Categorised | Columns

Beyond the Shia “threat”

FROM keris-raising to championing the bumiputera agenda and safeguarding Islam, each Umno general assembly sees its leaders striving to prove their Malay and Islamic credentials. This year, that was done by championing Sunni Islam and running down Shia Islam, hence perpetuating the biggest and oldest division in the history of Islam.

Zahid Hamidi (© thaigov | Wiki Commons)

Zahid Hamidi (© thaigov | Wiki Commons)

Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, for example, attacked a certain “No 2 in PAS” at the general assembly, calling the PAS leader a “top Shia leader”. And on 7 Dec 2013, Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak said the party’s constitution would be amended to indicate that Islam in Malaysia is of Sunna wal Jamaah or the Sunni sect of Islam.

Umno’s Youth wing and a Penang Umno delegate had earlier gone further, saying this amendment should be reflected in the federal constitution which refers to Islam as the religion of the federation. Indeed, the Home Ministry, of which Zahid is the minister, has proposed just such an amendment. Would such an amendment to the federal constitution be possible? And if so, what are the ramifications?

Just two-thirds

Theoretically, any constitutional amendment can be made with a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate.[1] Although Barisan Nasional (BN) controls two-thirds of the Senate, it does not do so in the lower house, holding only 133 out of 222 seats in the Dewan Rakyat.

However, BN is in a position to invite PAS, with its 21 seats, to vote across party lines on such an amendment so that it can achieve 69% of the vote. BN could also challenge Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs) from Parti Keadilan Rakyat and DAP to join in. And if any Muslim MP doesn’t, they could stand to be accused of being clandestine Shiites.

What could the courts do?

If Umno is able to change the federal constitution because it is able to garner support in the Dewan Rakyat, defining Islam as Sunna wal Jamaah could possibly be challenged in court for changing the federal constitution’s “basic structure” and foundation. What is this basic structure? The landmark Indian case of Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala cites key features such as the constitution’s supremacy and a democratic form of government as elements which cannot be changed, even by parliamentary amendment. For example, an amendment abolishing elections and imposing a dictatorship could be struck down for changing the constitution’s basic structure.

But will defining Islam as Sunni Islam change the Malaysian constitution’s basic structure? Even if the answer is yes, it remains uncertain whether the Malaysian courts would strike down an amendment for undermining the constitution’s basic structure. This is especially so because the concept of basic structure isn’t as entrenched in our judicial system as it is in India.



In Malaysia, the basic structure doctrine was actually adopted in the Federal Court case of Sivarasa Rasiah v Badan Peguam Malaysia & Anor (2010). In that case, the court held that the fundamental liberties in Part II of the constitution form part of its basic structure and cannot be changed. Part II stipulates the guarantees of non-discrimination and freedom of religion which the proposed amendment by Umno and the Home Minister would arguably contradict.

However, the judgement only named Part II of the constitution as part of the basic structure. What else constitutes the constitution’s “basic structure” would have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, as they arise, according to the judge.

The basic doctrine in this Federal Court judgement was subsequently applied in the Court of Appeal in the Muhammad Hilman bin Idham (2011) case which upheld the same principle — that Part II forms part of the constitution’s basic structure. However, it remains unclear how this principle will be followed and developed in other cases. There have been encouraging signs of some judges robustly upholding the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. However, there are also equally discouraging signs, such as in the Court of Appeal judgement over the use of “Allah”.

Shia = Muslim?

With the Home Ministry’s proposed amendment, Article 3(1) would read something like this: “Sunna wal Jamaah Islam is the religion of the federation; but other religions may be practised in peace and harmony in any part of the Federation.” Amending the constitution to state that Muslims in Malaysia are followers of the Sunni sect alone could cause confusion about whether Shias are considered Muslim in Malaysia.

Shias in Malaysia have been subject to arrests and prosecution by various state religious departments because they are deemed to be deviant Muslims. Prosecutions take place in the syariah courts, which according to the constitution’s ninth schedule, “shall have jurisdiction only over persons professing the religion of Islam.”

However, if the constitution were amended to state that Islam refers only to Sunni Islam, then Shia Muslims would arguably not constitute “persons professing the religion of Islam”. And therefore, the syariah courts would no longer have jurisdiction over them, and the state religious departments would certainly have no business arresting and prosecuting them.

Every year

Each Umno general assembly is a political opportunity for delegates to prove their Malay and Islamic credentials

Additionally, if Shiism is not considered part of Islam in Malaysia, then according to the amendment, Shias should be entitled to practise their faith like other non-Muslims.

Of course, for Malay Malaysians, the argument could then be made that the constitution says that all Malays are Muslim. And if the amendment is made, then all Malays are born Sunni Muslim and Shias can then be prosecuted as apostates. Now whether the constitution can designate not just a religion but a particular branch of a religion on a person upon birth is yet another question that needs to be answered.

In fact, not just non-Muslims but Shia and Sunni Muslims alike should be entitled to practise their faith in peace and harmony as Article 11 guarantees every person the right to profess and practise their religion. The only restriction on this constitutional right is that state law may restrict the propagation of religion amongst those professing Islam.

Amending the constitution to state that Islam in Malaysia is Sunni Islam also raises the spectre of future amendments which could further narrow the definition of Islam in Malaysia. For example, the ruling party could later on decide that it would be good for the constitution to specify that Islam in Malaysia follows only the Shafie school of thought when there are three other schools of thought in Sunni Islam — Hanbali, Hanafi and Maliki.

Narrowing spaces


Umno logo

Unfortunately, making threats against, criminalising and closing down spaces for those with different views, beliefs and persuasions appear to be the order of the day for the Umno-led BN government and their proxies. Be it against opposition leadersMuslim dog owners, human rights organisations or the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, it is evident that the ruling coalition is narrowing the spaces for differences under the guise of religious fervour.

While attempting to out-Islamise PAS and maintain their rural, Malay voter bank however, Umno is making it dangerous for any citizen to be different from what the party deems permissible. The latest targeting of Muslims who belong to a different sect from the majority and mainstream in Malaysia is just part of a long line of “threats to Islam” paraded by Umno or its proxies. But it is not Islam that is under threat. Rather it is Umno’s political dominance. And in the party’s struggle to maintain that dominance, it has in turn put under threat the right of all Malaysians to enjoy equal protection and rights under the law. The Nut Graph

Ding Jo-Ann is genuinely curious about what aspects of Shiism Umno leaders consider to be so threatening to Muslim life in Malaysia.

[1] See Article 159 of the Federal Constitution. Certain amendments that affect the constitutional position of Sabah and Sarawak require the concurrence of the Yang di-Pertua Negeri of Sabah and/or Sarawak, as set out in Article 161E.

Post to Twitter Post to Google Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to StumbleUpon

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

78 Responses to “Beyond the Shia “threat””

  1. ellese says:

    Sometimes I really hate the Internet. How can such an ignorant article be published. The argument of its basic structure doesn’t apply pun.

    Please lah. Look at the constitutions of the many states and the Islamic laws. It has always been expressly stated since Merdeka that we follow Sunnah Wal Jamaah in particular the Shafii school. There has been no issue for donkey years about restricting any freedom nor the jurisdiction of shariah courts.

    The writer has purposely projected an ignorant position to spin untruth. Rubbish. For all you know the amendments would be in line with the states current laws pun. And to have the temerity to justify based on case laws the “basic structure” is not only not relevant but is trying to divide the people again. The religious authorities could never fathom why this is an issue when it’s been there in our laws and practice for ages and then we will go one round again on a debate between Muslims and non-Muslims. Ding is either totally ignorant or highly insidious to purport a rational irrelevant argument to promote further division. Either way I damn him or her.

    • Sunna Sutta says:

      Ellese, you are correct in pointing out that Ding’s question of whether the basic structure of the Federal Constitution has been violated in regard to the state-sanctioned persecution of Shia Muslims is absolutely irrelevant. The reason is we have two parallel and separate systems of law under the Constitution of Malaysia – common law that apply to everyone and syariah on Islamic religious observance and family matters that apply only to Muslims. Islamic religious matters fall entirely under the jurisdiction of the syariah courts and clearly Ding is barking up the wrong tree in referring to the jurisprudence of the civil courts.

      However, you are incorrect in saying that constitutions of the many states … expressly stated since Merdeka that we follow Sunnah Wal Jamaah in particular the Shafii school.”

      In fact, both the Federal and the constitutions of all the states are silent in regard to the fact that the Shafii school of thought of the Sunni branch of Islam is the only legal and official form of Islam in Malaysia. Nevertheless, I would probably agree that it has always been widely considered as implicit, given that all the Malay rulers who are the heads of Islam in their respective states are Sunni Muslims of the Shafii branch of Sunni Islam. It was only on 5th May 1996 that the National Fatwa Council enacted that the teachings and publications of Shia Islam are haram. A fatwa, as you are aware, is not binding and for the record, 11 out of the 14 states (including the federal territories) have incorporated the said fatwa into their state laws.

