Controversial cleric barred from preaching in Selangor

Move follows his lecture that was 'racist, critical of royal institution'

Malaysia's rulers coming out from a meeting last December in Kuala Lumpur led by Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (front, left) and Sultan Muhammad V from Kelantan, the current Malaysian King.
Malaysia's rulers coming out from a meeting last December in Kuala Lumpur led by Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah (front, left) and Sultan Muhammad V from Kelantan, the current Malaysian King. PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR • The Sultan of Selangor has revoked the preaching credentials of controversial cleric Zamihan Mat Zin, in a rare royal intervention that will bar him from speaking on Islam from mosque pulpits and at public functions in the state.

"This action follows a religious lecture by Zamihan that contained words that are racist, ill-mannered and excessively critical of the royal institution," said Mr Hanafisah Jais, secretary of the Royal Court of Selangor, an advisory body to Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah.

"The lecture also took place at a royal mosque where such religious lectures should not take place," according to the statement, as reported widely by Malaysian media.

Mr Zamihan said he accepted the ruling and that he never meant to create any problems with the royal families, The Sun Daily quoted him as saying.

"If there is room and opportunity for me to seek an audience with any of the rulers, I would love to."

According to the daily's website, he added: "But if this room and opportunity are not present, then I leave it to God.

"I am not looking for money or glamour, I am just a fighter for the aqidah (faith), a fight that will never end until the judgment day."

While he noted that he respected the ruling, he vowed to continue to speak out about his faith. "I'm just a common rakyat (citizen) who will abide by Tuanku's decision because it is his right. However, his actions will not 'deprive' me of my knowledge and spirit to continue the struggles of my faith," he was quoted saying by Malay news portal Watan-Online.

Mr Zamihan yesterday posted on his Facebook issues that are favourite punching bags for conservative Muslims - asking people to speak out against the gay and lesbian community, a beer party in Johor and a gathering of Ahmadi Muslims in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Zamihan, a preacher with the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim), a federal government agency, raised a storm when he criticised a sultan in the lecture - understood to be the Johor ruler - for barring a Muslim-only launderette in the state.

The preacher also said ethnic Chinese were unhygienic and should patronise "normal" launderettes. He was arrested last Wednesday for sedition and is out on bail.

The move to revoke Mr Zamihan's accreditation in Selangor is expected to spread to other Malaysian states.

In Malaysia, a person who wants to speak publicly about Islam in each of the 13 states must first obtain permission from its Islamic council, a rule put in place decades ago to prevent the spread of "deviant" teachings.

Johor's Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar last week called the preacher "an empty can and brainless".

The issue started when a Muslim man in Muar, Johor, last month put up a sign outside his launderette saying his machines were for Muslims only. The shop owner removed the offending signboard after being rebuked by the Johor Sultan.

Another launderette in northern Perlis state, offering a "Muslims only" business, opened it to everyone after a visit from the Perlis mufti (the state's Islamic chief) and the Perlis crown prince.

Malaysia's nine Malay rulers issued a statement last Tuesday that said they were concerned the country's unity and harmony were being eroded by the onslaught of racially controversial issues.

Still, not everyone is on board with the rulers' pushback.

A former Malaysian chief justice, Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad, 75, said that from a legal viewpoint, the owner of the Johor launderette did not break any law.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian group made up of prominent Malays that is pushing a more moderate view of Islam has filed a judicial review challenging the Home Ministry's move to ban its book.

The book by the Group of 25, Breaking The Silence: Voices Of Moderation Islam In A Constitutional Democracy, was banned in July.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2017, with the headline Controversial cleric barred from preaching in Selangor. Subscribe