Malaysia destroys `symbols of interfaith harmony’

Authorities tore down a house-sized teapot, umbrella and boat that gained nationwide notoriety after a banned Malaysian religious sect built them in its commune, the sect’s followers said yesterday.

The structures, built by the Sky Kingdom sect to represent interfaith harmony, were reduced to rubble by bulldozers sent by the state government on Sunday in northeastern Terengganu, where the sect has been accused of spreading teachings that run contrary to Islam.

Newspapers published photos of the structures in ruins, with unidentified officials quoted as saying the sect built them illegally earlier this year on land meant for agriculture.

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

Sulaiman Takrib, who has lived at the commune since 1998, said the residents’ houses remain intact despite the destruction of the other architecture. Some 50 people still live there, but officials have ordered most of them to vacate their homes within three weeks, he said.

“We’ll have to refer this issue to our lawyers,” Sulaiman said by telephone from Terengganu. “We have no wish to fight the authorities using force.”

An undated photo shows a giant teapot, believed to have healing properties, before it was destroyed in Jertih, Malaysia. A mob fire-bombed the headquarters of the cult built around the giant teapot on July 18 and state authorities destroyed the teapot and other structures in the compound on Sunday.
Police and officials in Terengganu refused to comment.

The move comes amid an ongoing crackdown on the Sky Kingdom sect, which is believed to have hundreds of mostly ethnic Malay Muslim members in northeastern Malaysia, though its followers say they come from all religions.

A mob of about 30 people who were allegedly upset with the sect’s teachings attacked its commune last month, setting fire to some of the structures. The sect’s leader, Ariffin Mohammed, has disappeared since the incident.

Authorities subsequently raided the commune, and detained and charged 49 followers for flouting an edict issued by Islamic state officials that declared their beliefs contrary to Islam. If found guilty, they could be fined and jailed for up to two years.

Three of Ariffin’s four wives were detained by police over the weekend and are expected to be charged for helping him spread what authorities have called deviationist teachings.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Associated Pres, via the Taipei Times, Taiwan
Aug. 2, 2005

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday August 2, 2005.
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