BY: ALEXANDRIA LEE
In the state of Terengganu, Malaysia, religion, rather than the government, is heading the fight to prevent poaching.
A fatwa is an Islamic legal pronouncement issued by an Islamic scholar (mufti) to resolve a specific issue where it is uncertain what the jurisprudence (fiqh) is. To protect its endangered species, Terengganu’s fatwa council issued a legal pronouncement in November to stop poaching in the area. Approximately 970,000 of Terengganu’s residents are Muslim, over 95 per cent of the state’s entire population.
“While we don’t expect poachers to change their ways overnight, we hope this fatwa will at least start to create peer pressure around them,” said Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, an associate professor at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and member of the fatwa council, who made the decision.
The fatwa announced that hunting is now haram (illegal), highlighting Islamic tenets that ask to protect Allah’s creations. In addition to protecting its own animals, Terengganu’s fatwa council aims to set an example for other parts of Malaysia to follow.
Peninsular Malaysia, which consists of Terengganu and 12 other states and territories, is home to the sambar deer and the critically endangered Malayan tiger. The sambar deer is relentlessly poached for meat and sport, and as of 2013 there is no evidence of population recovery. The Malayan tiger, of which there are only a few hundred remaining, is also hunted for its believed medicinal properties and as a symbol of wealth.
The first fatwa invoked to protect wildlife was issued last March, when Indonesia’s Council of Ulama, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, prohibited national wildlife trafficking. With Indonesia’s lead and Malaysia’s following, there is anticipation that more countries will follow.