Kuala Lumpur: The head of Malaysia’s Shariat Department has asked Muslims in the country not to greet Hindus a Happy Diwali, a directive the government distanced itself from saying it is a narrow interpretation of Islam.
Fauzi Mustaffar, head of Shariah department, in an email directive to office staff has said that Diwali was a religious festival in which Hindu deities were worshipped and greeting Hindus on the occasion was like practising polytheism to Muslims.
“So Muslims who have inadvertently wished Hindus a Happy Diwali, Happy Durga Pooja or Happy Lakshmi Pooja must immediately repent and not repeat it in the future,” Fauzi said in his e-mail, according to The Star daily.
Government distanced itself from the controversial directive. Abdullah Zin, a minister in Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s Department, said the email sent by Mustaffar was his “personal view,” according to the daily.
“He (Mustaffar) has no authority to say Muslims shouldn’t wish Hindus because that is like a fatwa (edict). And fatwas can only come from the National Fatwa Council and Jakim,” Zin was quoted as saying.
“Just because you wish someone Happy Diwali does not mean that you have embraced his beliefs and religion. It is not syirik (practising polytheism). In a multi-religious and multi-racial country like ours, it is important to live in harmony and be nice to one another,” the minister said.
Fauzi when contacted said the email was in response to employees’ enquiries and meant only for internal circulation.
Malaysia is a Muslim majority country but has a minority population of Hindus and Chinese who are freely allowed to practice and Diwali is a national holiday.