      Don’t ask me for the identities of the three states where it may be problematic to prosecute/persecute Shia Muslims. Hence, there may be strong reasons for certain political stakeholders to push Parliament to amend the Federal Constitution in order to eliminate their political foes.

      • Jo-Ann says:

        Thank you for your comment. I must disagree with your point that the basic structure argument would be inapplicable to an amendment to Article 3 of the Federal Constitution because it deals with Islamic religious matters. Not all Islamic religious matters automatically fall under the Syariah courts and Islamic law – only those that have been expressly legislated upon via state enactments and only for matters listed under the State list in the Ninth Schedule of the Federal Constitution.

        In fact, there are some Islamic matters that are listed under the Federal List. Para 4(k) for example lists “ascertainment of Islamic law and other personal laws for purposes of federal law” as falling under the Federal List, and thereby the “civil courts”, as you call them. Para 4(e) of the same schedule lists “interpretation of federal law” (which includes the constitution) under the Federal List, and also therefore applicable to the civil courts and not the Syariah courts.

        Any question on whether an amendment to Article 3 of the Constitution violates the basic structure of the constitution is therefore clearly a question for the civil courts, and certainly not the Syariah courts. The Syariah courts deal with Islamic personal law such as marriage, divorce, maintenance and succession and are certainly not empowered, by any reading of the constitution, to adjudicate on matters pertaining to the constitutionality of an amendment to Article 3.

        • Sunna Sutta says:



          I agree that strictly speaking, the syariah courts have jurisdiction over Islamic personal and family law only. However, the FC also confers a great deal of power [on] the Malay rulers and the YDPA (Yang di-Pertuan Agung) as heads of Islam in all the states and federal territories. Also, as pointed out in another comment, I described the process of Islamic legislation. First, Islamic clerics and legal experts (males only and no laypersons permitted!), especially the state muftis discuss and propose a certain law to be passed by the state assembly which then passes it (apparently without any debate) and submits it to the relevant Malay ruler of the state (or the YDPA who represents other states and the federal territories). Once royal consent is given, the law is gazetted into the state list. Whether or not a certain Islamic state law is constitutional or not can only be challenged by Muslims through the syariah courts and there is little chance of successfully challenging it as violating Article 3 in Parliament.

          However, it is possible to challenge a gazetted state law that concerns grey areas of Islamic jurisdiction involving both Muslims and non-Muslims. For example, Jais raided the Malaysian Bible Society and arrested two of its members for violating the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment, 1988. The grounds for the arrest – seized copies of the Al-Kitab contained the word ‘Allah’ or 34 other Arabic words. As with the Borders fiasco, the case will have to be presented to the High Court since non-Muslims cannot be tried in syariah courts.

          A comic tragedy or alternatively, a tragic comedy will soon be played out in what I would describe as our constipated constitution.

          BTW, I would be happy to write a guest article on constitutional impasses and certain breakthroughs (pardon the irony) in our “constipated constitution” if the chief editor agrees.

          • Thank you for your offer. We are not currently looking for new writers for The Nut Graph. Feel free to continue posting your thoughts as comments on our site if that is what you would like.


          • Chandra says:

            So it is not just Allah. What are the other 34 Arabic words? Soon this number will gradually increase. Arabs are not complaining about the use of Arabic words so what right do the Malays have?

    • cintamalaysia says:

      Oh dear. The gaps in your legal knowledge are fairly massive, I’m afraid…

  2. ellese says:

    Thank you for your comment. I like your informative write. I’ve tried to google up the state constitutions but to no avail. You are probably right in that the state constitutions do not mention preference for Shafii. However I cannot agree with you that our state laws do not state a following for Sunnah Wal Jamaah in particular the Shafii school. It’s more than implied. If I can recall correctly during my reading of the Islamic system in Malaysia quite sometime ago, save for Perlis, the rest apply the Shafii school.

    The Shafii school of thought has been captured as a law since our Malaccan empire in the famous Kanun Melaka. It has then been adopted in various forms in the subsequent Johor and Pahang sultanates until the British came.

    All our current Islamic personal laws apply Shafii doctrine. For the uninitiated, there are various practices in Islam from what constitutes an Islamic offeence to what constitutes a recognised marriage and divorce to guardianship matters. In Malaysia we have in our laws provisions adopting the Shafii view.

    Perhaps, we go to the root of definition. In essence the state is allowed to formulate its interpretation of Islamic law. This is constitutional. Now the states in their Islamic enactments have defined Islamic law as the “Islamic law according to any recognized Mazhab.” (See FT Islamic acts and other states which have similar provisions). The recognised Mazhab has always been Shafii though there were instances in the courts and law where they adopt Hanafi doctrine. (FYI, its still Sunnah Wal Jamaah). In fact in Selangor there is a provision stipulating that the mufti must follow Shafii doctrine unless it goes against public interest. The Islamic administration and justice have thus for many years enforce the Shafii doctrine as laid down under the law.

    My point is that it’s been for ages that we have applied Shafii school of thought. Our conduct has been dictated by the Shafii school. There is good rationale for this. It provides certainty and convenience for Muslims to conduct their affairs and resolve any disputes. But it does not mean we are intolerant of other schools. It does not affect many who practice other sunnah’s Mazhabs. But when it comes to enforcement of laws we apply our laws reflecting Shafii. So one can’t argue, for example, if the sect he follows disagrees with a certain criminal position, that he can get away from being imposed with an offense on him. And we have never had issue limiting to Shafii for hundreds of years.

    All of a sudden, a writer called Ding tunjuk pandai showing ignorance as if this never existed. Then has the audacity to argue that it is against the constitution’s basic structure. Ding certainly think [s]he’s smarter by half but [s]he shows pure ignorance. I’ll be blunt. This is a stupid article that deceives the public. I apologise to you for my outburst but I’m really frustrated with this kind of writer which couldn’t bother to find out the truth of where we live in. In the end we get unnecessary conflict initiated by our politicians.

    • Sunna Sutta says:

      I never said that state laws do not specify a following for Sunnah Wal Jamaah in particular the Shafii school. I merely said that each state has a choice whether or not to incorporate a fatwa in part or full. The decision is made by the Sultan or the relevant religious authorities in states that do not have Malay rulers.

      My main point is that we have two parallel parts in the Malaysian Constitution – a major one that is for all Malaysians and a minor part for Muslims only. I shall refer to the former as FA and the latter as FM. Overall, the Constitution is supreme and all laws whether civil or Islamic must conform to what is intended in the Constitution. The problem is the Constitution is by no means unambiguous and much of it is open to interpretation. In spite of this, Parliament and state Islamic authorities pass civil and Islamic laws respectively. The process of achieving clarity is different in regard to the FA and FM parts of the Constitution. For the FA, any citizen has the right to challenge the constitutionality of a particular law passed by Parliament. Ding’s case laws preserve the basic structure of what was actually intended in the Constitution.

      In regard to the FM part, the process is different. The NFC (National Fatwa Council, not the scandalous NFC that we are more familiar with) issues an edict (fatwa) and state laws follow. Thus, in most states there are laws now that specifically ban Shia practices and publications. Once there is a fatwa, it is impossible to challenge Islamic laws in the syariah courts. Thus, for the two Malays who are being tried in the syariah court for having Shia publications, it is a foregone conclusion what the verdict will be. The worst that can happen is a small fine, no stoning to death!

      However, in regard to the Home Minister versus [Mat Sabu], it appears that instead of accusing Mat Sabu of something similar to the above, he is instead loudly accusing Mat Sabu of being a Shia, as though it is an act of high treason.

    • neptunian says:

      The only conflict is caused by intolerant Muslims like you.

  3. Adam says:

    I must commend the writer for taking her time and making the effort to come up with this article and giving numerous references as well. She has practically placed the whole Shia issue on the table for us to ponder and to reflect on what would be the best possible solution and not to be caught in catch 22 situations.

    The International Islamic community including Malaysia has officially accepted the Shias as Muslims. We could still maintain this stance by stating that the officially accepted version of Islam in Malaysia is Sunni Islam but we must allow Shia Islam to be practiced albeit without government assistance. Once we outlaw Shias, many issues would follow. Do we persecute only Malaysian Shias or all Shias including foreigners which would bring about many controversies and possible backlash, locally and from abroad. Our Muslims may be singled out for persecution in Shia majority countries in a tit-for-tat.

    In finding an amicable solution, the writer is right in bringing up the provisions of our Federal Constitution which is the supreme law of the land. If we contravene or try to circumvent the Federal Laws, we could most certainly expect miscarriage of justice to occur. If we cannot uphold our constitution, we cannot expect to progress as a nation as we would be saddled with all kinds of controversies.

    Yesterday, we had the Ahmadiya threat, the Christian threat, the Chinese threat and the LGBT threat; today, we have the Shia threat; beyond, we could foresee threats from liberals, progressives, feminists, pluralists, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

    • Sunna Sutta says:

      Adam, I most certainly concur with you that the persecution of Shias and the labeling of the Shia branch of Islam as apostate in Malaysia are contrary to the practice of the international ummah (including the Sunni) in recognizing that the Shia faith as a valid part of Islam.

