FORMER deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin is not the first politician from the opposition camp to be barred from using the mosque as a political platform. Nor is he likely to be the last.
Muhyiddin, who is now Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president, told reporters in Penang last night that he had been barred from hosting a buka puasa event at a mosque in Johor, while praising Penang mosques for being open to all, regardless of political affiliations.
He may have forgotten that in 2011, when he was the deputy prime minister, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad was prosecuted and fined RM2,900 in default of three months’ jail for giving an Islamic talk without credentials in a surau in Klang, Selangor.
The PAS turned Amanah MP is appealing the January 19 ruling, and in danger of being disqualified as a a parliamentarian should he lose the appeal.
Khalid had said that he was invited to the surau to speak about his visit to Palestine and not to talk about religion.
Since Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat in 2008, there has been many stories of opposition leaders prevented from organising programmes in the surau or the mosque, including in states governed by the opposition, such Pakatan Harapan-controlled Selangor.
In a circular dated June 22, 2011, Selangor Sultan Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah forbade politicians without religious credentials from giving ceramah in surau and mosques.
Those who violate the decree can be charged under Section 119(1) of the Islamic Religious Administration Enactment (Selangor), which provides for a fine not exceeding RM3,000, two years’ jail, or both for the convicted party.
Below are the controversial incidents of opposition leaders at the mosque or surau across the country:
* The day before Ramadan, Jaringan Muslimin Pulau Pinang held a protest outside the Simpang Empat mosque in George Town, demanding that Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng stop attending buka puasa events unless he converted to Islam.
During the protest on May 26, Lim’s information officer Zaidi Ahmad was slapped when he confronted protest leader Mohamed Hafiz Mohamed Nordin over the group’s accusations that the Penang government meddled in Islamic affairs and had blocked a few fatwa (Islamic edicts) in the state.
Today, the group held a similar protest outside the Abdul Kader Mosque in Butterworth in Lim’s parliamentary constituency of Bagan. They repeated the same accusations against the Pakatan Harapan administration and threatened to demonstrate at the mosques where Lim was present to break fast with Muslims.
* Subang MP R. Sivarasa of PKR was slammed last week for attending a ceremony to present aid at the An Nur Mosque in Kampung Melayu in his constituency. This is despite the fact that Sivarasa has regularly held the event during Ramadan in past years.
A group called Gerakan PAMPS urged Sivarasa to apologise for entering the mosque when he was not a Muslim. The group also lodged a report at the Sungai Buloh police station over the matter.
* Last month, Amanah adviser Ahmad Awang said his sermons were axed one after another at the mosques and surau of Selangor , including one where he had been giving lectures for over 20 years.
He said he believed this was because he held different views from PAS, his former party. In Selangor, the religious affairs exco is state PAS deputy commissioner Dr Ahmad Yunus Hairi.
Although PAS had broken political ties with PKR, the Islamist party reps are still part of the PH state government, with three assemblymen on the state executive council.
* Last Ramadan, the “nazir” or administrator of the Al-Muttaqin Mosque in Selayang Pandang caused a stir when he invited a Chinese MP from PKR to enter the praying area of the mosque.
This led the Selangor sultan to decree that the nazir be fired. The sultan also issued a reminder that the mosque was a place of worship that was not to be used as a political means.
Selayang MP William Leong defended his visit, saying he was attending the state government-organised “tadarus al-Quran” and aid presentation ceremony in his capacity as the elected area representative.
He said he did not utter a single word that was political, and had only greeted all with “Selamat berpuasa” and “Selamat berbuka”.
* Serdang MP Teo Ni Ching from DAP was heavily criticised in 2010 for visiting and speaking at Surau Al-Huda in Kajang. Umno-owned daily Utusan Malaysia attacked her for allegedly delivering a “tazkirah” (religious talk) during Ramadan.
Teo said she visited the surau to give out financial aid from the Selangor government. The surau had needed money to fix its fencing and for buka puasa events with the surau committee and congregation.
“Because I was asked to say a few words, I gave a little explanation on the state’s education programmes that benefited Selangor citizens,” she said.