KUALA TERENGGANU: The controversial deviationist cult here known as “Sky Kingdom” was dealt a severe blow when 21 of its followers, including a police inspector and the drummer of a popular rock band, were arrested in a massive raid.
However, sect leader Ariffin Mohamad, 65, better known as Ayah Pin, eluded arrest as he was missing during the raid by the state Islamic Religious Department on the sect’s commune on Saturday evening in Jertih.
The authorities are investigating whether he escaped the dragnet as a result of a tip-off by his followers who include civil servants.
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Also picked up was a 33-year-old woman who is believed to be the fourth wife of Ayah Pin.
Ariffin Mohamad, 65, better known as Ayah Pin, was missing during the raid
The 7½-hour raid on the sect’s commune in Kampung Batu 13 was carried out by 21 religious enforcement personnel and 40 policemen. It started at 5.30pm and ended only at 1am.
State Islam Hadhari Development Committee deputy chairman Muhammad Ramli Nuh said those detained were aged between 30 and 60. Seven of them were women. He said the authorities also seized 20 VCDs pertaining to the sect’s activities.
They failed to detain the prime target – Ayah Pin – despite searching his three houses in the commune.
“We will investigate whether there was a leak about the raid as we know that his followers include civil servants, uniformed personnel and even professionals,’ Muhammad Ramli said.
He said the raid was conducted on a Saturday evening as it was the time when the group usually held large gatherings.
Muhammad Ramli said the police inspector was based in Perak. He said four of the followers would be charged under Section 14 (B) of the Syariah Criminal Offence Enactment (Takzir) 2001 for possessing documents which humiliated Islamic teachings. If convicted, they could be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed up to two years, or both.
Muhammad Ramli said the remaining 17 followers would be charged under Section 10 (B) of the enactment for not adhering to the state fatwa which has ruled the teachings as deviant.
He said all the followers were released on a RM1,000 bond each with one surety. They will be charged in the Besut Syariah Court on Sept 23.
Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Noh Omar said state governments should nip the problem of deviationist groups in the bud to avoid serious incidents in the future.
Ariffin was jailed 11 months and fined RM2,900 in June 2001 for humiliating Islamic teachings.
The Government had said the teachings of Ayah Pin were dangerous to the Muslim community since the group members declared themselves as apostates.
About 120 people, including children, live at the commune in a secluded part of Jertih.
Ariffin, who made a statutory declaration that he had left Islam in 1998, was declared a deviant by the national Islamic Affairs Department in the 1980s, which named his sect “the ideology of Ayah Pin.”