      Unfortunately, however, the Federal Constitution is absolutely clear that that the civil courts have no jurisdiction over matters pertaining to religious observance and family law in Islam. Shias have no recourse to appeal for justice from the FA (For All) part of the Constitution or the civil courts. Therefore, the writer definitely erred in referring to the FA part of the Constitution and the verdicts of the civil courts in overruling secular civil laws that are in violation of the Constitution. It is a totally different matter with the Allah issue as it concerns the civil right of Malay-speaking non-Muslims in the FA part of the Constitution to use it as one of a number of terms for the Christian God.

      As a non-Muslim, I sympathise with the plight of Shias who are being actively persecuted but I take the stance that ultimately it is none of my business. The only objection I have is the abuse of the Shia label to demonize and persecute certain Muslims for political reasons. In the final instance, the debate in regard to the labeling of Shia as haram should be confined among Muslims. All injustices committed (if any) fall entirely on the heads of Malaysian Muslims.

      • Adam says:

        Sunna Sutta,

        I think that our original FC did not have the clause pertaining to “the civil courts have no jurisdiction over matters pertaining to religious observance and family law in Islam”. Quite definitely, this clause has been one of the amendments put in since Merdeka. Within the half century since independence, our FC has been changed more than 40 times with about 650 amendments made (refer Wikipedia). I believe many of the amendments made are against the spirit of the constitution and should therefore be declared null and void. Some constitutional lawyers should examine all the amendments and list all the dubious ones for further public discussion.

        Regarding that particular clause in question, can you imagine that federal laws have no jurisdiction over state enactments? I cannot for the life of me accept such a situation. How can the supreme law of the land be unable to adjudicate on all matters to ensure all citizens are truly protected even under state religious laws? Although state religious enactments are for the adherents, they cannot be without limits such that basic human rights are compromised or overruled.

        As for minding your own business as far as the Shia issue is concerned, I would remind you of the statement/poem by Martin Niemöller. “First they came for the Communists and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Communist….” We must at least speak up like you are doing now if not to lend our voices in support of fair-minded Muslims so that they have a chance to live in peace and harmony with one another. This is also my main reason for commenting here. I would not want to see my beloved country in turmoil. Cheers, mate.

        • Sunna Sutta says:

          @ Adam

          Thank you for your reply that is crafted […] in the spirit of friendly, civilized, and democratic debate unlike that of another reader who summed up her disagreement with the article’s writer with […] “damn him or her”.

          I most certainly agree with you that the ruling that civil courts do not have jurisdiction over religious observance and family law in Islam was absent in the original FC. It was by virtue of Amendment 4e(ii) that it was stated that the civil courts have no jurisdiction over matters pertaining to “Islamic personal law relating to marriage, divorce, guardianship, maintenance, adoption, legitimacy, family law, gifts or succession, testate and intestate.”

          It is also true that there have been a total of 42 constitutional amendments to the FC since Merdeka over a period of about half a century compared to only 33 constitutional amendments in the Constitution of the USA in a period of over two centuries.

          However, whether the amendment that I mentioned or any other amendment is against the spirit of the constitution is only your personal opinion. As you are aware, a constitutional article, clause, sub-clause or amendment can only be democratically invalidated by a super majority of two thirds not only in the US Congress but also in the Malaysian Parliament. Perhaps the fact that Malaysia has had so many constitutional amendments compared to the USA is an indication that unlike Malaysia, the party that formed the US government seldom enjoyed a super majority throughout its long history. Unfortunately, this is Democracy 101 for you. In a certain sense and to a certain extent, democracy is a form of tyranny of the majority over the minority. In Malaysia, it is even possible for the 47% minority to oppress the 53% majority as we just saw in GE13, no thanks to blatant gerrymandering by the supposedly impartial EC.

          • Adam says:

            Sunna Sutta,

            Sorry for the late response. I always believe in civil and honest discourse. Once unsavory terms are used, it could degenerate into a slinging match and the whole argument would be lost. [Some are fond of] using the ad hominem approach which more often than not, negates most points. Well, we do need characters like that to liven up the discussions and also serve as a barometer to our own rationality and sanity.

            Coming back to the point of constitutional amendments, it is not my personal opinion that any amendments made against the spirit of the constitution should be declared null and void. This point relates to article 4(1) of our FC. One glaringly clear example of an amendment which is definitely against the spirit of the constitution is the removal of the limits to the voter numbers between constituencies. It was 15% in our original FC, then it was amended to 50% if I am not mistaken and finally, the limit was removed completely.

            One of the very basic principle of a democracy is one person one vote. By removing the limit, we have misapportionment which is much more serious than gerrymandering. Now, we not only have tranny of the majority, we also have tranny of the minority within the majority, if you know what I mean. We have to restore the limits to the original 15% to even call our system a democracy.

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @Adam, I certainly agree with you that in the ideal democracy the vote of each person should carry equal weight. However, this is not logistically possible because we adopt a first-past-the-post election system. Nevertheless, I fully agree with you that because of extreme gerrymandering we now (for the first time in our history) have a government whose mandate is based on less than 50% of the popular vote. According to some analysts, it is possible for BN to win a majority with as little as 35% of the popular vote as long as it wins most of the underpopulated rural parliamentary constituencies, some of which have only 10% of the population of urban parliamentary constituencies. Perhaps with increasing urbanization and increasing proportion of the middle-class in the electorate (which do not benefit from “persuasive” BR1M handouts, there may be a reversal of fortune in favour of the rightful majority.

            Let us not deviate from the topic of this article. I have two points to make.

            1. This article was written by a non-Malay who is a non-Muslim. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that.

            2. However, not a single Malay has spoken up against the perceived persecution of Shi’ites, not even SIS. All who spoke up were non-Muslims. Notice also the same hard divisive religious lines in Selangor’s government in the wake of JAIS’ raid on BSM. The reason – the Selangor Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) Enactment, 1988 has the full backing of the Sultan of Selangor by way of the ‘Allah fatwa’. While DAP has called for a repeal of the said enactment, its partners in the PKR-led government has toed the royal line. In this respect, while the monarch is mostly a symbolic sovereign, there is one area where the monarch is sovereign and above the constitution – Islam. The Malay psyche of “biar mati anak, jangan mati adat” in regard to sovereignty of the monarch over Islamic matters will forever prevail, as shrewdly observed in Tun Mahathir’s Malay Dilemma.

          • Adam says:

            Sunna Sutta,

            Even with the first-past-the-post system, we could still practise the one-person-one-vote requirement to a certain extent. If 15% is not practical, I could accept perhaps 50% but having no limits would mean that it would still be within the law to have constituencies with, say 1K voters and some with 100K voters which makes a mockery of the democratic system.

            On the Shia issue, most Muslims do not want to get involved for fear of being branded traitors. But, some prominent Muslims such as Dr Asri, the ex-Mufti of Perlis, has made a statement for the Shias’ right to practice their faith. In this respect, Malaysia is in fact, a signatory to the Amman Message which has specifically stated that Shias are Muslims. An informative post relating to the Amman message could be read at and the Amman message website at . Looks like our Malaysian Muslims are stuck in another catch 22.

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @Adam, thank you for the shocking revelation. The way some Malay opinion and political leaders can change their positions regarding the Shia faith so drastically within such a short period of time is certainly most bewildering and disturbing.

            On 23rd December 2013, Sam Sensible declared the Shia faith system to be unIslamic and suggested that they should give another name to their religion.(

            17 days later, Sam Sensible completely reversed his position in the Malaysian Insider because he happened to stumble on the Amman Message of 2004 that declared 2 Shia mazhabs to be among the 8 valid mazhabs of Islam. In making such a sharp U-turn within 17 days, Sam Sensible does not seem to be very sensible to me.

            Our government also reversed its position but actually outdid Sam Sensible by performing a triple turn! This is because the government originally endorsed the NFC fatwa of 1996 that declared the Shia faith to be haram. Then in 2004, the then-Prime Minister – Abdullah Badawi – was among the signatories of the Amman Message. I do not mean to be disrespectful but was he fully awake when he signed the Amman Message? I raise this query because the present government under the leadership of Najib Razak is apparently reneging on the Amman Message by cracking down so hard on the Shia.

            The new twist is definitely most disconcerting and the government certainly owes the rakyat a good explanation on the (un)merry-go-round of events! I suppose the lack of backbone on the part of our government is also apparent in regard to the 10 point solution that was supposed to have paved the way for the publication of al-Kitab (the Malay language Bible) in both East and West Malaysia.

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @Adam, on second thoughts Sam Sensible might have been too hasty in performing his drastic about-turn.

            It is evident that the then-Prime Minister had absolutely no authority to endorse the Amman Message. As I had pointed out in another comment, Malaysia does not have a unified authority system for Islamic matters. The 9 Malay rulers are the paramount leaders of Islam in their respective states and the YDPA is the final authority in the other states and federal territories. Thus, the signature of then-PM, Abdullah Badawi, carries no weight and is non-binding. The question is: Why were the YDPA and the 9 Malay rulers not present in Amman to consider whether or not to give royal assent for the said declaration?

