Fatwa not against rallies, but to avoid damage, says Perlis Mufti
KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — Perlis Mufti Juanda Jaya has defended the National Fatwa Council’s (MFN) edict last week barring Muslims from participating in “unproductive” and unlawful assemblies, saying it was not specific to the April 28 Bersih rally which ended in violence.
He told Umno-linked Utusan Malaysia in an interview published today that the statement by council chief Tan Sri Abdul Shukor Husin on May 6 was “advice” and not “a specific fatwa as reported.”
“In fact, the MFN did not focus on Bersih but all assemblies that bring damage. There is no scripture that bans assemblies to protest absolutely. But it may be haram because of other issues,” Juanda was quoted as saying in the newspaper’s Sunday edition Mingguan Malaysia.
The MFN’s statement, which came a week after chaotic scenes in the city, was criticised by opposition leaders who said it was Umno’s ploy to stifle dissent and that it was police, accused of brutality against demonstrators calling for free and fair elections, who had violated the fatwa.
“Rioting, causing disturbances and damaging public property are all forbidden by Islam. This also applies to any intention to topple a duly elected government by organising such demonstrations,” Abdul Shukor, who leads the council made up mainly of state muftis, had said.
But Juanda, who is one of 13 muftis appointed by the respective heads of state on advice from the respective chief minister, said “those who are not satisfied, be it from Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat, should meet their state muftis.”
“If you don’t agree with the view of the mufti in the state which you govern, ask the mentri besar to sack the mufti. Do you dare?” he asked, referring to politicians who criticised the MFN statement.
Abdul Shukor’s statement had come after Datuk Seri Najib Razak asserted that the rally was an attempt to oust the country’s duly elected government, a claim that has been echoed by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
If you don’t agree with the view of the mufti in the state which you govern, ask the mentri besar to sack the mufti. Do you dare? — Juanda Jaya
Despite an initially peaceful start to the rally, Bersih’s third since 2007, police took action later that day which some civil society movements and media have condemned as more brutal than those employed during last July’s Bersih gathering.
The April 28 rally, which saw tens of thousands gather at six different locations before heading to Dataran Merdeka, was peaceful until about 2.30pm when Bersih chief Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan asked the crowd to disperse.
But her announcement was not heard by most of the crowd who continued to linger around the historic square which the court had already ruled as being inaccessible to the public over that particular weekend.
Just before 3pm, some protestors breached the barricade surrounding the landmark, leading police to disperse the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.
Police then continued to pursue rally-goers down several streets amid chaotic scenes which saw violence from both sides over the next four hours.
Several dozen demonstrators have claimed that they were assaulted by groups of over 10 policemen at a time and visual evidence appears to back their claim but police also point to violence from rally-goers who also attacked a police car.
The police car then crashed into a building before a few protestors flipped it on its side.