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State-backed discrimination against Shia Muslims in Malaysia

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Abstract

This article traces the origins of legalized discrimination, religious hatred, and systematic marginalization of a community of Malaysian Muslims – the Shias – perpetuated in the name of Islam. It demonstrates how a central government-derived fatwa (religious legal opinion) banning Shi’ism and the propagation of Shia teachings in the country since 1996 has been used to justify a range of human rights violations, not limited to the religious freedom of this minority group. Apart from Syariah legislation, the state has utilized this fatwa alongside other tools, including the religious bureaucracy and the media, to persecute Shia in Malaysia. Anti-Shia efforts are also supported and propagated by non-state Islamists who often work hand-in-hand with state actors.

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