            I would not be surprised at all to see Sam Sensible complete the triple turn if someone were to suggest to him that he is being ‘derhaka’. It is not a catch-22 situation; it is more like a back-to-square-one situation.

          • Adam says:

            Sunna Sutta,

            Whether it is “back and forth” or going in circles, it is still Catch-22 because of inherently irrational and illogical rules and regulations. Pah Lah, as our PM then, should be representing Malaysia. Like our present PM, with his 10-point solution on the Allah issue, some people are also disputing that. There must be some clear line of authority. Otherwise, every Tom, Dick and Harry would be making their own rules, like now.

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @Adam, I wouldn’t refer to the Malay Rulers and the YDPA as any Tom, Dick and Harry. The line of authority is very clear. […] the Federal Constitution clearly states that the Malay Rulers are the paramount heads and custodians of Islam in their respective states and the YDPA is the final authority for Islam in the other states and federal territories. Thus, once again I reiterate that the signature of Abdullah Badawi on the Amman Message is non-binding and carries absolutely no weight.

            As for Najib, he is now experiencing the same hard lesson that Abdullah Badawi went through. If it had been the Malay Rulers, especially the Sultan of Selangor, who had signed the 10-point solution, the whole sorry and tragicomic mess would not have happened. Do you see Najib overruling Selangor’s royal ‘Allah’ fatwa and ordering JAIS to apologise and release the 300+ Malay and Iban- language Bibles? Najib is cowering in deafening silence together with Khalid Ibrahim and Anwar Ibrahim as expected of feudal serfs who give absolute obeisance to that one remaining part of adat where the Malay Rulers are sovereign – Islam.

          • Adam says:

            Sunna Sutta,

            I, too would not refer to royalty as such as they are in the clear line of authority to institute laws within their jurisdiction in accordance with the Federal Constitution. Please do not read too much into my words.

      • ali says:

        Dear Sunna Sutra, from my understanding, the fatwa on Shiites is that they are “deviationist”, not “apostate”… there is a big difference between “deviationist” and ” apostate”… not all deviationists are considered apostate.. Sunni Muslims believe Shiites got it wrong on many issues, i.e their stand on many issues we cannot accept as we believe it’s the wrong position/understanding, but many Shia groups, though wrong, are still considered Muslim. There are many Shia groups, from the mild to the extreme. Some of the most extreme groups are considered out of Islam (apostate) but not all. Many are still considered Muslim but “deviationist”.

        • @ali

          Thanks for your comment. And I have a question for you: Who decides? Who decides if a particular group is deviationist or apostate? And on what authority is that decision made?

          Consider this — in majority Sunni Malaysia, Shiites may be considered deviationist/apostate. However, in majority Shiite Iran, Sunnis may be the ones considered deviationist/apostate.

          So, who decides? And should anybody decide when faith is a personal and private matter?

          • ali says:

            Dear Jacqueline Ann Surin…who decides? Criteria for that decision is the Quran and hadith (traditions of the {rophet) a person understands the Quran and the hadith.. when their interpretations of the Quran and hadith is way out of the interpretations as conveyed by the Prophet and its companions.. then it is rejected.. and to interpret the Islamic texts, one needs proper academic training for it .. just like you need to be properly trained as a lawyer to be a lawyer, one need to be academically trained in the various related subjects such as Arabic, history/context of the verses etc to accurately interpret Islamic texts…

            So who interprets what’s right or wrong? A person with a deep understanding of the Quran and hadith. What’s the yardstick? Quran and hadith.

            As for Malaysia, administrative-wise, official interpretations/fatwa [falls] under the learned scholars of Majlis Fatwa Kebangsaan and JAKIM etc … administrative-wise, that is.

            • And the Quran and hadith. So, is there a different Quran and different hadith in use in Iran which is predominantly Shia? Or just different interpretations of the same texts?

              And if it’s different interpretations, then that means human interpretation is involved. And if human interpretation is involved, then which human interpretation is the right one?

          • Flag of Truth says:

            @ Jacqueline Ann Surin

            You have a habit of minding other people’s business. I totally agree with Sunna Sutra’s view on this matter. You seems to hold a very clear grudge against Islam. To you and other people who share the same view, Islam is just an oppressive religion. You claimed that minorities have been subjected to various discrimination.

            What you fail to understand or perhaps you have some other motivation in doing all this, is generally, we Malaysians have always enjoyed a greater freedom to exercise our religious beliefs. You have failed to understand that living in a multicultural society which practises different religions requires a greater sense of tolerance.

            Let’s see what happened in the past, where in India, the Babri Mosque was demolished just because Hindus believed that there was once erected a temple for their God on the same site. Let us talk about how Catholics once labelled the Protestants blasphemous.

            What happened in Malaysia is too small if you want to make a comparison. Malay Muslims are a very [tolerant] people who respect other people’s beliefs. But you guys are venturing into very dangerous water…crying wolf [when] there is no real threat at all.

            Anyway, you have to relax, Jacqueline.. 🙂 Perhaps go for a holiday to ease your mind.. maybe after coming back, you will finally have a better view on lots of things. 🙂

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @Jacqueline Ann Surin wondered, “Is there a different Quran and different hadith in use in Iran which is predominantly Shia? Or just different interpretations of the same texts? And if it’s different interpretations, then that means human interpretation is involved. And if human interpretation is involved, then which human interpretation is the right one?”

            Even a kafir like me knows that all true Muslims accept only ONE version of the Quran and hadith. Most certainly, human interpretation is involved. Originally, the Prophet Muhammad was considered as the only infallible messenger of Allah. When the Prophet died, the Sunnis believe that the first four successors of the Prophet – Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Talib – were also infallible interpreters as they were the closest companions of the Prophet. The Shia, on the other hand, recognise Ali ibn Abi Talib as the first of 12 infallible successors. Incidentally, this is the main bone of contention between the Sunni and Shia, not the Shiite practices often labelled by Sunnis as quirky that were mentioned by @ali. It would seem many Sunnis label Shiites as apostate because the latter reject the legitimacy and infallibility of the first three caliphs of the Sunni [tradition].

            Eventually, Islam ran out of infallible interpreters. The only modern-day exception is perhaps the Sultan of Brunei who was kind of declared infallible in a 2006 constitutional amendment but only for the purpose of fighting legal battles with Prince Jefri, his then-estranged brother.

            Anyway, every Muslim nation and even states within a nation (in the case of Malaysia) now has its own established theological methodology of interpretation of the faith conducted by a council of religious experts – clerics and legal experts – that excludes all laypersons and female Muslims.

          • BBBangi says:

            @ Jacqueline

            You have a valid point. Compared to the Sunni, the Shia have their own version of religious texts.
            According to the Shia, the Sunni Quran is incomplete. As for the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet), the Shia have their own set of narrators and interpreters. As a result, their interpretation is different from the Sunnis.

            As for third-party people like you, who are neither Sunni nor Shia, you may ask how do you determine which is the correct one. In this case, the only available tool available to you to make evaluations, is your common sense. Humans has been bestowed by this powerful tool for them to seek the truth and meaning in their life.

            As an example let us just look at the institution of marriage. The Shia version is that you can marry on a stipulated time basis. That is, you can put into your marriage contract the duration of your marriage, be it one hour, one day, weeks or months. So you can marry just for one hour and divorce your wife when the time is up. For the Shia, this practice is a blessed deed that will be highly rewarded in the hereafter. A good Shia follower should practise this deed as many times as possible. This practice of the Shia is known as Muta’ah. The Shia is encouraged to perform Muta’ah as many times as they like and with as many women as they prefer.

            If you look carefully from an impartial and rational person’s perspective, this is just another name for legalised prostitution. And if there is any religion that encourages this kind of behavior, the teachings of that religion are suspicious because they just don’t make sense. Strong human society and civilisation are based on strong family values and foundation, and which in turn is based on solemn marriage contracts. Therefore you are not wrong to suspect the teachings as not divine and most probably, it is based on human lust, whims and fancies.

            Continue below..

          • BBBangi says:

            @ Jacqueline, continue from above..

            In contrast, the Sunni version is that all marriage contracts which has time stipulated in it, is considered null and void. Marriage for the Sunni version is regarded as forever where the husband has been tasked with the responsibility of looking after the family. But if there are irreconcilable differences, they are allowed to divorce as a last resort and when all other avenues have failed. In fact, there is a saying of the Prophet that the one practice which Allah allowed but hates the most is divorce. This is to show that in Sunni teachings, divorce should be avoided as much as possible, unless all avenues to preserve it, fail.

