Johor Ruler says no problem with Muslims in state visiting other religious houses of worship and vice-versa
KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Malaysian Muslims can visit other places of worship so long as they do not take part in the rituals and prayers of other religions, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar of Johor said amid continuing debate on a “Jom Ziarah” programme that sought to promote interfaith harmony.
In an interview with The Star published today, the Johor Ruler said there were no problems that affected religious harmony in the southern peninsula state because of the Bangsa Johor concept.
“This is very clear and I have complete trust in Muslims because their faith is strong and unshakable. I do not wish to dwell at length here. There is no need for any kind of polemic over this.
“This is how it is done in Johor. We respect non-Muslims and they, too, must respect Muslims. We don’t have a problem in Johor and I am proud of that because the Bangsa Johor concept is accepted by everyone here,” he was quoted as saying.
He was reported saying that the palace and the Johor Islamic Religious Council had set clear guidelines and there should be no confusion and speculation.
He added that non-Muslims are also encouraged to visit mosques to better understand Islam.
“I encourage Muslims to invite non-Muslims to break fast together during the holy month of Ramadan. Explain to them the meaning of abstinence and the concept behind this practice, so non-Muslims understand and value Islam better,” he was quoted as saying.
The Johor Sultan’s remarks come in the wake of controversy over a programme organised by Impact Malaysia, an agency under the Youth and Sports Ministry that aimed to foster better understanding of the different religions in the country among youths by taking them on visits to various houses of worship.
Impact Malaysia had previously visited a mosque and a gurdwara under its 'Jom Ziarah' programme to promote interfaith understanding, harmony and respect. — Picture by Farhan Najib
The “Jom Ziarah” programme whose participants were non-Muslims had visited a mosque and a gurdwara without issue.
Certain conservative groups raised an outcry after spotting a poster of Impact Malaysia’s trip to a Catholic church in Selangor planned for last Saturday that forced it to cancel its schedule.
Last week Selangor Islamic Religious Affairs, Consumer Affairs and Halal Industry Committee chairman Mohd Zawawi Ahmad Mughni said Muslims in Selangor are not allowed to participate in activities held in other religions’ houses of worship.
He said that while such interfaith activities were commendable, they were in violation of the state’s Islamic laws.
In Malaysia, Islamic matters fall under state jurisdiction in which the respective Ruler is the head of its religion.