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Suhakam: Detention of Turkish writer a blemish on Malaysia's reputation

PETALING JAYA: The 17-hour detention of a Turkish writer "blemishes the reputation of Malaysia" as a moderate nation, says the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail said that the arrest and detention of Turkish writer and journalist Mustafa Akyol (pic) could not be reconciled with Malaysia's image of a multi-religious, multiracial and moderate nation.
Mustafa was summoned for questioning by the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) on Sunday for breaching Section 11 of the Shariah Criminal Offences Act for conducting religious teachings without tauliah (credentials).
His failure to present himself and give evidence to Jawi on Monday led to an arrest warrant being issued.
He was subsequently arrested at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) at 9pm on Monday and was brought to Jawi for questioning.
Mustafa was released on Tuesday after Jawi completed its investigation and found that he was not informed of the need to obtain tauliah from the religious authority in Malaysia.
"Suhakam does not believe that the action of Jawi reflects a changed policy of the Government, but evidently a section of Government has been allowed to take arbitrary measures, albeit as interpreted by them, in defence of their interpretation of principles," Suhakam's Razali said in a statement Wednesday.
"Such extreme action in our multi-religious, multiracial and moderate Malaysia in our view is repressive, undemocratic and intended to be intimidating," he added.
Razali said that actions that reflect "hostility, narrow-mindedness and intolerance of civil, intellectual and religious discourse" must be stopped by the Government and should not be committed again.
"Such actions only embolden those who push for polarisation and the superiority or pre-eminence of one group or one religious belief over another," he said.
Suhakam also urged the Government to take stock of the drift towards religious extremism, saying that if such situations continue, Malaysia would change for the worst, qualitatively.
The Jawi investigation into Mustafa came about after the Department received public complaints about Mustafa's roundtable discussion titled "Does Freedom of Conscience Open the Floodgate to Apostasy?" organised by the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) on Sunday.
Mustafa was scheduled to speak on the topic "The Islamic Jesus: The Commonalities Between Judaism, Christianity and Islam" at Nottingham University Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, but the talk was cancelled at the last moment.
The US-based journalist has written on Islamic issues and politics for Turkish newspapers and the New York Times among others.
His books include "Islam Without Extreme: A Muslim Case for Liberty", which has been translated into Turkish, Bahasa Malaysia, and Bahasa Indonesia.
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