            Secondly, in the practice of Taqiyyah which the Shia regard as an important deed. Taqiyyah basically means the use of disguising and lying in order to achieve what you aspire. In other words, you can lie as you please as long the goals of the religion are met. And in the Shia belief the practice of Taqiyyah is considered honorable in eyes of the Shia teachings and he who did it will be rewarded generously in the hereafter. Now if you ponder, this is just another saying that the end justifies the means when it comes to religion. This is just like saying you can smile, be friendly and hide your intentions, with others of different faiths but at the same you can plot to stab them behind their back or to bring about their downfall. This is another teaching which does not make sense for any religion that should respect and love others whether they are of the same or different faith.

            The Shia teachings above are not wild allegations. They are sourced from one of their main religious texts, Al Kafi by Kulayni. Kulayni is a very respected Shia scholar in the Shiite world, equivalent to Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim in the Sunni world.

            To summarise, there are many other beliefs in the Shia teachings which do not make sense and are grossly flawed, but I do not have the space here to detail it.

        • Sunna Sutta says:

          @ ali,

          You are certainly right that the word that was actually used in the NFC fatwa of 1996 was “haram”, i.e. there is a banning of Shia practices and publications. There is no mention of “murtad” which according to the situation may mean anything from a certain state of deviation to full apostasy. Nevertheless, if Shiites are barred from practising their faith, it still implies that they are viewed as apostates who according to the authorities should repent. The only other alternative is to go through a long period of “reeducation” before being allowed to leave the faith. Even so, those who make the said decision are still banned from worshiping in the Shia way.

          As for Jacqueline’s question, “Who decides?” It seems quite clear that the FM [For Muslims only] part of the FC gives full authority to Muslim clerics and syariah authorities, the national and state fatwa councils, and especially the mufti to advise the individual Malay rulers and the Yang DiPertuan Agong (representing the states and federal territories without Malay rulers) who then make the ultimate decision. The decision-makers exclude laypersons among the ummah, and in particular all female Muslims. Finally, the legislative process takes place in state assemblies and Parliament, apparently without any debate.

          • ali says:

            Dear Sunna Sutta, female Muslims are not excluded… maybe in Malaysia we do not yet have a female Islamic scholar giving fatwas. But that’s probably because of our culture, nothing to do with Islamic principles. In Islamic scholarship, anyone, male or female, with the proper training, knowledge and deep understanding of the Quran and hadith and with personal credibility can interpret and extract laws from the Quran. Gender (male, female) is not an issue at all. Female Islamic scholars can give fatwas/religious opinion, too. The emphasis is on knowledge. What is important is the knowledge and ability to ensure that the interpretations are as accurate as possible. Gender is not relevant here.

          • ali says:

            @ Sunna Sutta,

            In response to your previous comment further up regarding infallible interpreter of Quran and Hadith, I believe you got it wrong there. From the Sunni position, only a prophet is infallible, our Arabic term is “maksum” i.e guided and protected by Allah from mistakes. To the Sunnis, only prophets are “maksum”.

            By prophets here, I mean all prophets e.g. Muhammad, Abraham, Moses, Noah, etc are protected from mistakes in order to ensure the revealed knowledge/message from Allah is authentic. Other than that whether it’s Abu Bakar, Omar, Ali etc or anybody for that matter, they are all [fallible] (can make mistakes). That is why to minimise any mistakes in interpreting texts, one must be deeply learned in Islamic disciplines first.

            This is one of the big differences between Sunnis and Shias. The Sunnis believe only prophets are infallible while the Shias believe their imams are also infallible.

            Another big difference is that the Sunnis believe the Prophet did not appoint any successor after his death thus to Sunnis, that is why the companion of Prophet Muhammad chose a leader among them e.g Abu Bakar to be the first caliph, followed by Omar and Uthman.

            In contrast, the Shias believe the Prophet chose Ali to be his successor and by choosing Abu Bakar as caliph, mainstream Muslims (which later generations would become the Sunnis of today) did an injustice to Ali. That’s why the Shias are always politically angry at Sunnis for not making Ali the successor and first caliph after the Prophet.

            In summary, to Sunnis, only prophets are infallible. But to the Shias besides a prophet, Shias believe their imams are also infallible. Here I do not mean the imam who leads prayers in Muslim society. “Imam” here refers to the specific Shias spiritual leader e.g the 12 imams of Shias, imamiyyah of Iran.

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @ali, I stand corrected in regard to the matter of infallible interpretation of the holy scripture of Islam. The last infallible messenger of Allah and infallible interpreter of holy text was Prophet Muhammad. It seems that the main bone of contention between the Sunni and the Shia boils down to the political legitimacy of the successors of the Prophet. Having conceded to you, however, it would appear that there are even less grounds now for considering Shiite beliefs as deviating from the core beliefs of Islam.

            There is a strong argument that Shiites qualify as true Muslims based on the ‘more but NOT less’ principle. This means that a Muslim must fulfill ALL the 5 pillars of Islam (especially the first 2 pillars) and accept the Quran and the Hadith as the CORE holy scripture of Islam. There is no question that Shiites fulfill the said primary non-negotiable conditions. The question is whether they are considered to have deviated from the path of Islam by having ADDITIONAL pillars, rituals, practices, and even SECONDARY authoritative texts sometimes labelled by Sunnis as hadiths.

            I also have a number of questions regarding the issue of different interpretations of holy scripture between the Sunni and Shia traditions that strongly interest non-Muslims like me […].

            1. Nikah mut’ah in the Shia tradition is often condemned by Sunnis as a form of contractual prostitution disguised as marriage. However, among Sunnis, there is a somewhat similar form of temporary, contractual marriage called nikah misyar (sometimes called “traveller’s” marriage that is suggestive of the sailor’s “wife in every port” kind of drift, if you follow what I mean). […]

            Both nikah misyar and nikah mut’ah are not recognised in Malaysia. Thus, shouldn’t Malaysian Sunnis and (closet) Shiites agree that they share the same interpretation rather than one fingering the other as deviant?

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @ali (continued)

            2. Again on the subject of marriage, do the Sunni syariah authorities in Malaysia have the correct interpretation of permission for polygamy granted to Muslims through Prophet Muhammad? According to what I understand (but I may be wrong), the Prophet laid down very stringent conditions that must be fulfilled before a Muslim man can marry another man’s widow in order to ensure the family lineage of fallen warriors, the welfare of widows, and the inheritance of orphans. Even in the case of virgins and divorced women, a man must be able to prove that he can be fair to all wives and has the financial means to support them in an equitable way. It would seem to me that much of the leeway given to polygamy was consistent with a certain historical period of tribal warfare and conquest when women were totally economically-dependent on men. I sincerely doubt that the polygamy law was an absolute law hewn eternally in stone.

            Turkey and Tunisia have abolished polygamy because warfare no longer prevails and also because they believe that it is impossible for any man to fulfill the Quranic condition of treating all his wives equally.

            In Malaysia, I do not see rich Muslims altruistically forming disorderly queues to marry poor widows with children. More often than not, they go for young and beautiful virgins and even in the case of divorced women, the janda mystique seems to be the major determining factor. Wouldn’t the ease of Muslim men taking multiple wives in Malaysia (aided by border runs to ‘Siam’ or other states) be judged as a wrong interpretation of holy scripture by the syariah authorities?

            I am a male non-Muslim but nevertheless very curious as to how learned Muslim scholars would interpret Malaysia’s Islamic polygamy law.

          • Sunna Sutta says:

            @ali (final)

            3. This question is about interpretation in regard to jurisprudence in the syariah courts of Sunni Malaysia. As you know the legal proceedings of syariah courts are not very visible to the public in general and totally invisible to non-Muslims in particular.

            Back in 2010, three Muslim women were handed caning sentences (the lightest of taps as shown in the video clip in the web link I earlier provided) by the syariah court in KL for engaging in extra-marital sex. […]

            My understanding is that Islamic law is very clear about Allah’s displeasure in regard to zina (adultery). However, many Islamic legal experts are of the opinion that it is close to impossible to convict a person of zina. According to fiqh books, there must be a minimum of 4 witnesses who would have to witness the adulterous act at such close range and with such riveted attention that they are all able to describe the actual act of […] in extremely intimate detail, “like “a stick disappearing in a kohl container.” [n.b. the verbal noun was self-deleted].

            The question is: how is such testimony possible given that a total of 12 witnesses (4 for each allegedly adulterous woman) would have to corroborate their observational data with such great detail? Did the syariah authorities in question go strictly by the book or did they base their judgment on extrapolation from the limited observational data in the witness testimonies?

    • neptunian says:

      Just make it short, Malaysia is going Taliban! Those who do not agree can leave…that seems to be the viewpoint of the current govt.

      • Flag of Truth says:

        @ neptunian

        Really, Malaysia going Taliban?.. I don’t see any Taliban here.. Oh, do you mean people who always pray in mosques, wear robes and skull caps? These are the people you refer to as Taliban? Do you actually know what Taliban is all about? 🙂

        […] To me as a Muslim, this is a great development — Muslims who pray five times a day, who profess that there is no god other than Allah, who pay zakat, who perform the hajj… these people you consider them to be Taliban.


