KUALA LUMPUR — The Malaysian police are probing an Islamic preacher for sedition over comments he made against the Johor Sultan, although he denied criticising the ruler for condemning a Johor-based Muslim-only launderette.
National police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun said on Wednesday (Oct 11) that Mr Zamihan Mat Zain has not been arrested but police will call him up soon to have his statement recorded.
Police are in the midst of recording statements from witnesses, he said.
“The investigation is under Section 4 of the Sedition Act,” he said in reference to the clause that cover offences under the legislation.
“That was only one report lodged yesterday (Tuesday). There could be more (reports lodged) between yesterday and today. That I do not know. But all the investigation processes will be followed including recording his (Mr Zamihan’s) statement,” said Mr Fuzi.
Mr Zamihan can be fined up to RM5,000 (S$1,608), or sentenced to more than three years in prison or both if convicted.
Local English newspaper theSun Daily on Tuesday quoted Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed as saying the authorities would investigate Mr Zamihan for his remarks.
At a religious lecture last week in Selangor, the preacher allegedly said it was not right of Johor Ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, to ban Muslim-only launderettes in his state.
In comments which appeared on a video uploaded on YouTube which have since gone viral, Mr Zamihan also said non-Muslims like the Chinese are not “pure” in their toilet habits.
“We are a Muslim country, our leaders (are) Muslim, our rulers (are) Muslim, our Sultans (are) Muslim. They all swore an oath... want to have a dhoby for Muslim only also cannot, we are said to be narrow-minded, we are said to be Taliban,” he said. “The “This is not a Taliban state or Afghanistan. The Sultan should not make such statements.”
Mr Zamihan however, denied on Wednesday that he was referring to the Johor ruler, saying that he never mentioned any Sultan by name, despite using the terms “Afghanistan” and “Taliban” that Sultan Ibrahim had used while ordering the proprietor of the Muar-based laundromat to stop his discriminatory Muslim-only practice.
The operator had initially maintained that he was doing his duty as a Muslim and that the policy was in place for reasons of “kesucian”, or “purity”.
But after a dressing down by Sultan Ibrahim, who said Johor was “not a Taliban state” and such a practice was “extremist” and “totally unacceptable”, the laundromat owner apologised and scrapped the practice.
Observers have said the controversy over the Muslim-only laundromat in Muar and another one in Perlis are another sign of rising religious intolerance in the country, pointing to a recent segregation of Muslim and non-Muslim cups in a school in Selangor as well as the push by Islamist parties to bar beer festivals from taking place in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur in recent weeks.
In a rare foray into Malaysia’s socio-political sphere, Malaysia’s sultans on Tuesday expressed concern that the country’s unity and harmony are being eroded in light of several recent controversies over race and religion.
“In recent weeks, the actions of certain individuals have gone beyond all acceptable standards of decency, putting at risk the harmony that currently exists within our multi-religious and multi-ethnic society,” said secretary of the council of rulers Syed Danial Syed Ahmad in a statement.
“The Rulers are of the opinion that the damaging implications of such actions are more severe when they are erroneously associated with or committed in the name of Islam,” the statement added.
Still, Mr Zamihan, who is the president of an Islamic non-governmental organisation called Pertubuhan Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah Malaysia (Aswaja) said on Wednesday it was unlikely that he would criticise a Sultan he once praised as the “Ruler of the people” and a respectable observer of Sunni teachings in a lecture he gave in 2013.
“I have a huge respect for the Sultan… especially the Sultan of Johor who is the Ruler of the people who adheres strictly to the (Islamic) teachings of the Sunnah Wal Jamaah. So it’s impossible that I would have said anything to insult or hurt the Sultan’s feelings.
“However, I humbly seek for forgiveness if whatever I said had slighted His Royal Highness’ feelings,” he said.
He also said he did not use profanities or included supposedly seditious elements in his religious talk.
Additionally, he denied reports he is an officer with the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), saying he had left the federal Islamic agency 13 years ago.
Instead, he accused Malaysian news portals of intentionally associating him with Jakim in their reports to tarnish Islam’s image and sow hatred.