200 Malaysians Face Charges for Deviating From Islam
Leading scholar slams country's 'Talibanization'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2010 8:54 AM CST
A Malaysian Muslim walks inside a mosque before Friday prayers in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Sunni Muslims make up roughly 60% of the country's population.   (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

(Newser) – Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism are accepted in Muslim-majority Malaysia, but the government has stepped up efforts to quash non-Sunni strains of Islam. More than 200 Shia Muslims have been arrested in a swoop on outlawed Islamic sects, and they are likely to be charged with "following the teachings of a deviationist movement," which carries a penalty of up to two years in jail, AP reports.

Authorities say the Shia doctrine—which permits the killing of Muslims from other sects who are regarded as infidels—is a threat to national security, but some Islamic scholars aren't happy with the crackdown. "Malaysia is trying to become a country a la Taliban that only allows one school of thought," a prominent Muslim scholar said. "Even though I personally don't agree with Shia teachings and even frequently criticize and debate with them, I cannot accept the approach of the allegedly democratic Malaysian government in denying the people's right to practice their faith."