KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 (News Agencies) – A Malaysian human rights group said Friday that authorities have detained six people in the past four months purely because they are Shia Muslims.
“We are led to believe that these people were detained purely on the grounds of their faith,” the Suaram group said in a statement.
It said there are some 2,000-3,000 Shia Muslims in Malaysia, with others belonging to the Sunni Muslim branch of the faith.
No one from the home affairs ministry, which authorizes detentions under the Internal Security Act (ISA), was immediately available for comment.
The act allows indefinite detention without trial.
Suaram, which named the six people, said two had since been released, three had been sent to a detention center for two years and one, who was arrested in January, was still being held under an initial 60-day detention order.
The rights group said 10 other people who were briefly arrested in November 1997 under the ISA were told to renounce the Shia sect and revert to the Sunni Muslim faith as a precondition for their release.
Suaram said the reason given for the 1997 arrests was “activities prejudicial to national security and Muslim unity.”
The rights group expressed concern at the continuous use of the ISA and the “harassment” of Malaysia’s Shia community.
It urged people to write to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission, Home Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.
Malaysia’s constitution guarantees freedom of religious belief. But it also says that laws in individual states, “may control or restrict the propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam.”