Penang says it again: We have never changed the ‘khutbah’ script

Malaysia Chronicle

As civil society leaders across the nation berate Umno for raising the race and religious card, Penang councilor for religious affairs Abdul Malik Abul Kassim reiterated the state Islamic council has never changed or allowed anyone to change the script for the Friday Sermons, least of all replacing the King’s name with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s.

Malik welcomed the police reports that have been lodged on the matter and also Prime Minister Najib Razak’s call for immediate investigations.

“We have already done our own initial probe and we have announced the results but it looks like some quarters are still insistent of politicizing Islam. We are surprised that PM Najib has not noted the findings of our probe. We hope his call is sincere and not just because he wants to signal to Umno to stir up more religious hatred in Penang,” Abdul Malik told Malaysia Chronicle.

Relentless Umno attack

Indeed, Malay newspapers and other Umno-linked media have rushed to name several mosques mentioning Guan Eng’s name.

Umno is trying hard to deny growing accusations it was hatching a new plot to topple the Pakatan Rakyat-run Penang government – this time by using religion as its main weapon.

But this time, they did not state if the King’s name was replaced by Guan Eng’s or if the Chinese leader’s name appeared in addition to the King’s name. Among the mosques listed were Masjid Jalan Baru in Seberang Prai Tengah which purportedly mentioned Guan Eng’s name on Aug 13, Masjid Padang Menora, Seberang Prai Utara on June 25, Masjid Pengkalan Tambang, Permatang Pasir in May, Masjid Jamek Jelutong, George Town in April and Masjid Permatang Binjai, Kepala Batas on Feb 26.

“And yesterday, Lim Guan Eng’s name was mentioned at the Masjid Kubang Buaya, in Butterworth by imam Ustaz Zakaria Ahmad. It was still being used despite media reports about the issue,” Penang Umno deputy chief Zainal Abidin Osman was quoted as telling Malaysian Insider.

Conspiracy, manipulation and sabotage

But despite its ferocity, the latest Umno onslaught has left Abdul Malik unfazed.

“More than anything we are irritated. We know it is Umno’s plan to distract us from our work and trap us into a politicking game with them. We hope Penangites and Malaysians around the country will take note of what is happening here and the sort of dirty tactics that are being employed,” said Abdul Malik.

“We hope also the police will probe as quickly as possible and share their findings with the public. It doesn’t matter if it is 6 or 7 mosques or 8, 9 or 10. If the police find they are guilty and if after doing our own checks we find it is true, we will surely punish them if they have flouted our rules. But before we do so, we must really scrutinize every detail to make sure there is no sabotage. Already there is speculation of a conspiracy, of information being planted and manipulated. We have to be very careful not to be manipulated.”

He also said any ‘guest’ prayer leader had to get approval from the state religious council before they delivered their sermon.

“These are very high-level religious people – imam level. They should know what they are required to do. It is shocking if they don’t follow the rules. There are 206 mosques in Penang alone and khutbah Jumaat is delivered 4 time a month or a total of 824 times a month. Umno cannot simply accuse and the federal authorities accept it as good. Give us the dates and names of mosques and we will zoom in to verify but if they can’t, they should not falsely accuse anyone,” Abdul Malik said.