Halt drift to extremism

THE incident where internationally respected Turkish journalist, author and public speaker (Mustafar Akyol) was detained and arrested, and subsequently released after 17 hours not only blemishes the reputation of Malaysia as a moderate nation as we professed internationally and reiterated recently, but also adds serious uncertainties to all Malaysians as to how arbitrary actions can affect the fabric of our society.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) does not believe that the action of Jabatan Agama Islam Wilayah Persekutuan (Jawi) reflects a changed policy of the government, but evidently, a sector of government has been allowed to take arbitrary measures albeit as interpreted by them in defence of their interpretation of principles. Such extreme action in our multi-religious, multiracial and moderate Malaysia in our view is repressive, undemocratic and intended to be intimidating. There is no question that this must be stopped by the government and such actions that reflect hostility, narrow-mindedness and intolerance of civil, intellectual and religious discourse should not be committed again.

Such action only emboldens those who push for polarisation and superiority or pre-eminence of one group or one religious belief over another. There can be many Malaysians who interpret such actions as the government being inclined towards accommodating them. Suhakam strongly counsels the government to take stock of the drift towards religious extremism and fears that if such situations continue, Malaysia would change qualitatively for the worst.

Tan Sri Razali Ismail
Human Rights Commission of Malaysia