Murder trial lays bare Malay royals’ intrigue, and a belief in black magic

Witch doctors prosper despite Islamic orthodoxy and modern education
South China Morning Post, Feb. 19, 2003
http://asia.scmp.com/
BARADAN KUPPUSAMY in Kuala Lumpur

The trial of five men for the murder of a Malaysian princess is providing the public a window on royal intrigues and the use of black magic to defeat rivals in business, politics and affairs of the heart.For 25-year-old Princess Leza, the magic failed. A supposedly powerful amulet that she wore did not stop her abduction and murder.

The trial of the five accused has heard that Leza and another princess, both of them married to a prince of the royal house of Perak, a northern state, had fought for his affection using black magic. Witnesses testified that mirrors shattered on their own, decapitated chickens were found in palace kitchens and swarms of flies mysteriously plagued the grounds.

The revelations only confirmed what Malaysians had long suspected – that the country’s royalty and political leaders were willing to pay millions in cash and offer land, expensive cars and coveted titles to bomoh or black-magic practitioners, to gain an edge over rivals.

Some Malaysians believe that the bomoh can persuade the “dark powers” to intercede in their favour. Chanting in Sanskrit and invoking Hindu spirits, the bomoh performs sometimes bizarre rituals that predate the country’s Islamisation in the 13th century.

Sociologists say the belief is a carryover from earlier Hindu influences and retains a grip on the modern Malaysian psyche despite campaigns by Islamic fundamentalists to wipe out such practices.

The bomoh not only survives but has also prospered. While Malay magic has a dark reputation, most bomohs prefer to be seen as healers who mix modern medicine with traditional herbs and incantations.

Kelana Indra Sakti is one such. He has grown wealthy from clients who seek amulets, rings and potions for protection against enemies.

He drives expensive cars, lives in luxury bungalows and operates from five-star hotels.

He is not alone.

Another prominent bomoh, Ibrahim Mat Zin, 56, owns 13 Mercedes-Benz and counts wealthy Saudi Arabians among his clients.

“Business can’t be better than this,” he said.

The bomoh’s success, despite the spread of modern medicine, the ascendancy of Islamic fundamentalism and an economic recession, speaks volumes for the influence of the dark side on well-educated and successful Malaysians.

Another incident last week illustrated the depth of the belief in the occult.

Police arrested a 67-year-old driver-turned-bomoh who had a following of about 600 people, including army officers and university professors.

His crime? He had promised immortality.

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