PETALING JAYA: Human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen has said Zamihan Mat Zin's action of criticising a Sultan for banning a Muslim-only launderette does not warrant his arrest.
He said while the former Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) officer's statement at a recent lecture was insulting in nature, it did not threaten or incite violence and did not constitute a crime.
The Lawyers for Liberty executive director added that the threshold for criminalising a free speech should be high, and should protect even offensive and hateful speeches such as Zamihan's.
"Although what he said was quite racist and insulting, I don't feel he should be arrested. The Sedition Act 1948 should be abolished.
"Authorities should only intervene if that speech is likely to threaten or incite violence towards others. Being 'kurang ajar' (rude) is not a crime," he said in a series of tweets today.
Zamihan, who is also Sunni Organisation Malaysia (Aswaja) president, had in a religious lecture on Sunday said it was not right for a Sultan to disallow Muslim-friendly launderettes, and labelled Chinese as being "unhygienic".
His statement was most likely referring to the Johor Sultan, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, who had previously warned a launderette in Muar to stop its practice of allowing only Muslims to use its services, or risk being shut down by him.
Paulsen said the public should be more open to discussions even on matters that are sensitive, and that "everyone" would lose if discussions were being criminalised and shut down.
"If we insist criminal action be taken against Zamihan, then we affirm the state's basis to limit our freedom. There will be no end," he said.
Zamihan has since been arrested for sedition on Wednesday and was remanded for two days beginning yesterday to facilitate investigations.