Malaysia May Charge 200 for Deviating from Islam

More than 200 Muslim Shiites—including Iranians, Indonesians and Pakistanis—were detained in one of the biggest swoops on outlawed Muslim sects in Malaysia and may be charged with breaching Islamic laws, an official said Monday.

Government authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia consider only the Sunni denomination to be legal. Sunni Islam is the world’s largest branch of the religion, followed by Shia Islam.

“Malaysia is trying to become a country a la Taliban that only allows one school of thought,” said prominent Muslim scholar Asri Zainul Abidin.

While Malaysia has a secular legal system, the country is ruled by a ‘moderate’ Muslim majority

Muslims in Malaysia come under the purview of religious courts that are not part of the secular federal legal system. Any attempt to deviate from Islamic teachings, or to leave the religion, can bring harsh penalties from the religious courts.

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This post was last updated: Nov. 21, 2013