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Elite KL club denies space for intellectual forum after pressure

 | November 13, 2017

The Royal Selangor Golf Club confirms they have been approached by religious authorities.

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KUALA LUMPUR: One of the country’s most exclusive clubs has been pressured by Islamic authorities into rejecting a booking to hold a private function featuring a prominent US academic next month, FMT has learned.

The Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) in Kuala Lumpur confirmed that they were forced into rejecting a forum next month featuring prominent US-based scholar Nader Hashemi (pic above), so as not to be seen as going against religious authorities.

“The latest information we’ve received is that the club has to screen through all events regarding religion so the club has decided to just say no to all religious events for the moment,” RSGC service and operations manager, Eric Ilyas Lim told FMT.

RSGC, one of the oldest elite clubs located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, had in the past played host to several events organised by the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) and G25, the grouping of prominent former civil servants, some of whom are members of the club.

In August, Indonesian scholar Mun’im Sirry, was accused of questioning the origins of the Quran, leading the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) to label him “deviant”, after delivering a lecture at the forum “Moderation in the Quran: Between Two Extremes”, held at RSGC.

A month later, officers from the Federal Territory Islamic Department (Jawi) arrested prominent Turkish author Mustafa Akyol, following his speech on apostasy at a forum organised by IRF and G25.

Jawi said Akyol had violated an offence under the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act which requires Islamic speakers to get “tauliah” – a rule normally applicable to those who speak on Islam in mosques and suraus.

Akyol had said he was puzzled by the requirement. “I didn’t think that what I was doing was teaching religion because I didn’t speak as an imam or a mufti and I didn’t speak to a religious community. I spoke at an academic conference and I referred to different views on apostasy as someone who has researched the literature on this topic in the Muslim world,” he told FMT following an 18-hour detention on Sep 25.

Jawi condemned for ‘gung-ho’ style

Last month, Putrajaya confirmed that the “tauliah” was a condition applied to all speakers.

“Every speaker wanting to hold programmes in the form of lectures in Malaysia must get permission and credentials from the state religious department or the relevant state mufti,” the minister in charge of religious affairs Jamil Khir Baharom told the Dewan Rakyat when asked if public lectures on Islam including in universities must also get clearance from the authorities.

When contacted, G25 executive secretary Jasmine Zulkifli told FMT that organisers were in the process of searching for another venue to hold the forum

“The event will still take place, it’s just that we now have to search for a different place to hold it,” she said.

IRF director Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa blames the decision by RSGC on religious authorities’ interference in the academic sphere.

“To me this is a good way of saying how the gung-ho style of Jawi enforcement officers raiding an intellectual forum has caused such a negative impact on the management of a prestigious Golf Club,” said Farouk, who was also questioned last month for hosting Akyol.

“Even the club management has failed to see the distinction that the forums and seminars that have been carried out were not religious events but intellectual discussions. The lines were blurred by the mafia-like actions of the Jawi enforcement officers,” he told FMT.


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