UTM denies spreading salafi propaganda, denounces article claiming links as false

Soo Wern Jun
Last week, a report cited an unnamed source as claiming Maszlee had appointed at least 26 university officials with salafist leanings from Ikram who were aligned to him and Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) today denied that its campus grounds is being used to spread radical Islamic propaganda or that its top officials are linked to Muslim group Ikram as alleged in a regional news publication.

The public university decried the article titled “Islamic Assault on Malaysia’s Higher Education” published by Asia Sentinel on January 15 as false, defamatory and unethical.

“The university would like to stress that the UTM management has never made the university as a platform to spread propaganda and negative indoctrination,” it said in a media statement.

UTM also denied the article’s claims that its current vice-chancellor (VC) and deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) were appointed by former education minister Maszlee Malik based their membership in Ikram.

The university’s corporate affairs department clarified that the present VC was appointed in 2013 by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who was the education minister then, adding that the incumbent’s contract was later extended by first Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh in 2016, and it again by Maszlee in 2018.

“All the appointments and reappointments of UTM’s DVC were made while Idris was the minister of higher education,” the statement read.

UTM stressed that its academic staff were all qualified experts in their respective fields of study and the administration, and their support staff come from diverse ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds contrary to the article’s claims.

In the article, Asia Sentinel cited an unnamed former VC claiming Maszlee had appointed at least 26 university officials with salafist leanings from Ikram who were aligned to him and Perlis Mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin.

Maszlee has not deny links with Ikram, but dismissed claims he was carrying out the group’s agenda.

The former education minister also insisted that he is committed to diversity amid allegations of proselytisation.

The salafi movement is seen as a revivalist crusade within Sunni Islam that emerged in Egypt in the late 19th century as a response to Western European imperialism.

The Asis Sentinel article also claimed that more such appointments would have been made if Maszlee remained education minister.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) had earlier denied that three of its top leaders were appointed by Maszlee for being members of Ikram.

In a statement last Friday, UKM clarified that two of them were initially appointed under the previous Barisan Nasional administration, naming Prof Datuk Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor who was previously University of Malaya’s DVC for academic and international affairs from 2011 to 2014.

UKM denied the same accusation in the appointments of DVC for industry and community partnership Prof Datuk Imran Ho Abdullah and the former DVC for research and innovation affairs Prof Datuk Mohd Ekhwan.

Imran was said to be appointed and extended by Muhyiddin and Idris respectively in 2014 and 2017, before Maszlee made the same decision in 2019, while Mohd Ekhwan was first appointed by Idris in 2017.

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