        I praise Allah, that He actually gives Muslims in blessed Malaysia [the ability] to stand strong against all odds. 🙂

  4. ellese says:

    I was responding to your comment that it was implicit in our law that we follow sunnah and wrote to show we expressly adopted sunnah wj in particular Shafii doctrine in our codified laws. The point I’m conceding is that you are probably right its not in the state constitution. Apart from this point I’m not sure our position is apart.

    I’m not commenting [on] Mat Sabu as its political propaganda. Both parties seem to have a knack to accuse without evidence.

  5. Chandra says:

    What about Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia? This could upset Saudi Arabia and when their King visits Malaysia, will he be allowed to worship in the Sunni mosques?

    • ali says:

      Dear Chandra, Wahhabism is still within Ahlussunnah Waljamaah like Malaysian Muslims, so no problem there of them worshipping in our mosques. However a lot of their views are not welcomed by the majority of Muslims here because of their hardline views and rather literal interpretations of Islamic text. Due to their hardline literal interpretations, some of things that we do here eg “tahlil’ etc are condemned by them as innovation, impure and thus unacceptable…but bottom line is they are still within Ahlussunnah Waljamaah.

      • neptunian says:

        By hardline you mean like Jais (a Sunni religious body) raiding the premise of the Church (another religious body altogether)?

        That is hardline religious persecution in my books. It is illegal and normally perpetrated by religious vigilante bigots.

        • ali says:

          Dear neptunian, by hardline I mean the way they (Wahhabism) academically approach the interpretations of the Quran and sunnah…and it’s a matter within the Islamic methods/discipline in extracting laws from the text.. what is haram, what is halal etc..

          I am sharing information here about Islamic matters and I have no wish to be drawn into the latest tangle between Jais and the particular church.. I am referring to differences of view within Islamic groups only.

      • Chandra says:

        Long time ago the Shias were also still within Ahlussunnah Waljamaah (AW) till it was decided that they were without the AW. This was when the Ottomans wanted to attack Persia which was then of course Shia. Muslims are not supposed to kill fellow Muslims,( hope the present day Muslims adhere to this), so an excuse had to be found, so the Shias were declared to be not within the AW. Now the ottomans could attack Persia. You say the Wahabbis are within the AW. A day would come when they are at loggerheads and a rift will drive them apart and one will declare the other to be without the AW just as you say their views and interpretations are not welcome in Malaysia. Then there are the Deobandis whose views are similar to the Wahhabis. Both say they are going back to the Quran as dictated to M by his Allah. So over time the bottom line gets redrawn to suit the time. In their hearts the Wahhabis believe the Sunnis are deviants eg in Malaysia where taxes are collected from sales of alcohol and gambling which indirectly fund development of mosques etc. Now who is the deviant.
        On another note, Malaysia touts for students from the Shia lands and there are many over here. Should not those countries be warned that they are not welcome in Malaysia because of their faith or shall I say mistaken faith does not meet requirements.
        Is this what Allah wants in the world he created where his creation ie people decide who is right and who is not? Allah did not delegate this task to his creation. It is for Allah and him/her alone to decide on the final Day. Or don’t you believe in this? All I can say is Shalom/Salam/Pax/aharathi/santi/solh/heping/peace.

        • ali says:

          @ Chandra,

          Shias already exist as a separate group as early as 788AD (they established a Shiite Idrisid dynasty in Morocco from 788AD till 985AD. At that time, mainstream Muslims were under the Abbasid Caliphate whereas the Ottoman empire that you mentioned only existed much later i.e 500 years later in 1299AD. So the time frame is a bit out there, my friend…

          As for the Iranian students, I believe the Iranian students know that they are coming to study in a Sunni-majority Malaysia. As far as I know, the Malaysian religious authorities/community do not disturb them on their practices and beliefs.

          It is when somebody (perhaps it wasn’t even these students who did it) started to spread the teachings if Shia to Malaysian Muslims that the authorities started to act…and they are only acting on those spreading Shia teaching and they are acting within state law, mind you.

          As for the Wahabbis, I sincerely hope they do not get the upper hand in the Malay Muslim community. I think the Malay community already has its own softer/flexible ways of doing things and the Wahhabi’s influence can change that social feature, if they flourish…but the Wahhabis ARE still within Sunni Ahlussunnah Waljamaah whether we like it or not.

  6. Sunna Sutta says:

    @ Adam


    Winston Churchill was famous for remarking in the House of Commons, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” (11th November, 1947). After filtering out his bitterness over being given the “Order of the Boot” by the British electorate in 1945 when the Allies were close to winning WW2, most analysts interpret his words to mean that there are “worster” forms of government like absolute monarchy, fascism, Marxism, etc. (Pardon the apparent ungrammatical expression; it is for the sake of literary expression as with Shakespeare’s “the most unkindest cut of all”.) In other words, democracy is still the best of all imperfect forms of government.

    Should non-Muslims have any say over the FM (For Muslims) only part of the FC? Some non-Muslims (including you) will answer resoundingly, “YES!” However, we have to consider the counter-argument – should Muslims have a say in dictating how non-Muslims can worship? For example, I most certainly vehemently disagree that Muslims have the right to deny the right of Christians in Malaysia to use the term “Allah” (which by the way, is neither a Malay nor Islamic word but a word used by Christians, including Arabs for God long before Islam even existed as an organised religion). The matter will soon be settled in the Federal Court but short of a constitutional amendment barring Christians from using the said word (an unlikely scenario given that BN does not have a super majority in Parliament), the issue will drag on indefinitely even if the Federal Court casts the nay vote.

  7. Sunna Sutta says:


    2/2 (continued)

    Hence, I reiterate that the issue of banning Shiism in Malaysia should be a matter that concerns Muslims only. Even if a referendum were to be held on the matter and even in the unlikely event that non-Muslims like you were to be allowed to participate, it is a virtual certainty that you will be on the losing side because there are only about 40,000 closet Shiites in Malaysia (as opposed to 18 million or more Sunnis) who almost overwhelmingly agree that Shiism should be banned.

    Finally, my comment regarding Martin Niemöller’s words is as follows. Only a minority of the “we” Germans supported the “they” Nazis to launch Germany on its path to genocide and thus the German nation cannot be judged guilty in entirety for failing to stop Hitler. Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1935 even though he was the losing chancellery candidate in the 1-1 run-off elections (only 35% of the votes) because of the “lack of effective government” after a series of parliamentary elections that failed to yield a majority for any party. You also have to remember that a big proportion of the German military, paramilitary and police were already brainwashed by the Nazis and backed Hitler when he eventually dissolved the Reichstag permanently, thus allowing him to rule as a dictator.

    In contrast to Nazi Germany, until the FC of Malaysia says otherwise, the Shia issue is an entirely “they” matter involving only Muslims. However, the “Allah” issue is undoubtedly a “we” matter as it involves the constitutionally-guaranteed right of freedom of religious worship for all Malaysians, in particular the Christians as a case in point.

  8. Sunna Sutta says:

    @ Adam,

    2/2 (final)

    I know this sounds quirky in regard to whether Muslims have been duly accorded the said right. In this regard, the FM (For Muslims) only part of the FC appears to be telling all Malaysian Muslims, “You have the right to freely choose to be Muslims but since you are born as Sunnis of the Shafii branch of Islam, we are obligated to guide you back to what we see as the true path if you choose to be a Shiite. Even after a lengthy period of reeducation, if you still insist on being what we see as an apostate, you are nevertheless banned from worshiping in the Shia way.” Just consider it as Social Democracy 101 in an Orwellian sense, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” (Animal Farm)

    Small comfort, no doubt, but it is not as if Shiites are being sent to extermination camps, “reeducation” camps perhaps. Cheers to you too, mate.

    • stewoolf says:

      @ Sunna Sutta

      Your concluding comments seem to negate the merits of your argument in your previous comments. Your “wisdom” dictates that non-Muslims stay aside as long as Muslims are not killing each other, [noting that] a senior officer was gun downed in cold blood.

      • Sunna Sutta says:


        The case of the murder of a senior Islamic enforcement officer is not at all relevant to whether Muslims are killing each other over the Shia issue or any disagreements within the faith for that matter.

        If non-Muslims want to have a say in regard to the legality or constitutionality of Islamic laws, the only solution is paradoxically to disallow everyone to have any say in the enforcement of any religion.

        This is only possible if we have a truly secular constitution like that of the USA. Note that this was achieved in the very first constitutional amendment in the US constitution. Among other things, The First Amendment of 1791 prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion that impedes the free exercise of religion. Freedom of religious worship, in my opinion, is only truly possible in a secular state.

        We live in Malaysia where all religions with the exception of Islam are in the private domain. By establishing Islam as the official religion of Malaysia in the FC, Islam (for Jacqueline’s information) falls in the public domain but WITHIN the ummah only.

