Indian spiritual leader gets death threats from IS during Malaysia visit

The general manager of a hotel in Penang, where Sri Sri was scheduled to stay, was also reported to have received a threatening letter. — Picture by KE Ooi
The general manager of a hotel in Penang, where Sri Sri was scheduled to stay, was also reported to have received a threatening letter. — Picture by KE Ooi

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — Indian national Sri Sri Ravi Shankar received death threats prior to his visit to Malaysia over the weekend, allegedly from jihadist militant Islamic State (IS) uneasy with his presence in a majority Muslim country.

Sri Sri, a spiritual leader and founder of volunteer humanitarian group Art of Living Foundation (AOL) and Geneva-based charity the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), allegedly received three threat letters last week, several India-based news publications reported yesterday.

“Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is touring some countries in the Far East and he landed in Malaysia yesterday (March 27) and few days ago, while he was in Cambodia, we received threat letters from IS,” AOL spokesman Nakul Dhawan was quoted by Chennai-based daily The Hindu as saying in a statement.

“The authorities have immediately notified the local authorities. We also contacted the Indian Embassy and conducted an investigation to find the source of the letter. We are going ahead.”

Penang police chief Datuk Abdul Rahim Hanafi confirmed the threat today, and added that the case was being investigated under Section 507 of the Penal Code, Malaysia’s national news agency Bernama reported.

“Soon after receiving a police report from the hotel manager, we conducted an investigation and security screening. Everything went on smoothly and the meditation guru went home today,” he was quoted saying.

Citing another unnamed police official, Bernama reported that nothing untoward had happened towards the 59-year-old Indian national during his stay in the country, although the national news agency did not refer to the spiritual leader by name.

The news agency quoted the police representative as adding that the man left on a flight to India at 3pm today.

According to Mumbai-based news portal The Times of India (TOI), one letter had included the photo of a man being beheaded, with its author warning that Sri Sri and others can “expect similar treatment” if they enter Malaysia or any other Muslim country.

The letters also threatened to destroy all venues where AOL and IAHV are conducting their events, threatening the death of thousands.

Those who received the letters were Gavin Weighthead, general manager of Hotel Jen in Penang, where Sri Sri was scheduled to stay.

The second letter was received by Ambika Menon, AOL and IAHV director in Malaysia, and the third by Ee Mei, a senior AOL member.

The police could not be reached by Malay Mail Online for further comments at the time of writing.

TOI reported that an AOL yoga programme held in Penang on Saturday morning had gone ahead with more than 10,000 attendees.

Sri Sri then addressed a crowd of around 70,000 at the Batu Kawan Stadium in the evening, said AOL.

On Thursday, the Bukit Aman Special Branch and Counter Terrorism unit arrested two Iraqi nationals, believed to be IS militants, for allegedly planning an attack on the Qatar and Saudi Arabia embassies here.

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