Malaysian state issues ‘fatwa’ against wildlife poaching

  • The fatwa is likely the first-of-its-kind issued by a Malaysian state.
  • The fatwa recognizes that illegal hunting is ‘haram’, or forbidden.
  • Experts hope that other Malaysian states will follow Terengganu’s example and issue similar fatwas against illegal hunting.

Last year, Indonesia became the first country in the world to issue a fatwa, or religious decree, against wildlife poaching and trafficking. Now, a Malaysian state has followed suit.

Islamic clerics (or the Mufti Department) in the state of Terengganu in northeastern Malaysia, in consultation with experts from the state’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks and university scientists, have put together a fatwa that calls upon Muslims to protect Allah’s creations and forbids them from hunting any species to extinction. The fatwa — likely the first-of-its-kind issued by a Malaysian state — recognizes that illegal hunting is ‘haram’, or forbidden.

“I think there was an urgent need for this fatwa because not many Muslims in Terengganu are aware that the Malayan tiger and its prey such as sambar deer are facing extinction, not just in the state, but within the entire country,” Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, an Associate Professor with Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and a Postdoctoral Research Associate with James Cook University who was involved in shaping the fatwa, told Mongabay in an email. “We knew there was some precedence for such a fatwa because the Indonesian Ulema council recently issued their first ever fatwa against illegal hunting.”

The critically endangered Malayan tiger is threatened by poaching. Photo by Rennett Stowe Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0.
The critically endangered Malayan tiger is threatened by poaching. Photo by Rennett Stowe Wikimedia Commons. CC BY 2.0.

A Muslim legal expert, or Mufti, announced the fatwa to over 500 local people at a conference organized by the Terengganu Mufti Department on November 26.

“We do not naively believe that this fatwa will instantly stop the poaching,” Clements said. “We recognize that many of those who are involved in poaching belong to communities that are predominantly made up of practicing Muslims, and for whom religious leaders and fatwas command respect. At the very least, we hope this fatwa will start to create peer pressure around poachers.”

Experts also hope that other Malaysian states will follow Terengganu’s example and issue similar fatwas against illegal hunting.

“Religious leaders have a very important role to play in raising awareness on environmental issues through their sermons, which according to my  previous research, can be potentially effective in raising levels of concern and awareness in conservation issues,” Clements said.

“I also hope that the fatwa against illegal hunting will be further explained and promoted on a day-to-day basis in teachings at religious schools, events and media in Malaysia. In fact, the Mufti has to be congratulated for already inserting teachings opposing hunting in his weekly radio broadcasts,” he added.

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