JOHOR BAHRU - Johor has banned two Islamic preachers from giving religious talks after Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the country will still allow the two clerics to preach even though Singapore had banned both men from entering the Republic over the "exclusivist" nature of their messages.
The state's Religious Affairs Committee chairman Abd Mutalip Abd Rahim Sultan said the move was a decree from Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar that was issued on Wednesday (Nov 1), Malaysia's Berita Harian reported.
Singapore had on Monday barred entry to Zimbabwean Ismail Menk and Malaysian Haslin Baharim as their hardline teachings ran counter to the Republic's multi-cultural and multi-religious values.
"The content of the speeches that the two preachers have delivered previously could disrupt the harmony between the races," Abdul Mutalip said.
"The Johor Islamic Religious Department will continue to monitor religious talks in the state in order to to ensure that there are no elements or views that encourages racial disunity from being delivered," he told the paper.
Datuk Seri Zahid, who is also Home Minister, had said on Tuesday that the country will not stop the two preachers from speaking in public as the duo had so far not caused any tensions among Malaysia's various religions or ethnic groups.
Zahid had told the Bernama news agency on Tuesday that Malaysia was not taking the same action as the two preachers had so far "not suggested anything that goes against our understanding of cultural and religious diversity to the point of causing social, racial and religious tensions in Malaysia".
Under Malaysian law, each of the 13 states has jurisdiction over religion, water and land issues.
The Sultan of Johor has recently flexed his muscles over issues of religion. As Johor's head of Islam, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar last month ordered the state Islamic religious department to stop dealing with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) after one of Jakim's preachers criticised a sultan, understood to be the Johor ruler, for barring a Muslim-only launderette in the state.
Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday said the decision to bar the two was made in consultation with the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, the Singapore Tourism Board and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore.
MHA had said that Menk is known to preach "segregationist and divisive teachings", while Haslin had described non-Muslims as "deviant".
The ministry had also said that both men had been engaged to preach on a religious-themed cruise departing from Singapore on Nov 25 and returning on Nov 29.
"Such divisive views breed intolerance and exclusivist practices that will damage social harmony, and cause communities to drift apart. They are unacceptable in the context of Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious society," it added.