Malaysian Sociologist Sayyid Farid Alatas blamed the silent majority of Muslims in Malaysia for the existence of sectarianism and the oppression and harassment of Shia Muslims in the country.
Speaking at an open discussion on the “Moderation and Administration of Islam in Malaysia” at the Ideal Convention Centre (IDCC) in Shah Alam on Saturday, Alatas said when it came to the prosecution of Shia Muslims in Malaysia, there was no outrage from Muslims in the country except for a handful.
This, he said, was despite the fact that these same silent Muslims were vocal in their disapproval of other areas of life whether it concerned the Muslims or not.
“We deserve the kind of government that we have and we deserve the kind of Islam that is being administered to us.
“The political elite has administratively supported sectarianism and the apathetic population fails to put pressure on the elite,” he said.
He said it was extremely irresponsible for this silent Muslim majority to allow the years of continued prosecution against Shia Muslims in the country.
“It is also a matter of life and death. Two people were arrested in Singapore for wanting to join the Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) and they said one of their goals was to kill Shia Muslims.
“There are many things we can blame the government for but when it comes to sectarianism, it is the people’s fault because our government will change its tune if it knows that the majority will not condone it.”
Alatas, who is a professor at the National University of Singapore, said Malaysia was probably the only countries which legally condoned the prosecution of Shia Muslims.
“In Iraq or Pakistan there are incidences of physical conflict when it comes to the matter of sectarianism, but there is no official position by their government condoning it. Malaysia has distinguished itself.
“The thinking in Malaysia is that if you have groups that are different from each other then there will be conflict and in order to avoid conflict then you have to do away with those groups.
“This is a problem because if this is the type of thinking then there will always be more groups you have to get rid of. In Malaysia, there is already some disdain towards Sufis who are mostly among the Sunni Muslims.”
Alatas emphasized that he was not speaking about sectarianism from the point of view of liberalism or modern values but from the point of view of classical Sunni Islamic thought.
“It is not part of the Sunni tradition to have sects and there is no precedence in Islamic tradition for banning the existence of groups outside the mainstream even when those groups are found guilty of dissenting against a fatwa.
“Even in such cases, jurists have agreed that there is no legal process or procedure for such people.”
Alatas said the Constitution allows for far greater role of the rulers, including questioning and gazetting “problematic” Islamic enactments against Shia Islam.