Sunday, November 26, 2006

107 al-Arqam members nabbed

By The Star

A total of 107 people, including women and children, were detained when Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) officers raided the upper floor of a bakery in Section 13 in Shah Alam.

A group, believed to be trying to revive the teachings of the banned al-Arqam movement, was holding a gathering then.

Among those detained during the 5.30pm raid yesterday was a senior leader of the group, known as “Sheikh”. The man, in his 40s and a former al-Arqam member, were giving a talk at the gathering.

“Those detained for questioning included curious people who had gone up to the shoplot to hear explanations about the teachings as well as newly recruited members awaiting instructions for a ‘blessing’ ceremony to be held in Nilai,” said Selangor state executive councillor in charge of religious affairs Datuk Rahman Palil.

He said Jais had been tracking this particular organisation for several months following a public tip-off about certain parties trying to spread teachings similar to those of the banned al-Arqam.

“The organisation operating from the shoplot does not call itself the al-Arqam movement, but the similarities in teachings are disturbing and Jais needed to act to prevent any confusion that may arise,” said Rahman.

He added that those detained had their statements taken by Jais officers. The men, women and children were given food and they co-operated well with Jais, said Rahman.

The al-Arqam sect was banned in August 1994 and classified as deviant because it claimed its leader, Ashaari Muhammad, was the Imam Mahadi – the great spiritual leader acting as the middle-man between God and man.

“It is believed Ashaari’s senior followers are trying to revive the al-Arqam teachings under another organisation,” said Rahman.

Asked about the business arm of the new organisation, Rahman said Jais was still investigating.

Jais public relations officer Fakrul Azam Yahya said those detained would most likely be hauled to court in May next year.

Ashaari, who once led the outlawed 10,000-strong al-Arqam, was arrested in 1994 and spent 10 years under restricted residence, first in Rawang and later in Labuan. He was released in October 2004.


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