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theSun

| WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 4 2009

news without borders

Asri: My mistake was in inviting Muslims to think
FORMER Perlis mufti Dr Mohamed Asri Zainal Abidin, whose highprofile arrest on Sunday by Selangor religious authorities kicked off a national debate, yesterday lashed out at the authorities for apprehending him as if he was a terrorist. He alleged there is a hidden plot to bring him down for frankly voicing his scholarly opinions on issues that affect Muslims’ lives. He believed he has encouraged Muslims to be open-minded and this has not gone down well with those who believe the ulamas’ opinions should never be questioned. Zakiah Koya spoke to him by telephone as he was on his way to Bukit Mertajam to explain the “real reasons” for his arrest. He tells theSun that because of what had happened, he was not dismissing the possibility of entering politics. Excerpts of the conversation. What is your problem with the the traditional ulama? Not all traditional ulama are against me – only those with vested interests. In many situations, I don’t know what it is they are opposing. They have said I am young and that I should accept them because they are old. Islam should remain fresh, especially when we are in a multi-racial and multi-religious society – we do not want Islam seen as fanatic and bigoted. And now they call me extreme. In many views of mine, I ask people to open minds and don’t misplace trust. I first started having problems when I was a mufti and I had opposed the way the authorities arrest people in close proximity So where do you think you have stepped on toes? I think my mistake was in having invited Muslims to think. Some people do not like people to think much. Here in religious issues, if you think different views from those in power. It is not only me without certification – there are others with PhDs and heads of Islamic department in universities but did not get certified. Then there are those with no university degrees at all and have their certification. Giving certificates for preaching religion is against the constitution. The constitution gives us right to speech unless we threaten the security of the public, the country. If the security mentioned concerns that of certain religious groups only, then it is not the safety of the public. If the preaching does not humiliate religion, then it should not be obstructed.
Asri ... Some people don’t like reform.

know what hidden hands are behind all this. Those who are accusing me know these are all slander and they cannot prove what they have accused me of. They are afraid that I will go to one place and I will change everything. The lawyers say that I was focusing on khalwat, on the word “Allah” and issue of non Muslims giving salam. Will these create instability? Do you conform to the wahhabi school as reported widely? I don’t know what is their definition of wahhabi. They believe in covering the faces of women. But I am not for that and yes, true, if I go to Saudi they might agree with me on certain things. Those traditionalists and conservative people are merely labelling those with differing views as wahhabis. I do not teach the book of Mohamed Abdul Wahab. I respect him as a scholar but not all his opinions should be accepted. I am with the open-minded school of Islam – as a Muslim we should evaluate all opinions and accept only the best. If we merely imitate we are not good Muslims. What do you think is the result of your arrest? One must remember when you try to kill someone, they might live more. Those who are out to get me think they can stop my opinions and views but actually they may be opening more doors for people to think. People actually want change and although they were silent before when such a thing like this happens, it shows that Malaysia does appreciate individuals who wants change, and are rational. Will this arrest make you go into politics? Until now I cannot predict my future but if all doors are closed, I will find the one that is open. We have to move forward and if I cannot move, I will find the door that is open.

JAIS, state mufti to brief exco today
by Maria J.Dass
newsdesk@thesundaily.com

and ask for reasons and facts, and then only accept, you are deemed to be challenging the religious authorities (referring to those empowered to enforce the religion). Do you think there is a conspiracy? Did you see this coming? I know one day, something will happen because I talked so much but I never expected it to happen like this. Of course, there is a conspiracy. You can see that although I was a mufti of Perlis, a well-known religious and educated man, yet they brought a convoy of 38 to 45 armed men to arrest and handcuff me – what is the meaning of this? Why did they not just ask me to go with them politely? I was in the National Fatwa Council and I am still a member of the Majlis Agama Islam Perlis. I am also a columnist in Utusan and I have a programme on TV. This is like arresting terrorist Nordin Md Top. As the one arresting you was JAIS, do you have problems with Selangor religious authorities? I do not have certification in Selangor. And that is because I have

Why do you think you were arrested? It is very hard to make a conclusion to why this is. Sometimes it is dangerous to speculate. I cannot say anything until now but I suspect some people. Today JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development) said that my certificates are false and this when I am under the universities. These are all 100% lies and slander. I am thinking of taking legal action against them. Some people don’t like any kind of reform. They want to stay on their comfortable chairs. Sometimes I talk against certain parties, they are not satisfied. I cannot say who these parties are. What about Selangor state exco for Islamic Affairs Datuk Hasan Ali, under whose purview JAIS is? You had criticised him openly. I will only say Hasan Ali never showed the spirit of reform as his opposition coalition and he is not suitable to lead the people to change. What about the opposition of Syariah lawyers against your appointment to YADIM (Islamic Dakwah Foundation of Malaysia)? I don’t want to say anything but I

SHAH ALAM: The Selangor Islamic Department (JAIS) and the state mufti are to brief the state executive council on the arrest of former Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin today. Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim issued the invite to the two parties yesterday. In a statement on Monday, Abdul Khalid said the state was aware of the public sentiment on the arrest by JAIS, which has powers that are independent of the state government to implement the Selangor Islamic Administration Enactment. He hoped JAIS would give a reasonable explanations to the public about the incident, as there have been uncertainties and questions arising as to the nature of arrest and that they would conduct investigations in a fair manner. The Islamic scholar’s arrest unleashed a torrent of accusations and finger pointing over who ordered it. On Monday Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak denied that the arrest had anything to do with the federal government and shifted the blame to the Selangor state government. Abdul Khalid and other Selangor leaders, on their part, denied any involvement, and labelled the arrest as a “ruthless act”. JAIS on Monday said Asri’s arrest was not politically motivated and added that the charge against Asri was for breaking the law by not obtaining the necessary permit for preaching on religion. This was an offence the department had written to notify Asri about several times before, said Jais director Datuk Mohammed Khusrin Munawi. Asri, who was arrested by JAIS enforcement officers and police on Sunday night while preaching at a private residence in Hulu Klang, has been released on bond and is yet to be charged.

Landslide closes Jalan Rawang-Selayang

RAWANG: A landslide at Bukit Kanching at about 2.45am yesterday cut off road links at Km12 of Jalan Rawang-Selayang which has been closed to all traffic. The landslide brought tonnes of earth crashing down and covered a stretch of 200m to 250m on both lanes of the road, prompting the Fire and Rescue Department and the Civil Defence Department to close the road at 4.45am. Following the incident, Works Minister Datuk Shaziman Mansor visited the scene and instructed the Public Works Department’s slope engineering unit and the Selayang Municipal Council to submit a report to determine the cause of the landslide.

“Construction work in areas near the landslide should be stopped temporarily pending the outcome of the report to avoid another landslide,” he told reporters here. He said work to clean the area was being carried out for the convenience of some 80,000 motorists who normally use the road. He expected the road to be re-opened for motorists by 7am today if there was no more landslide or rain that could hamper cleaning work in the area. At about 5.50am, a police team, including the tracker dog unit, arrived at the scene to comb the area for victims and vehicles which might be buried under the landslide. – Bernama

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