        Also, syariah punishment in Malaysia is not as barbaric as may seem to some people. According to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act of 1965, the sentences meted out by syariah courts have limited bite based on a 3, 5, 6 formula – a maximum of 3 years jail, or RM5,000 fine, or 6 strokes of the cane, or a combination of all three. This is fairly mild compared to judicial punishments meted out by the civil courts. Even in the case of caning, the caning is quite light compared to judicial caning. In the case of syariah caning of female Muslims, it is literally like a slap on the wrist. You have to actually see it to believe it (visit Syariah punishments, it would seem, are more consistent with misdemeanors rather than felonies. It is kind of like shaming someone with a ‘Naughty, naughty’ label.

    • Adam says:

      Sunna Sutta,

      Thank you for your lengthy second part of your reply. Yes, democracy is still the best form of governance, if all the rules and controls are adhered to. Ours has been compromised by so many dubious amendments which have created quite a few conflicting situations and controversies. The various state laws and enactments do not seem to run in tandem with the Federal laws. Our pillars of good governance have also been tampered with over the years. The many supporting institutions have been weakened and some made impotent. The electoral process is anything but transparent with phantom voters, controversial vote-rigging, blatant gerrymandering and traceable ballot papers. Our Judiciary has been castrated with the sacking of our Lord President and the Lingam-gate scandal, culminating in the amazing verdict by the COA judgement on the Allah issue. The present sad state of affairs in our country really makes me depressed.

      Anyway, back to your point of minding your own business which makes sense but not from all points of view. Why are you, a Non-Christian(I presume) and a Non-Muslim, giving your opinion on the Allah issue involving the two religions and also expressing your concern for the Shias? The answer is, if I may answer it for you, is that you are being human. Humanity brought aid to Acheh and the surrounding areas when the tsunami struck. It is humanity that is now helping the typhoon victims in the Philippines. We have to be human first to be consistent in our views and to be citizens of the world.

      As I see it, the most important solution to all the present issues, whether racial, religious or political, is complete freedom of religion, without intimidation and without coercion. In this present age of modern civilization and knowledge, freedom of belief and conscience as per article 18 of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be adopted by all nations. What do you think?

      • Sunna Sutta says:

        As you correctly observed, I do have concerns for the Shia. I am fully committed to UDHR and would not hesitate to march in the name of freedom and human rights. Nevertheless, I do not think that you can find a single Sunni Muslim in Malaysia who will come out in the open to fight for the rights of the Shia. Good old American folk wisdom informs us, “If it ain’t broken, why fix it?” Clearly, close to 100% of Malaysian Muslims do not feel that there is anything wrong in stamping out Shia beliefs, especially since syariah punishments for perceived apostasy are so light.

        As I indicated in an earlier comment, the Malay [Malaysian] psyche is capable of evolving but there is one exception – adat – absolute obedience to the monarch in regard to Islamic matters. Even the British were wise enough to leave that one thing alone when they stripped the Malay rulers of their political power during the colonial era.

        • neptunian says:

          Well, the average Malay does not know who the owners of some of the biggest American franchise bars in Malaysia are.

  9. ellese says:

    The argument by Jo-Ann is wrong and cannot stand in law. When the constitution was drafted, we were already applying the SWJ in particular Shafie doctrines. Her argument that amendments to reflect the SWJ/Shafie doctrine is against the constitutional structure would in effect mean almost all Islamic federal and state laws in the nation would be void and invalid. This is because our laws made clear provisions on the application of WSJ and Shafie doctrine. Thus Jo-Ann’s argument is not only untenable but indeed absurd.

    Many are unaware that in Islam, there are a plethora of views. If a preference for SWJ is not permitted, then no Islamic laws can be enacted. Why? This is because every school has a different stand. Without any preference, anyone can challenge our laws arguing it’s against the basic structure. This is why Jo-Ann’s contention is preposterously wrong and downright untenable.

    On Shia, please be informed that they have different hadiths. The hadiths methodology is different.

    On the 650 amendments spin, please be informed that we have a more elaborate constitution than the US. Thus for admission of Sabah and Sarawak, we had more than 100 individual amendments. The focus should not be on the number of amendments but what is being amended.

    Please note that Islamic financing is under the civil courts. Thus not all Islamic matters fall within the syariah courts. However, where matters fall within the prescribed items under the 9th Schedule, syariah courts will have jurisdiction.

    And Sunna, regret your passing remark. I find the argument on basic structure most preposterous and silly. This style of writing has been published many times here to push an agenda. Thus articles [with opposing views] are not published here. A number of times the articles are condescendingly personal. The target has always been the person such as Umno religious authorities, Utusan etc rather than the action. Thus similar actions by those who they support are not criticised. In this case it’s the same. The target is Umno and thus [they] have tried to even come out with a ridiculous proposition to justify it. It’s picking on selective facts disregarding the numerous existing Islamic laws. It’s a blatant sidestepping of the truth by putting up a perceived valid civil argument when there is none. I don’t mind Umno being criticised but I find this grossly unfair and misleading, creating further division.

    I am very incensed by this style of writing which I read on a daily basis. I will counter unjustified propagandist [writing]. I’ll be civil but if done persistently many times, I will call a spade a spade. Though you are very civil and polite, your remark is unwelcome.

    However, please note credit must be given when due. In this case, The Nut Graph has been publishing [critical and opposing] comments from me.

    • Sunna Sutta says:

      @ellese, in a democracy one is free to debate and I sincerely doubt that your personal opinions and arguments even remotely approach the level of unassailable truth. Thus, while it is not always possible to settle a debate, it is an invariably good and decorous practice to adjourn an argument by agreeing to disagree. In this regard, one for instance does not go around damning a writer who may or may not have presented a flawed legal argument (“lettered” credentials notwithstanding), no matter how strongly one disagrees with the said person.

  10. ellese says:

    @ Sunna,

    Thank you for your comment. Let’s agree to disagree. For me 1+1 cannot equal to other than 2. If anyone persistently argues it’s other than [2] then it cannot be an honest answer/argument. I reserve the right to point out that false argument and criticise the writer in such a manner.

    You may not agree with my approach but it’s fine. However, if The Nut Graph tries to be fair and allows its articles to carry both sides to a story, I will step down my approach. So long as it persistently pushes for one point of view/agenda and makes unbalanced targeted criticisms, I cannot see it as being an honest article and will reply accordingly.

  11. stewoolf says:


    Ms Surin’s point is simple and plain. Your “common sense” argument can be utilised against Sunni as well. In fact, it is applicable to all religions. As a Chinese-educated in my late teens, I almost fell down from my chair when I read the opening sentence of “The Great Gatsby”: In my young and vulnerable days, … reservation of judgement is a virtue. I was inculcated to always judge characters, deeds, decisions, etc.

    Imagine what happened if the British believed Malays could do better converting to Christianity!? Indeed, this “virtue” helps to establish the Anglo-Saxon domination. Who am I to declare other religions as “ciptaan manusia”?? A divine message from Allah, Jesus Christ, Buddha, or whatever divinity I believe in??

    • BBBangi says:

      @ stewoolf

      If you are really for searching for the Truth, and you are able to get rid from your mind of prejudicial thinking, you will find that Islam is the only religion in the world which does make sense to human kind. If you do not believe me, go and and learn about Islam in a comprehensive perspective so as to get the ‘total picture’, and compare it to the other religions of the world. Give yourself ample time frame and learn Islam from the correct Muslim sources (ie. ahli sunnah wal Jamaah) and not from the media or the Shia version.
      Ask yourself these questions: What is the purpose of my life in this world, what happens to me after death, what is the concept of God and creation, what does Islam teach about taking care of one’s individual and family life, community affairs and the society as a whole, you will find that the answers which Islam provides as the most reasonable, common sense wise, compared to other religions.

      Your attitude of “What am I to decide other religions as ciptaan manusia” is an unprofessional attitude. The rational being is the one that studies with impartiality and make comparisons and commit to the findings which is the closest to his rational mind.

      • neptunian says:

        Provides reasonable, common sense? […] Somehow I don’t see it as common sense when a woman driving can be a crime – according to Islam, or at least Islamic Law by [certain countries].

        • BBBangi says:

          @ neptunian

          You have to differentiate between what some followers practice and the true teachings of the Islamic Religion. Some practices are debatable and some practices are not part of the religion. They key to understanding a religion is to undertand the teachings from its Scriptures and to make sense out of it. Then only you can judge its followers.

  12. Slim River says:

    Whatever happened to ‘All Human Rights for All’?
    Or are some religions or peoples more equal than others?

    Lest we forget, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states unequivocally:

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

    Simple, no! Instead of learned disputations on legal diarrhoea.

  13. Marketrealist says:

    Are you really serious about this discussion? Take a step back.

    So you are now complaining about differences within Islam. Just take a chill pill and see the big picture. We are 98% similar to a chimpanzee in DNA. A chimpanzee is one of millions of species in earth. This whole discussion about religion is misplaced. We are just one of trillions of organisms in the universe, nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing that greets us after we die. We are beautiful just as we are.

  14. ellese says:

    Just a point to note on zina. When people refer to zina it refers to the hudud zina with a prescribed punishment. However where it does not fit the zina requirement, authorities may prescribed a differing grade of zina offences under takzir. For example caught on video camera. Similarly with theft. There can be other categories of theft not falling within Hudud definition as takzir. Wallahualam.

