No politics in mosques, says Johor crown prince
by Steve Suwannarat

Several Malaysian states have legislated against mixing politics and religion. According to the Johor Religious Affairs Department, mosques have become venues for political debates and some political parties are using religious initiatives to promote their views.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim wants mosques and religious institutions to be free from politics.

Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid, chairman of the Islamic Religious Affairs Committee of the State of Johor, reported the crown prince’s views yesterday.

The 38-year-old crown prince, who also chairs the State’s Islamic Religious Council (MAINJ), also reiterated that any public activity of a religious nature has to be approved by the competent authorities and any person involved in such activities must be monitored to avoid doctrinal errors or teachings not pertinent to the religious sphere.

This is nothing new since several states in the Malaysian Federation already require this, albeit with various nuances.

In Johor, this comes under Section 96 of the 2003 Islamic Religious Administration Enactment. The local ruler, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, also spoken out on the issue in the past, most recently in 2019.

“Any activities in the form of religious talks, usrah (small group discussions), sharing of religious knowledge or others, must obtain authorisation and approval from JAINJ (Johor Religious Affairs Department),”said Mohd Fared.

For the latter, anyone organising religious activities must be accredited and officially recognised by the JAINJ. What is more, Johor’s 850 mosques and 2,000 surau will soon receive guidelines regulating the matter.

JAINJ will also meet with mosque and surau (Islamic assembly buildings) officials, state assemblymen, and leaders of all political parties in the state to explain the guidelines.

Mohd Fared noted that mosques have become places for political debate and that some political parties are using religious initiatives to promote their views.

In fact, several Malaysian media report that the Kelantan Islamic and Malay Customs Council (MAIK) had warned mosque leaders not to get involved in political activities in last year's general election.

In 2021, in the State of Selangor, the local Islamic Religious Council revoked the certificate that allowed some political activists to teach the Islamic religion.

In 2019 Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak had asked religious preachers and members of mosque management committees to stop pursuing political agendas, deemed offensive to the sanctity of religious sites and the rites that take place there.

Political parties have been using religion for a long time, particularly those who have held power for a long time, trying to take advantage of Islamist support or discredit rivals; this has resulted in deteriorating relations in Malaysia’s multicultural society.