End of Sky Kingdom, structures unrelated to agriculture demolished

BESUT, TERENGGANU, Sun. – The “Sky Kingdom” came tumbling down today when district office workers demolished several structures in the commune.

The demolition team arrived at 2.30pm in several lorries amid tight police security to prevent retaliation from followers of cult leader Ariffin Mohamad a.k.a. “Ayah Pin”.

Officials were tight-lipped, but sources said a recent court order obtained by the district office allowed the demolition.

Sky Kingdom

The Sky Kingdom is a quasi-religious interfaith commune located in the eastern Malaysian state of Terengganu.

While Malaysia has a secular legal system, the country is ruled by a moderate Muslim majority.

“Muslims in Malaysia come under the purview of religious courts that are not part of the secular federal legal system. Any attempt to deviate from Islamic teachings, or to leave the religion, can bring harsh penalties from the religious courts.” [Source]

Sky Kingdom leader Ayah Pin claims to be a deity

The group includes former Muslims

Ariffin’s first wife Che Minah Ramli, 58, had failed to appear at the district office to explain why structures unrelated to agriculture had been erected in the commune.

The Land Office had issued a notice on July 18, giving her until yesterday to reply.

The 65-year-old Ariffin, now in hiding, had turned two hectares of agriculture land into a commune for his followers.

Among the structures demolished were a giant teapot, umbrella, an assembly area, a shelter, a concrete boat and a platform under construction.

The media were barred from entering the commune and were told to leave as the demolition exercise got underway.

Personnel from the Public Works Department, Tenaga Nasional Bhd and Syarikat Air Terengganu were also involved in the exercise.

Lorries loaded with debris were later seen leaving the area. Sources say demolition work would be completed tonight.

State Islam Hadhari development committee deputy chairman Ramli Noh said the demolition was part of efforts to stop the cult.

“Activities at the commune have raised many questions,” he said. “The Religious Affairs Department will continue to hunt for Ayah Pin together with police.”

On July 2, 21 followers were detained by Religious Affairs officers; 16 days later, a mob of about 50 people torched structures and vehicles in the commune.

On July 28, another 48 followers were detained and later charged in the Besut Syariah Lower Court. Their case is now pending.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
New Straits Times, Malasia
Aug. 1, 2005
Rosli Zakaria and Ajitpal Singh

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 1, 2005.
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