Malaysia

No fatwa on ‘belligerent infidel’ term used in ‘Utusan’, says minister

By Mohd Farhan Darwis
November 06, 2012

Jamil Khir said that any statements calling non-Muslims as “kafir harbi” or “kafir zimmi” are merely personal opinions. — File picJamil Khir said that any statements calling non-Muslims as “kafir harbi” or “kafir zimmi” are merely personal opinions. — File picKUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6 — The National Fatwa Council has never issued any fatwa (religious orders) to refer to non-Muslims as “kafir harbi” or belligerent infidels, minister Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said today, referring to the label some conservative Muslims had used to describe the secular DAP opposition party earlier this year.

The minister in charge of Islamic affairs also said that any statements calling non-Muslims as “kafir harbi” or “kafir zimmi” are merely personal opinions, and added that Muslims are not bound by these personal convictions.

His statement comes just months after Umno-owned Malay daily Utusan Malaysia reported several Islamic religious scholars as saying that it is “haram” or forbidden for Muslim voters to support the DAP, which they have described as a “belligerent infidel” party.

“Until now, there is no fatwa or legal opinions related to the position of non-Muslims in Malaysia as Kafir Harbi or Kafir Zimmi issued by the state Fatwa Committee, or MKI (National Council for Islamic Affairs Malaysia),” Jamil Khir said in a written reply to PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

Legal opinions are only valid and recognised after receiving approval from the states’ Fatwa Committee and the MKI, Jamil said.

“Fatwa and legal opinions in this country can only be issued by the authorities.

“Therefore, any opinion or institutions apart from the two entities cannot be considered as fatwa, but only personal conviction.”

Abdul Hadi, who is also Marang MP, had asked the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department what action would be taken against those who had described certain non-Muslims in Malaysia as “belligerent infidels”.

The PAS leader had also expressed fear that the usage of such terms could affect the existing peace among the different races in the country.

The Malay-Muslim community make up some 60 per cent of Malaysia’s 28 million population.

While Islam is recognised as the religion of the federation, the Federal Constitution protects the rights of citizens to practise freely the religion of their choice.

Jamil Khir said one should not use freedom of speech as grounds to issue statements that can confuse the society, especially Muslims in this country.

“Although the government affirms the principle of freedom of speech and in giving opinions, but matters that are related to religious issues are sensitive issues for Muslims,” he said.

Utusan Malaysia had drawn the opposition pact’s ire for allegedly stoking “religious conflict” after running a controversial report on its front page on August 8 titled “Haram sokong DAP” (Forbidden to support DAP).

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has previously said the Malay broadsheet’s reports were a political campaign by religious extremists to instil disaffection towards Pakatan Rakyat parties, pointing out that the ruling Barisan Nasional, 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 had 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 forbidden for Muslims to support the DAP after several Islamic scholars called the secular party “kafir harbi” and distinguishing it from the MCA or MIC as parties that have accepted the faith’s supremacy in multireligious Malaysia.

The phrase “kafir harbi” has historically been used to describe non-Muslims who are seen as enemies of Islam, and whose deaths are allowed or justified in a war setting as they are seen to be attempting to kill Muslims.