PETALING JAYA • A Malaysian state mufti has said that parties like the Democratic Action Party (DAP) are "kafir harbi" - non-believers who can be slain - as they are against Islamic laws.
The remarks by Pahang Mufti Abdul Rahman Osman have raised temperatures in Malaysia's tense political landscape.
Mufti Abdul Rahman Osman told the Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia daily on Friday that the Chinese-based DAP belonged to that particular group of non-believers as it "clearly opposes hudud and the Bill on the Syariah Court on punishments".
He added: "Their principle is clearly to hate Islam, and it is a big sin for Muslims to work with them."
The term "kafir harbi" is rarely used, even in Malaysia's often toxic political arena. It refers to non-Muslims who have waged war against Islam, and for whom the death penalty is justified.
In Malaysia, a mufti is the highest Islamic leader appointed by the government, and his comments carry weight as he is not a politician.
Mufti Abdul Rahman's comments raised anger among non-Muslim leaders and even among Muslims.
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), a partner in the Umno-led Barisan Nasional coalition government, said such comments have no place in Malaysia at a time when it is facing threats from terrorist groups,The Star daily reported.
MCA publicity bureau chief Chai Kim Sen said: "Holding a revered office, the Pahang Mufti should be responsible and speak wisely to his audience, as his words can be influential to wayward Malaysians."
The issue of supporting or opposing Islamic laws came to the fore again last month after Mr Abdul Hadi Awang, president of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) - now a loose ally of Umno - tabled the so-called hudud Bill in Parliament. Hudud refers to a set of controversial Islamic criminal laws.
The Bill was opposed by the DAP and a section of Malaysian Muslims, who saw it as part of efforts to slowly introduce harsh Islamic laws into the secular country.
Datuk Ibrahim Ali, the president of Malay rights group Perkasa - which has in the past pitched itself against the DAP - said: "As much as we may disagree with DAP, what the Pahang Mufti is saying can cause misunderstandings among non-Muslims towards Islam."
Mr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, an Islamic scholar and a vice-president of Parti Amanah Negara, a DAP ally, said the mufti should withdraw his "explosive" remarks.
DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang, in a post on his blog, said: "If I had made a similar statement suggesting that Malaysians, whether Malays or non-Malays, could be easily slain, I would be arrested within a matter of hours for commission of a serious criminal offence - and rightly so."
Mufti Abdul Rahman yesterday refused to back down. In an interview with the Astro Awani news channel, he said: "I am saying this is the thinking in DAP and of others... This is my right to speak for the religion".