Malaysia

No double standards over ‘kafir harbi’ label, deputy minister says

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — The government denied in Parliament today that it was biased in favour of pro-Umno media in taking action over the “kafir harbi” or belligerent infidels tag used by some Umno-linked religious hawks to describe the secular DAP opposition party.

“The government is consistent and there is no double standard practised,” Datuk Mashitah Ibrahim said during Question time.

She was replying to PKR-Tanah Merah MP Amran Ab Ghani who demanded to know if the government would take any stern action against Islamic scholar Abdullah Sa’amah who was cited in Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia last August as calling the DAP “kafir harbi”, following the secular party’s continued opposition to the implementation of hudud — the controversial Islamic penal code — in Malaysia.

Amran had pointed out that the government is swift in acting against opposition parties but often dragged its feet whenever pro-establishment groups were involved.

Mashitah replied that the “kafir harbi” term is not an accusation, but is used by religious scholars to see if Muslims could work together with non-Muslims.

“It’s not a term that can allow for any punishments to be taken to kill...but it is a study of attitude where it can be classified if someone is ‘harbi’ or ‘zimmi,’ whether we can still be friends with him or not...that’s all. So the question of accusation that can lead to a punishment doesn’t arise,” she said.

Amran also asked Mashitah if DAP is really a “belligerent infidel” but she did not directly state whether she thought DAP was a “belligerent infidel” and instead explained the terms “kafir harbi” and “kafir zimmi”.

“The question of whether DAP is ‘karfi harbi’ or not, the term is easy...if non-Muslims oppose Islam, issue statements such as saying syariah (law) is extremism, clearly saying don’t want Islam, never mind want to go over dead body or not, or thinking that protecting the dignity of Islam is something that wastes energy and time, that is clearly against Islam.”

“But if any non-Muslims that can be loyal to the leadership of PM that is a Muslim, obeys the social contract in the Federal Constitution, they are the category of ‘kafir zimmi’ that can be friends,” Mashitah said.

Earlier in her reply, she said the government can take legal action under Section 298A of the Penal Code to “take care of and control any sensitive issues” involving Muslims in the country.

Section 298A carries the penalty of imprisonment between two to five years.

Utusan Malaysia had earned PR’s ire for allegedly stoking “religious conflict” after the Umno-owned paper ran a controversial report on its front page on August 8 titled “Haram sokong DAP” (Forbidden to support DAP).

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told reporters the Malay broadsheet’s reports were a political campaign by religious extremists to instil disaffection towards PR parties, pointing out that the ruling BN, including its mainstay Umno, has previously said it was against carrying out “hudud”, the Islamic penal code that metes out harsh punishment for offenders.

He said the reports by Utusan were a “campaign by religious extremists to punish the DAP” for not supporting the enforcement of hudud.

The Pahang mufti has also backed a growing campaign among Umno-aligned religious leaders, declaring it “haram” or forbidden for Muslims to support the DAP after several Islamic scholars called the secular party “kafir harbi” or belligerent infidels, distinguishing it from the MCA or MIC as parties that have accepted the faith’s supremacy in multi-religious Malaysia.

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