The Mufti of Perlis Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin is arguably the most qualified mufti in the country; at least as far as paper qualifications go. Malaysian Muslims like to quote him to cement their arguments on many issues, such as what is halal and haram, which, incidentally, is what Muslims talk about most of the time. Recently Asri spoke about the dangers of Shia Muslims as a group, after visiting the home of the missing Perlis activist Amri Che Mat and concluding that Amri is a danger to national security.
I am certainly not a religious scholar, and like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, I neither know how to read Arabic nor wear a serban. But Muslims scholars in Malaysia are a strange lot. Every day they keep saying we have to do this and that for the sake of the ummah, i.e. the universal community of Muslims. Then in the next breath, they say that if a person is a Shia and not a Muslim of the Sunnah wal Jamaah variety, then ipso facto this person is a threat to national security. I have noticed that during the Haj, many Iranians and other Shia groups from around the world are allowed into the Holy Land, so to this non-scholar that must mean they are Muslims too. I also remember the International Islamic Conference in Amman where all Muslim countries — including Malaysia — recognised Shias as Muslims.
So why this persecution of Shias if they are Muslims too? We don’t have to emulate Pakistan and Afghanistan where the Sunnis and the Shias keep throwing bombs at each other. We have to emulate India and Bangladesh, where they live together in peace. Their practices may differ, just as the practices of Protestants differ from that of the Catholics, but that’s not a reason to regard Shias as a threat to national security.
How can a Shia living in a small town in Perlis and doing voluntary work to help the poor be a threat to national security? I hope the learned Mufti can explain to those of us who are not experts how one can be a threat to national security just because one belongs to a particular group or community. I suspect the reason Shias are seen as a danger to Muslims here is because Muslim leaders here are afraid their practices may be attractive to other Muslims in the country, causing them to abandon one for the other. (In Malaysia, however, Muslims must follow the Sunnah wal Jamaah variety or they are not considered to be Muslims at all.)
The reason why Sunnis and Shias all over the world are killing each other is mainly their inability to see the futility of using force in matters of faith. They think that with the “right education”, they can correct the wrong practices. They think that by using the law, they can defeat the spread of other “undesirable teachings”. So the internal strife continues, as does the obsession with the correct interpretation, and the violence becomes endless. In the meantime, the capitalists, the Jews, the communists and the atheists rule the world. Petty-minded Muslims will just have to endure it and watch as the rest of the world passes them by.