JOHOR BARU • The Sultan of Johor has called on Malays not to discard their unique culture, saying he was disturbed that some people want to stop local Muslim men and women from shaking hands in the traditional greeting when they meet.
Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar said he was sticking to "my customs and traditions as a Malay because I'm born Malay".
"If there are some of you who wish to be an Arab and practise Arab culture, and do not wish to follow our Malay customs and traditions, that is up to you. I also welcome you to live in Saudi Arabia," he told The Star newspaper in an interview.
"That is your right, but I believe there are Malays who are proud of the Malay culture. At least I am real and not a hypocrite and the people of Johor know who their ruler is," he said. The ruler was commenting on the tendency of some Malaysian Malays to lean towards Arab culture in the past few years as they become more conservative Muslims.
Sultan Ibrahim said that he preferred to use terms like "Hari Raya" instead of "Eid al-Fitr", or "buka puasa" instead of "iftar". The latter are Arabic words with the same meaning.
"I have been using these Malay terms since I was a child... I have no intention of replacing these terms with Arabic," he said.
The Sultan said religious faith was not based on external criteria such as clothing to display one's relationship with God. He said that "what is in the heart and mind is more important".
His son, the Crown Prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, was recently chided by some Muslim commentators on social media when pictures of the prince shaking the hands of a woman was posted on the Johor football club's Facebook.
Sultan Ibrahim said that it was wrong to judge someone. "God will judge you. If you want to advise someone, then call them to the side and whisper. Do not embarrass them."
Sultan Ibrahim said that in his annual tour of his state, he shook the hands of thousands of people, including women.
"Why must I change? You do not have to be a fanatic. If they (women) are not sure, I ask if they want to shake my hands. If they do not want to shake my hands, there is no problem," he added.
Commenting on the controversy when Tunku Ismail shook hands with the wife of Johor football player Mohd Safiq Rahim, Sultan Ibrahim said she had approached him.
"He only extended his hand out. Why criticise? I am sure this is the work of some sour grapes from other places who are jealous of JDT (the Johor Darul Takzim) football team," he added. Tunku Ismail later posted a video on Facebook which showed him shaking hands, in a satirical way, with two women with an oversized glove.
Sultan Ibrahim chided the Batu Pahat Public Works Department (JKR) for recently putting up a notice reminding Muslim women about the sin of not covering their hair, which was mounted on a signboard along a road here.
"This is wrong. This is not their role. Since when is JKR involved in this?" he asked.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK