Malaysian Official Says "Islamophobia" Should be Criminalized

In light of the recent events involving the burning of the Quran by far-right activist Rasmus Paludan, a senior Malaysian official suggested criminalizing Islamophobia and demanded a “firmer” response from Muslim countries towards such incidents.

In an interview with the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu Agency (AA), Abdul Razak Ahmad, a special representative for Malaysia’s foreign minister, praised the Turkish government’s strong response to a series of recent Quran burnings in Europe that sparked outrage across the Muslim world.

"Anything that is Islamophobic can actually be considered as something which is criminal in nature. So, much like anti-Semitism is a criminal offense in many other countries," Ahmad told AA. "We should also make Islamophobia a criminal offense, especially in Muslim countries."

Ahmad also applauded Turkey’s effective diplomacy, referring to an incident where Norway withdrew a permit previously given for a Quran-burning protest after Ankara issued a stern warning against Oslo.

"It shows that, you know, Turkish soft power works. And I think this is what we should do to actually be confronting these people and to engage with them and to tell them that, 'look, we are offended, and this is not the right way to do things, and this is not a manifestation of an egalitarian society. And they should stop'," the special representative said on fighting Islamophobia and building peace.

Ahmad also said only a few Muslim countries, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, had demonstrated leadership in combating Islamophobia.

"I think our concern about Islamophobia is really about the globalization of Islamophobia, how Islam has been misinterpreted, how Islam has been subject to hatred by people who have minimal understanding of the religion. It's a very narrow understanding of the religion itself," added Ahmad.

He also emphasized the importance of cooperation between Ankara and Kuala Lumpur in addressing Islamophobia, describing it as a global issue that affects the entire Muslim community. Ahmad also stressed that other Muslim countries should be more responsive toward the problem.

The special representative also called on Western countries to be realistic, arguing that freedom of thought, expression, and speech should never be at the expense of undermining other people’s religion and co-existence.

"They can burn another 1,000 or 1 million Qurans, but you can never eliminate the teaching of Islam from the hearts and minds of the Muslims." Ahmad also said.

Even though countries like Canada have taken steps to combat Islamophobia amid recent attacks against Muslims, countries like Malaysia have long penalized speech and acts insulting Islam and even criminalized apostasy.

For instance, the US State Department’s 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom for Malaysia detailed Malaysian policies and laws criminalizing “offenses relating to religion,” especially Islam. The report also described how NGOs receive details of blasphemy prosecutions that usually involve Islam.

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