Johor follows Singapore, not Kuala Lumpur, in banning 2 Islamic preachers to prevent religious unrest

Ismail Menk and Haslin Baharim were banned by Singapore from entering the country.

By Sulaiman Daud | November 1, 2017

The Sultan of Johor has decided that two preachers, recently banned by Singapore from entering the country, will also not be allowed to give religious talks in the southern Malaysian state.

In a Nov. 1 statement made by the Johor Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Abdul Mutalip Abdul Rahim, he confirmed the Sultan decreed that Ismail Menk and Haslin Baharim would not be allowed to preach in Johor. Said Mutalip:

“The content of their previous speeches appear to promote racial and religious unrest, which disrupts harmony between the races. 

The Johor Islamic Religious Department will continue monitoring religious talks in this state to ensure there are no elements or views that encourages racial disunity from being delivered.”

Banned by Singapore but not by Malaysia

The Sultan’s decree comes after Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs announced on Oct. 30 that it would ban Menk, the Grand Mufti of Zimbabwe and Baharim, a Malaysian preacher, from entering Singapore.

The pair had previously applied for Miscellaneous Work Passes in Singapore to preach here, but were denied. Their attempt to preach on a religious-themed cruise in Nov. 2017 appeared to be a way to circumvent this restriction, before the ban was given.

Here’s what you need to know about the 2 foreign preachers banned from entering S’pore

Interestingly, the Sultan’s decree also comes just after Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi gave an interview to the New Straits Times on Oct. 31, where he said that Malaysia had no plans to ban Menk and Baharim from preaching. Said Zahid:

“We have no intention to stop them since they have not broken any laws.”

It would appear that Johor has chosen to follow Singapore’s example, and not Kuala Lumpur’s.

The defender of multi-religious harmony

This is not the first time Sultan Ibrahim of Johor has intervened in affairs that may disrupt the multi-racial, multi-religious harmony of his state.

In Sept. 2017, the Sultan made a strong statement admonishing the owner of a launderette in Muar, Johor, who put up a sign saying that he would only serve Muslim customers. Said His Majesty:

This is not a Taliban state and as the Head of Islam in Johor, I find this action to be totally unacceptable as this is extremist in nature.”

The launderette owner took down the sign and apologised.

The Sultan also has done much to personally promote multi-religious harmony. He has personally wished his subjects “Happy Deepavali” and “Merry Christmas” — actions which were deemed as sinful by Ismail Menk, and the reason why he was banned from Singapore.

Multi-religious harmony is a growing concern in Malaysia. In Oct. 2017, during the Malaysian Conference of Rulers meeting, the Keeper of the Royal Seal made a public statement on behalf of the gathered monarchs that the country’s religious harmony and unity had to be respected.

“The Malay Rulers take very seriously the issues of unity and harmony among the citizens of this multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. It is imperative that all citizens adhere to the core principles embedded in the Federal Constitution, which was drafted based on the understanding that ours is a country whose citizens are of diverse of religious and ethnic backgrounds, and that all must be respected.”

By taking proactive action and banning the two preachers in the name of multi-religious harmony, Sultan Ibrahim is sending a strong message that he values that principle very strongly.

Strong enough that Johor would make up its own mind on the matter, as opposed to what the federal government in Kuala Lumpur thinks.

Related story:

Here’s what you need to know about the 2 foreign preachers banned from entering S’pore

Worried about religious divide, Malaysia’s monarchs make rare collective call for greater tolerance and respect

Top image from Sultan Ibrahim’s Facebook page.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve. In his spare time he writes about film, pop-culture and international politics, which you are very welcome to read here.

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