Tuesday, 28 April 2009
By Shanon Shah
shanonshah at thenutgraph dot com
PETALING JAYA, 28 Apr 2009: The Selangor Islamic Religious Council (MAIS) has forbidden the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect to perform Friday prayers at their mosque with immediate effect.
In a letter to the Ahmadiyya dated 24 Apr 2009 made available to The Nut Graph, MAIS said, “If [the Ahmadiyya] fail to comply with, defy or neglect the directive, the council will take legal action without any notice.”
In a statement, Ahmadiyya spokesperson Ainul Yakin Muhd Zain said, “We … feel deeply hurt and aggrieved at this unjust action to deny us our right to perform our religious obligations.”
MAIS issued its directive on the grounds that the Ahmadiyya mosque did not get the council’s approval first.
In December 2008, Selangor religious exco Datuk Dr Hassan Ali said that he was willing to negotiate with the Ahmadiyya community over seizure of land which they used for their mosque.
PAS Shah Alam chief and Member of Parliament Khalid Samad elaborated to The Nut Graph over the phone: “We should engage and discuss with the Ahmadiyya to understand their perspective.”
According to Ainul, however, no such dialogue has taken place between Hassan and the Ahmadiyya community.
“Besides, he is only willing to talk about the issue of land, not the issue of our aqidah (belief system),” Ainul said in a phone interview today.
“The way the Pakatan Rakyat government is treating us is the same as how the Barisan Nasional treated us,” Ainul added.
The Nut Graph was unable to reach Hassan, but Khalid said it was important to clarify the Ahmadiyya sect’s status.
“There are 1,001 religions in the world, so if they declare themselves non-Muslim, then the solution is easy for us,” he said.
“The problem is if they insist that they are still Muslims,” he noted.
However, Ainul said, “It is … incomprehensible to us that we are subjected to this kind of treatment, as firstly we have been declared non-Muslims.”
In 1975, the Selangor Fatwa Council issued a fatwa declaring the Ahmadiyya sect non-Muslim.
The fatwa also said that ideally, if the Ahmadiyya did not “repent and return to the true teachings of Islam, they should be killed by the Imam which is the King”.
Acknowledging, however, that this was not legally possible, the fatwa then recommended that the Ahmadiyya be stripped of all special Malay privileges.
To believe or not
According to constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, however, such declarations that someone is a non-Muslim have massive consequences.
“Every religion has its own jurisdiction to ‘excommunicate’ deviant followers, but in this case it should be a matter of last resort since the implications are devastating,” he said in a phone interview.
Shad said that an official declaration that someone is Muslim or not has implications on the status of marriage, guardianship of children, and inheritance.
Shad also said that the fatwa itself seems to contradict Section 6 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment, which says that it is illegal to declare any Muslim non-Muslim.
According to Shad, the authorities’ treatment of the Ahmadiyya stands in direct contrast with its treatment of cases such as Lina Joy’s, in which a Muslim sought to publicly renounce Islam.
“We are effectively saying that an individual’s affirmation of faith is not enough for them to follow the religion of their choice,” he said.
“In Lina Joy’s case, she is being prevented from leaving Islam, while the Ahmadiyya are being forcefully kicked out and yet are still liable to punishment by the Islamic authorities,” he said.
Shad said that as far as the law was concerned, the Ahmadiyya should enjoy constitutional protection for their freedom of religion if they are considered non-Muslims.
“But if they want to declare themselves Muslim and follow their version of the faith, then the superior courts will defer to the syariah courts,” he said.
The Ahmadiyya movement was founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India, in 1889. They are sometimes inaccurately referred to as Qadianis.
Although Ahmadiyya consider themselves Muslim, mainstream Muslims reject this because the Ahmadiyya believe that Ahmad was the metaphorical second coming of Jesus.
The sect has its headquarters in the United Kingdom, and Ahmadiyya are persecuted by religious authorities in Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan and Indonesia.
According to Ainul, there are approximately 1,500 Ahmadiyya followers in Malaysia, with the majority in Sabah.
Most Ahmadiyya Malaysians are ethnic Malays, and the movement was founded in Malaya in the 1930s.