Azyumardi Azra, a former rector of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta, said Malaysian and Indonesian clerics, witnessing Iran’s boldness against the United States during and after its Islamic Revolution of the late 1970s, regarded the religious zeal of Iranians as a cause for concern.
He told Free Malaysia Today that some Malaysian and Indonesian leaders of the time saw Shia Islam as politically revolutionary and wanted to ban its teachings.
However, he added, the ban did not happen in Indonesia because there was strong resistance against it.
He described Shia teachings as being “part and parcel” of Islam.
Noting that there was more tolerance of Shia Islam in Indonesia than in Malaysia, he said this was because Indonesian Muslims were less reliant on the government in the administration of religious affairs.
“They have their own organizations and they finance these organizations,” said Azyumardi, who was in Malaysia for the Regional Conference on Peaceful Coexistence.
“They construct their own mosques and madrasahs without government interference. They pay their speakers, unlike in Malaysia, where religious functionaries get salaries from the government.