    • Sunna Sutta says:

      @ellese, thanks for the explanation. I suppose since takzir and not tafsir is used in non-hudud Malaysia, another possibility is the three women in question could also have confessed to the zina offence.

      • ali says:

        @ Sunna Sutta

        Yes, it could be that the three ladies confessed to their actions.. as far as I know during the time of the Prophet, those who were punished for zina were punished because they personally came to the Prophet, confessed and asked to be sentenced according to hudud law. Perhaps it seems to defy logic why they would do that, but their level of faith was different/much higher living in their times..thus in their mind, they would rather be sentenced in this life than have to answer for it in the hereafter. If Muslims are sentenced according to hudud in this world, then in the hereafter for that crime they won’t be punished anymore as they have already paid for it in the present world.

        So yes, it seems that the three ladies in the case you mentioned probably must have confessed to it, or perhaps videotaped it etc i.e leaving incriminating evidence, otherwise there is no way to get a conviction without 4 witness. That said, I must say I am saying this without actually seeing the mentioned video or reading more details about it, so I cannot comment much on that…

  15. Veritas says:

    Malaysian Malays have sunk to a new low. […] While Muslims keep ranting about how in the West, everyone discriminates against Muslims, it is the Muslim majority countries that have the worst conduct against their minorities. […]

    In Singapore and the West, you can practice any religion you like and call your God whatever name. No one has a problem. Many cannot understand why Shias can be a problem in Malaysia while they are running free in Singapore.

    Malaysia will remain a backward country, due to Islamofacism.

    • Sunna Sutta says:

      I think you have gone rather overboard with your somewhat inflammatory sweeping statements (especially the misspelled last word you used), much of which were apparently deemed “unpublishable” by TNG and replaced with […}.

      Religious intolerance is not exclusively found in Muslim-majority countries. Persecution of minorities is also practised by extremists in other faiths. For example, NATO had to bomb Christian Serbs into submission to stop the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995.

    • Veritas says:

      You may be able to cite a few civilization or countries that treats her minorities badly. But in general […] Muslim countries discriminate against their minorities. Also most of Western Europe has reached a very high level of tolerance. Is that a sweeping statement?


      […] I do not understand why Malaysian Malays are “so sensitive”?

      In Singapore, we have no problem with all main religious sects, including Shia and Ahmadiya. We also have no problem of apostasy. We allow people to convert or leave a religion freely. If a Christian imposes a “no-apostasy law” to her members and tries very hard to convert Muslims, how will Muslims feel? […]

  16. Flag of Truth says:

    # Veritas

    You have failed to mention how the Spanish inquisition court forced Muslims to convert to Christianity. :). And modern-day western countries also are not that tolerant of Islam. There is lots of pressure on the Muslim community there which I can gladly elaborate more here :). The hijab ban, among other things, shows how hypocritical this western tolerance is.

    […] Singapore is even worse — they don’t even allow a Muslim to become a fighter pilot, even a low-ranking pilot, let alone to become a general in their mighty arm forces. 🙂

    • Veritas says:

      Christianity has rejected extremism since the end of the 30-year world. By the mid-18th century, the process was largely completed. You are comparing with a 400-year old Christianity.

      The most severe hijab ban was started by Turkey’s Ataturk whose de-Islamisation brought forward an entire nation. While Muslims focus on the hijab ban in the west and feel victimised, the Malay Muslims penalise even their own Shia.

      There are Malay Muslim pilots in Singapore but that is rare. Singapore would want more Muslim pilots. However, the security concern against Malaysia prevented us from having more Muslim pilots. This issue is not due to sectarian reasons in Singapore but more due to a response to a sectarian and hostile mindset in Malaysia.

      Also I do not see how Singapore “is even worse”. We let everyone worship in peace. We do not have any penalties against minorities.

    • Veritas says:

      Christianity has rejected extremism since the end of the 30 Years War. By the mid-18th century, the process was largely completed. You are comparing with a 400-years ago Christianity.

      The most severe hijab ban was started by Turkey’s Ataturk whose de-Islamisation brought forward an entire nation. While Muslims focus on the hijab ban in the west and feel victimised, the Malay Muslims penalise even their own Shiites, while these Shiites are not [harassed] in the west.

      There are Malay Muslim pilots in Singapore but that is rare. Singapore wants more Muslim pilots. However, the security concern against Malaysia prevented us from having more Muslim pilots. This issue is not due to sectarian reasons in Singapore but more due to a response to a sectarian and hostile mindset in Malaysia.

      Also I do not see how Singapore “is even worse”. We let everyone worship in peace. We do not have any penalties against minorities.

      • Sunna Sutta says:

        @Veritas, to add a point in your favour, the hijab ban in France is not an anti-Islam measure in any way. France is 100% secular; it has not only banned the hijab but also all forms of public display of religious symbols at work, in school, etc. including the wearing of the Christian crucifix and cross and the Jewish Star of David. The ban does not extend to the home front. There is no religious discrimination or selective persecution in France!

        • Veritas says:

          The French Hijab ban targeted religious symbols which threatens the secularism of the republic. It was taken by a number of Muslims outside France as a symbol of persecution of Islam.

          That is the reason one person mentioned hijab ban in this forum to try to convince [us] that the west are an intolerant society, not introspecting the harm, for example, that Malaysia does to her minorities is far greater.

          Muslims need to eradicate their victim mentality and look further at how the radical elements of their faith have threatened the well-being of their own minorities.

  17. jeda says:

    Being a formal religion in the constitution doesn’t mean that you can discriminate the other neither being superior but formal in official protocol like ceremonial, national celebrations or any other official purposes..
    This can make Malaysia in general and Umno in particular, an outdated and racist regime.

  18. ellese says:

    Didn’t realise there’s an interesting debate on France and human rights. Why are you both veritas and Sunna not defending the right of a woman to wear a hijab for her work? Now how do you decide neutrality? Why is French secularist culture prevalent over other culture? The French position is that others must adapt to their culture and way of life. Why is this not discriminatory? Does that mean Malaysia could have adopted the Malay culture and asked others to integrate? Is it fair to close down public-funded race-based schools?

    • Sunna Sutta says:


      When in Rome, do as the Romans do; the same principle applies in France. Surely one cannot expect the host secular nation to bow to the cultural demands of guests or new arrivals. What happened in Sweden to the Malay couple who were arrested for giving a light smack on their child’s hand for not praying could also easily have happened to Malaysian non-Muslims who take Sweden’s strict laws against corporal punishment lightly. As for France, are you demanding that they lift the ban on the hijab at work but continue to ban French Catholics from wearing the crucifix and the displaying the cross in public places? Secular states strictly restrict all religions to the private domain without any exceptions given to any particular faith.

      As for Malaysia, surely you know that our country is known as the Federation of Malaysia, not Tanah Melayu. Non-Malays do not just consist of Chinese and Indians alone but also include bumiputera communities from East Malaysia like the Iban, Melanau, Murut, Kelabit, Kadazan, Penan, etc. Every non-Malay community has as much stake in Malaysia as the Malay community. The Constitution is the result of tough negotiations among all the ethnic communities of Malaysia; each having to make a number of concessions in exchange for benefits. In exchange for joining the enlarged Federation, East Malaysian bumiputera ethnic groups got certain concessions especially in regard to the language policy and immigration. As for the non-bumiputera ethnic communities before Merdeka, we traded recognition of our right of citizenship and constitutionally-guaranteed right of mother-tongue instruction in exchange for recognising the special rights of the Malays, public funding of Islamic institutions, etc.

      It is as seditious for non-bumiputeras to demand de-Islamisation of Malaysia and repeal of bumiputera special rights as it is for bumiputeras to demand the closing down of public-funded Chinese and Tamil-medium primary schools!

      • Flag of Truth says:

        @ Sunna

        Malaysia was before this known as Persekutuan Tanah Melayu or in English, the Federation of Malaya. That is why our previous ID card, the blue hard plastic card, states on the front “Negeri-negeri Tanah Melayu”. 🙂

  19. ellese says:

    I can agree with you on Malaysia. But many simply do not and they push the barrier. Not many know our constitution was never based on idealism but based on compromise. Not many can understand that once you push things outside the compromise the others have the right to question.

    There are two bigger issues. I recently met the UN officer in charge of human rights for the whole Asia Pacific. We had a fruitful discussion. But the concept of when in times do as the Romans do can never be accepted by them. Among the topics is same sex marriage which he stuck to the view that they will apply whatever convention available. This the problem with the whole issue. Selectivity.

    The same issue was raised by Comango. They challenged many things in our constitution. They challenge the right of Malays on education as enumerated in our constitution. This is against human rights as they claimed at the UNHRC, but at the same time defend to the hilt the right to separate our children in school by race, falsely calling this as part of human rights. This is the problem which we face. Selectivity.

    I want to leave this hanging for the time being.

Most Read (Past 3 Months)

Most Comments (Past 3 Months)

  • None found




  • The Nut Graph


Switch to our mobile site