

Meanwhile, Ismail also called on all parties not to use the Memali tragedy for political gains.

Any continued references to the incident would be tantamount to disrespecting the Council's (religious leaders) and the Rulers who authorised their appointments, he said.

Ismail clarified that on the Feb 3, 1986, the National Fatwa Council issued an edict stating that those who died in Memali were not considered martyrs.

"Under the Council's interpretation, martyrs are those who die defending the religion from non-believers who wage war upon Muslims in order to force them from their homeland or force them to convert out of their religion," he explained.

He pointed out that these conditions did not apply to the situation in Memali and furthermore, casualties on both sides were Muslims.

No comment on broadcast

However, when asked, Ismail refused to comment on whether it was the Council's view if state-run Radio Television Malaysia should stop broadcasting its controversial programme on the Memali tragedy.

The 30-minute programme depicted the bloody clash in 1985 which resulted in the death of four police personnel and 14 villagers.

The government claimed that a local religious teacher and PAS member Ibrahim Libya, who was killed in the tragedy, had incited the Memali villagers to take up arms against government forces.

Ismail also said the PAS organ, Harakah , had misused a picture showing the Sultan of Kedah at Ibrahim's grave with the intention of giving credence to the party's view of his martyrdom.

"We do not know why the sultan visited the cemetery. It may not be because the Sultan considered Ibrahim a martyr. We have no knowledge of the Sultan's intention," said Ismail.

He asserted that the edict issued by the Fatwa Council on the incident was endorsed by the Kedah State Fatwa Council which was appointed by the sultan.

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