JOHOR BARU (The Star/Asia News Network) - The Sultan of Johor has called on Malays not to discard their unique culture, saying he was disturbed that some people want to stop Muslims from practising the traditional salam greeting.
Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum 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.
"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.
He said, for example, he preferred to use terms like Hari Raya instead of Eid al-Fitr, or buka puasa instead of iftar.
"I have been using these Malay terms since I was a child and speaking to my late father for the past 50 years.
"I have no intention of replacing these terms with Arabic," he said.
His Royal Highness said religious faith was not based on external criteria such as clothing to display one's relationship with God, saying "what is in the heart and mind is more important".
He stressed 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," he added.
Sultan Ibrahim said that during his annual Kembara Mahkota, he shook the hands of thousands of people including women.
"Why must I change? You do not have to be 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.
Asked to comment on the recent controversy where Crown Prince Tunku Ismail was criticised by those on social media for shaking hands with JDT player Mohd Safiq Rahim's wife, Sultan Ibrahim said that she 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 football team," he added.
Sultan Ibrahim said that this was the Johor way and his message to those who did not want to shake his hands is to simply stay away.
Soon after the incident, Tunku Ismail posted a video on Facebook which showed him shaking hands, in a satirical way, with two women with an oversized glove.
Sultan Ibrahim also expressed his displeasure at 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.
State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad later said the officer in charge of the matter was directed to take down the notice.
"Since when is JKR, whether at state or district level, being put in charge of religious matters? Their main job is to make sure the roads are properly maintained and not worry about women's hair," Sultan Ibrahim said.
The Sultan said he had confidence and faith in Malaysians because the majority of them were decent and religious people.
Likewise, he said that "it is not the business of government departments to worry about people's dressing. Just do what you are paid to do and mind your own business".
On a recent meeting with religious groups in UAE, Sultan Ibrahim said the Arabs were becoming more open nowadays.
"They are opening up. Previously women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to drive but they are gradually allowing it. Some women are even joining politics," he said, adding that the situation was also the same in Iran.