Malaysia Dateline

Ampun Tuanku…Zamihan and the ‘houlier than thou’ preacher

Dr Syed Azman

I applaud the actions taken by both HRH Sultan of Johor and HRH Sultan of Selangor against “loose cannon” preacher Zamihan Mat Zain. It has been somewhat a prolonged matter where the so called “Ustaz”/preachers have been given free license to preach and sow religious and racial hatred from the pulpit without repercussions.

HRH Sultan of Johor have instructed its state religious authority to stop dealing with federal religious authority, JAKIM (Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia) and HRH Sultan of Selangor has instructed the Selangor Islamic Council (Mais) to revoke the preaching credentials of Zamihan Mat Zin.

Often than not, such religious matters or issues in Malaysia are not properly dealt with. Most times, people who voice out their disagreement towards religious hatred preaching and “holier than-thou” attitude are shut down through various labels that are given ugly connotations such as “liberals”, “atheists”, “anti-Islam” and “pro-kafir”.

In this case, only after the interference of the HRH Sultans, can rational voices speak out without fear of extreme backlash from these “holier-than-thou” preachers.

A recent issue also comes to mind – the debacle of RUU355 which became very controversial among Malaysians due to the manner it was handled. An attempt to amend the RUU355 was brought to the Parliament through a private members bill by Pas President, Marang MP Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

It was under the impression that this move was fully backed by the ruling Umno Federal Government as shown by the Federal Minister, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir and senior Umno Ministers who were also seen at the forefront in “championing” the RUU355.

Numerous public rallies were organized and many religious institutions such as the mosques in the country were used to “educate” the public on the beauty of Syariah implementation in this country.

What was more alarming was that the “Holier than thou” preachers were sending messages to Muslims in the country with a ‘black or white’ ultimatum– either you accept the “RUU355” or you are anti-Islam.

Such loose cannon preachers were given free passes to preach in mosques and during Friday sermons where the khatibs convey that people are good Muslims only if they accept the RUU355.

Blatantly heard in the sermons at the pulpits were words such as:

“Either you support the enactment or you go to hell”

“Those MP’s who defy the RUU 355 decree is an enemy to Islam.”

“RUU355 is the only road to sharia implementation in Malaysia”

This accept-it-or-else preaching is a form of coercion on the belief of Muslims in the country making people scared that they will be labeled and perceived as a betrayer of Islam if they oppose such enactment.

Consequently, this sort of preaching has kept many rational thinking and moderate Muslims feeling like they are being left behind and labeled as Anti-Islam if they do not support the stance of such preachers. Thus, this has painted an idea that they have no place as they do not agree to such “holier than thou” messages and ideas being indoctrinated.

Such preachers include none other than Zamihan himself. For years he has been spreading ‘hatred’ in many mosques and events in the country. It is as if he’s been protected by the higher authorities, making him immune and allowing him to preach hatred freely without any fear.

He has been employed by JAKIM for so many years and at one point was even attached to the internal security of the country under Bukit Aman in ‘advising’ our own top police officers on the activities of Muslim extremism in the country.

Now, let’s take a look at the role of religious authorities in the country, particularly, the role of mosques. Is it right to allow such preachers to preach hate during their sermons or regular Kulliyah?

Should there a place in the mosque whereby politics of disparity and divide can be allowed as long as it benefits certain parties for their own advantage?

This includes the question of political parties being given full power to misuse the mosque for their own political goals.

In finding these answers, allow me to share the view of the great Muslim scholar, Rachid Ghanoushi who opposed the abuse and misuse of religious institutions such as the mosque that are controlled to further one’s political agenda.

In doing so, vested messages are put forward in mosques filled not with unity but with messages of hatred and divide. For Ghanoushi, there is no place for preachers and political parties to preach such hatred and abuse the sanctity of the mosque for their own political benefits.

Looking back, in the past years, our country has produced thousands upon thousands of young graduates from the Middle East either from Al-Azhar in Cairo or Madinah in Saudi Arabia or in countries such as Jordan, Yeman and Pakistan.

They graduate and come back with the title of ‘Ustaz’, ‘Sheikh’ or ‘Tuan Guru’. What will happen to the country if such messages and preaching of Zamihan’s thinking became the mainstream preaching of such graduates?

Our beloved country is in need of soul searching to protect the sanctity Islam and Muslims in the country. Islam is a religion of love, peace and harmony to the society including to the non-Muslims.

Islam does not belong to anyone regardless of any individual, a particular political party or a certain religious body. Islam is holistic to the whole society and everyone has the same responsibility to spread the positive teachings of Islam regardless the difference in beliefs and background. Islam ensures the rights of other believers of different religion and beliefs; it does not discriminate and allows everyone to live in a fair and just society.

I hope the Malay rulers in our country can continue championing voices of moderation and tolerance in this multicultural and multi religious country. I look forward to other voices of moderation in a position of power to come out and say “enough is enough!”, there is no place for preachers-of-hatred like Zamihan and it’s kind who has tainted the image of Islam and brought disgrace to the teachings of Islam.

To all peace loving Malaysians, lets stand up and unite to fight these skewed and tainted thinking preachers that may someday lead to takfiri teachings and sow divide in our beloved country…Ampun Tuanku.


* The writer is Adun Batu Burok, Terengganu.