MP denies giving speech in mosque after royal rebuke

Labis MP Pang Hok Liong at a mosque in Johor. Pang denies giving any sort of speech, whether political or otherwise. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Labis MP Pang Hok Liong has denied giving a speech at a mosque in his constituency last week, after a picture of him apparently speaking there went viral on Facebook, earning him a rebuke from Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

Sultan Ibrahim said he had received complaints from the community there who were uneasy that Pang had reportedly given a speech in the mosque. This was despite repeated reminders from him and the Johor Islamic Religious Department for mosque administrators to bar politicians from using such venues for political activities, he said.

The sultan added that Pang’s act was a “serious” infringement of the sanctity of the mosque, and threatened the position of Islam in the state.

“This is a violation of the boundaries which I have set as the head of Islam in Johor,” he said, adding that he could not accept the act which he described as rude, unethical and making light of Islamic principles and practices.

He also said politicians often use mosques as a platform to speak ill of others, which could lead to uneasiness among the people, some of whom might hold different political views.

Adding that mosques are off-limits to partisan politics, he said action would be taken against those who are involved in such infringements.

“All political activities in mosques and suraus in Johor must be stopped immediately and such infringements cannot happen again.”

When contacted by FMT, though, Pang said he had only gone to the mosque in his capacity as MP to announce an allocation as part of his decision to give RM1,000 for every mosque and RM500 for each surau in his constituency in conjunction with Ramadan this year, from his budget as a lawmaker.

He said he was invited to enter the mosque after his allocation was announced, adding that he had earlier been sitting outside with the other non-Muslims.

Upon entering the mosque, he said, he thanked a member of the community for appreciating his allocation.

“(But) if you trace back, there was no speech. I did not give a speech or a political speech,” he said. “Is this an offence?”

He added that he had not even taken a group picture with anyone during that event.

He also said he had responded to the person who posted the picture of him on Facebook, explaining that he was not making a political speech.

He urged those involved in circulating the picture to be more tactful, saying it was irresponsible of them to make it seem as though he was being disrespectful of Islam.

During Pakatan Harapan’s time in the opposition, he added, they had always reminded the Barisan Nasional government not to let mosques be used as a platform for political speeches, which was in line with his own views.