The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has warned Putrajaya to "take stock of the drift towards religious extremism" following the arrest of Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol.
In a statement today, Suhakam chairperson Razali Ismail described Mustafa's detention by the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) as an "arbitrary" and "extreme" action.
He said this incident had blemished Malaysia's reputation as a moderate country.
"It also adds serious uncertainties to all Malaysians as to how arbitrary actions can affect the fabric of our society.
"Suhakam does not believe that Jawi's action reflects a changed policy of the government, but evidently, a sector of government has been allowed to take arbitrary measures albeit as interpreted by them in defence of their interpretation of principles," he said in a statement today.defence of their interpretation of principles," he said in a statement today.
He warned that such "extreme action" in multi-religious and multiracial Malaysia was, in Suhakam's view, "repressive, undemocratic and intended to be intimidating."
This, Razali said, could embolden those who seek to polarise society by advocating the preeminence of one group or one religious belief over another.
"There is no question that this must be stopped by the government and such actions that reflect hostility, narrow-mindedness and intolerance of civil, intellectual and religious discourse should not be committed again.
"There can be many Malaysians who interpret such actions as the government being inclined towards accommodating them.
"Suhakam strongly counsels the government to take stock of the drift towards religious extremism and fears that if such situations continue, Malaysia would change qualitatively for the worst," he said.
Mustafa (photo) was detained on Monday and held until midnight.
Jawi director Abdul Aziz Jusoh said his men had investigated Mustafa following complaints about the contents of the latter's speech at a discussion session titled "Does Freedom of Conscience Open the Floodgate to Apostasy?" at the Royal Selangor Golf Club last Sunday.