Malaysian police have detained three people and are on the hunt for one person for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and his third wife, Aisha.
While the arrests are seen as a positive move to maintain harmony in multi-faith Malaysia, the country’s non-Muslims are taking to social media to ask if police will act against those who defame religions other than Islam.
As police had waited for a series of police reports to be made before making arrests, opposition political parties perceived this process as inaction by the Pakatan Harapan-led government over attacks against Islam, which is the country’s most widespread religion. Opposition parties are now planning a massive rally in protest of this perceived disinterest to protect the rights of Malay Muslims, who make up about 55% of Malaysians, in the wake of online anti-Islam rhetoric.
The government, however, believes these massive rallies will not hamper its operations and is therefore not expecting the opposition to back down.
Pakatan Harapan (PH) also agree that police are duty-bound to act swiftly against any online misbehaviour and that existing laws are sufficient to penalise offenders, whether the attack is against Islam or other religions.
However, the current government led by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said several times that they fear there is an anti-government wave from some civil servants. Some quarters believe that it is actually a large number of civil servants who have yet to accept Malaysia’s new leaders and their different ways of getting things done.
Deputy Prime Minister and women, family and community development minister Wan Azizah Ismail came out this week to remind civil servants of different political affiliations not to sabotage the government. She says the government is aware that some civil servants still supported the previous government of the Barison Nasional (BN), who were in power for over 50 years since Malaysia’s independence until their historic defeat in the 2018 general elections.
“Civil servants may differ in political affiliation but, to serve the people, they should not use group, racial or religious differences as barriers.
“The government understands and respects their political affiliation. But I would like to remind you that there should be no element of sabotage,” she says.
Without the support of the civil service — a powerful one in Malaysia due to its size and majority Malay Muslim composition, the job for the PH-led government will become even more difficult.
With PH having suffered a slip in support from a segment of the Malay-Muslim community in Selangor just last Saturday, swift action against religious defamers is seen as vital.
Besides the recent arrests of the three alleged defamers, Malaysia is facing a rise in religious strife with an invasion of mosques and Muslim prayer halls by alleged opponents to PH.
These are seen as attempts to sap the government’s grip on power and force it to act against ‘Islamists’ who are allegedly responsible for fake news.
Meanwhile, leaders of Islamist political party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) have had a tough time clearing their names from a growing corruption scandal.
PH have left it to the anti-graft busters to investigate these corruption allegations against PAS.
Additionally, PAS is currently seeking entry into the almost defunct BN but this is causing a shift on the ground with the defeated Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) threatening to leave the BN.
And, as MCA and MIC are trying to get away from the PAS-Umno alliance, they seem headed into an abyss after losing much support from both Malaysia’s Chinese and Indian communities.