KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 ― Non-mainstream Islamic teachings such as Shiah and Sufism needed to be “controlled” to help Malaysia develop Islam to its current dominant position, Nasharudin Mat Isa said today.
The newly-appointed chief for the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) Foundation also refuted the possibility of a Sunni-Shiah schism amongs Malaysians, claiming Shiah followers in the country are largely made of foreigners.
“There is a need to control for the sake of the nation because if you look at countries which are too loose in managing these things, it will not be able to succeed in a way to put Islam to where it is now,” Nasharudin told English daily The Star in an interview published today.
Despite that, the former PAS deputy president said Putrajaya has not blocked any discourse involving other Islamic schools of thought as there have been many discussions and programmes on the issue organised by civil societies and even government agencies.
Nasharudin insisted that promoting Shiah teachings to Malaysians is illegal, saying that a Shiite from abroad can only practice according to his beliefs in private.
“When the regulation is such for the Malaysians it is for the benefit of the country. But if you want to practise your belief within your private vicinity, I think it is not against the law,” he said.
“I would agree for the need of a kind of regulation to be implemented so as to ensure that our Muslim society is in control of the system.
“But practising what you believe in your own private space is a non-issue. Not only Shiah. I heard that there are so many mazhab that are here which is not really a big issue in the society,” he added, using the Arabic word for the Islamic schools of jurisprudence.
In recent years, Putrajaya, which endorses only the Sunni denomination of Islam, has stepped up its campaign against Shiah teachings and followers in Malaysia.
Shiah, also spelled Syiah locally, is Islam’s second-largest denomination and practised by an estimated 15 per cent of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide, but is regarded as deviant by Malaysia.
The division between Sunni and Shiah resulted from a political split over the leadership succession after the death of Prophet Muhammad, with Shiites maintaining that Muhammad had designated his cousin and son-in-law Ali as the rightful heir.
Meanwhile, Sufism is part of Islamic teachings that focuses more on the spiritual aspects of the religion.