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Malaysia to relook arrested Islamic preacher’s role in its deradicalisation courses

Malaysia to relook arrested Islamic preacher’s role in its deradicalisation courses
Malaysia will re-examine Islamic preacher Zamihan Mat Zain’s role in its deradicalisation programmes following his arrest for sedition for allegedly criticising the Johor Sultan’s ban on a Muslim-only laundromat in the state. Photo via Twitter/Masjid Sukma

Malaysia to relook arrested Islamic preacher’s role in its deradicalisation courses

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia will re-examine an Islamic preacher’s role in its deradicalisation programmes following his arrest for sedition for allegedly criticising the Johor Sultan’s ban on a Muslim-only laundromat in the state.

An Islamic researcher with a local university has expressed concerns over Mr Zamihan Mat Zin’s role in the programmes, noting that the preacher has shown signs of promoting intolerance and hatred among Muslims and non-Muslims.

The cleric is part of a team assisting the Prisons Department and the police in their deradicalisation programmes. He is on secondment from the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) to the department.

Mr Zamihan, in some of his lectures available on YouTube and media interviews, had also admitted that he was involved in rehabilitation programmes for drug addicts and Shia followers.

Deputy home minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed said his ministry is “studying his (Mr Zamihan’s) role in the programmes.”

International Islamic University (IIU) lecturer Maszlee Malik has urged the Home Ministry to prepare a detailed report on its terrorism rehabilitation programmes as Mr Zamihan’s thinking presents a risk to the harmony of a multiracial Malaysia.

“How can he de-radicalise others if his preaching contains elements of racial radicalism? We don’t want those turning away from (terror group) Islamic State (IS) becoming racists instead,” Dr Maszlee told The Malaysian Insight.

Dr Maszlee, who is an assistant professor at the Faculty of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences in IIU, has conducted a lot of research into Islamic movements in Malaysia.

His research includes the development of the IS movement in Malaysia, which was presented in a regional security forum in Singapore in January last year.

Mr Zamihan was arrested on Wednesday after a video surfaced on social media depicting him as saying it was not right of Johor Ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, to ban Muslim-only laundromats in his state. He allegedly made the remarks during a religious lecture at a mosque in Selangor.

He also made what was seen as racist remarks against the Chinese whom he claimed were unclean as they allegedly did not wash themselves after urinating and defecating.

Last month, Sultan Ibrahim ordered the proprietor of a laundromat in Muar, Johor to stop his discriminatory Muslim-only policy, noting that Johor was “not a Taliban state” and such practice was “extremist” and “totally unacceptable”.

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.” He has since apologised and scrapped the practice after the rebuke from Sultan Ibrahim.

Mr Zamihan in a statement on Wednesday said he had never mentioned the Johor Sultan’s name, insisting that it was impossible for him to have uttered words to insult the ruler. Mr Zamihan also went on to apologise to him over any offence caused.

He has also been temporarily banned from giving lectures in the Selangor’s mosques, suraus and Muslim prayer halls.

The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) has been ordered to investigate the religious lecture given by Mr Zamihan.

Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) chairman Mohamad Adzib Mohd Isa, who issued the order, said the cleric’s views did not reflect the state Islamic authorities’ stance.

“We would like to stress that religious speakers in Selangor must adhere to provisions stipulated in the regulation. This includes not giving religious talks that would bring about hatred, insult or could show insolence towards the sultan, Selangor government, federal government or the state religious authorities,” he said.

“This also includes talks that could create prejudice, hostility between races and people in Malaysia.” 

Meanwhile, Dr Maszlee, the IIU lecturer, said the Malaysian authorities should also investigate Islamic non-governmental organisation Pertubuhan Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah Malaysia (Aswaja), which is led by Mr Zamihan, to ascertain if it promotes hatred against non-Muslims.

“If you check the Aswaja Facebook page, you can see his followers defending him passionately. Will their racist doctrine spread to others if action is taken against Zamihan?”

Mr Zamihan’s followers have defended their leader on Facebook, saying that this is a Wahabi conspiracy to attack an “Islamic fighter”. Wahabi is a puritanical strand of Islam originating in Saudi Arabia

Dr Maszlee added their actions are similar to IS followers who defend their use of violence to attack others although it is against Islam. AGENCIES