Malaysia: We don’t want to be like Iraq, says Home Minister over Shia controversy

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that he does not want Malaysia to turn into Iraq which he says is in turmoil because of the existence of the Sunni and Shia Muslim communities.

“Iraq used to have only one school of thought and that was Sunni, but now there are the Shia and the Sunni groups and this has divided the country. We do not want that here,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid was responding to a statement by an Iraqi parlimentarian in Baghdad, Iraq, Sheikh Jalaluddin Ash-Shoghir, recently, who had said that the Malaysian government was the first in the world to officially denounce the Shia sect.

“Malaysian companies are happily reaping multiple projects in Iraq and many business opportunities have been specially handed to the Malaysian government,” the cleric had said in a Youtube video that has gone viral.

Malaysian firms, including Petronas, invest in an oilfield in Gharraf, Iraq.

Iraq’s population consists of more than 65% Shia followers.

Jalaluddin had also expressed his disappointment that the Malaysian government was singling out Shia followers for persecution.

“I do not know how the Malaysian government can reach the point of crushing diplomatic relations and defying the faith. Where is the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)?” Jalaluddin had asked.

However, Ahmad Zahid stood his ground today and said: “That is his own interpretation… Our interpretation is different.”

Speaking to reporters after launching the National Book Awards and the 1Malaysia Book Expo in Kuala Lumpur today, Ahmad Zahid said that one must be able to differentiate between the country’s security and business.

“I am open to be blamed or criticised..I don’t need praises.

“I will not compromise on national security and safety and action will be taken as I do not want the country to be split into two groups of people,” he said.

Ahmad Zahid said that ideological differences in the country is fine “but matters of akidah (faith), or Islamic beliefs, now on that, we should not be splitting ourselves”.

When asked about The Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (Sukaham) suggestion to hold a dialogue between the Sunni and Shia followers, Ahmad Zahid retorted: “What dialogue? This has got nothing to do with human factor but sects.”

Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Hasmy Agam, who had called for the dialogue, had said that the Federal Constitution provided for freedom of different communities to practise their faith and this freedom should be extended to other denominations within Islam.