Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column by Aziz Hassan
IT was perplexing, to say the least, that someone with all the powers in his hands should only urge two agencies with the state he leads to act on something.
Mind you, it was not an order or an instruction, merely urging them
As people in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan were enjoying their holiday in conjunction with Federal Territory Day, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Idris Haron was urging the Malacca Islamic Religious Department and the Malacca Islamic Religious Council (Maim) to curb the influx of foreign Islamic speakers into the state.
He lamented the negative impact this has on local preachers in that it gives the impression they are not good enough.
According to Idris, 157 of these foreign preachers have been allowed into the state since 2015.
The exporting countries are Indonesia, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, Thailand,Yemen, Eqypt, Lebanon, Singapore, India, Iraq and Jordan. No Saudi Arabia? Most likely Idris made a mistake there because the speakers from Saudi have been all over the country since some years ago and Malaysia Muslims are known to go weak at the knees with anything Arabic!
But the irony of ironies is that Idris is chairman of Maim.
This phenomenon which appears disturbing to Idris is nothing new. It has been around since a few decades ago.
What helps it to spread is that most states appear not to do much to check it. We have heard about action being taken against non-accreditated preachers in Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, regardless if they are locals or foreigners but not much else elsewhere.
You have to go back many years to realise what brought the foreign preachers in big numbers into the country.
Previously there were only two types of ustaz in Malaysia.
The ones in the villages and elsewhere who only taught Quran reading and the ones in schools who confined themselves to Islamic history/civilisation, stories about the prophets and those from various scriptures. It was almost unheard of for people to rush over to the ustaz as a point of reference for other matters.
And what was also unheard of was of Muslims congregating in the thousands to listen to preachers. Or they call it celebrity ustaz. If you don’t already know, this is big money business for the preachers.
The other point is how the traffic has always been one way; it’s always about the foreigner preaching to Malaysians here but unheard off that a Malaysia is wanted as a preacher in another country.
Language problem? Surely no one is suggesting that all the foreign preachers speak in Malay.
While the preachers come from several countries, the majority are known to come from the Middle East, where those with a Wahhabi orientation form a big number. They are certainly active in Perlis and it being a very small state, their presence is so conspicuous.
A phenomenon more recent is the presence of syiah followers who have been active in Kuala Kedah and various parts of Perlis. In the latter they are said to be more a mobile group not known to have a base and who go on regular weekend retreats to Satun, on Thailand’s southern-most western tip.
Religion is no doubt under the direct jurisdiction of each state but where it could lead to other problems within the community and maybe pose a threat to national security, the federal authorities must step in.
We Malaysians are known to be so accommodating and all embracing, especially where it concerns fellow Muslims, but let’s not forget how preachers from Indonesia managed to convert some of their Malaysian disciples into militants who became involved in incidents that cost the lives of many in the region.