KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 ― The Johor Sultan has urged Malays to retain their culture instead of trying to imitate the Arabs, amid growing conservatism among Muslims and adoption of Arabic cultural practices.
Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Iskandar told English language daily The Star that he preferred using Malay words like “Hari Raya” and “buka puasa” (breaking fast), instead of the respective Arabic terms “Eid al-Fitr” and “iftar”.
“If there are some of you who wish to be an Arab and practise Arab culture, and do not wish to follow our Malay customs and traditions, that is up to you. I also welcome you to live in Saudi Arabia,” Sultan Ibrahim was quoted saying in the interview published today.
“That is your right but I believe there are Malays who are proud of the Malay culture. At least I am real and not a hypocrite and the people of Johor know who their ruler is,” the outspoken ruler added.
The Johor sultan’s remarks come amid the so-called “Arabisation” of Islam in Malaysia, where there is increasing pressure on Muslim women to wear a headscarf and to cover their “aurat”, as well as the growing popularity of Arabic terms and dress like the “jubah”.
Sultan Ibrahim also told The Star that he has shaken women’s hands, even as conservative Muslims frown upon members of the opposite sex shaking hands.
“Why must I change? You do not have to be fanatic. If they (women) are not sure, I ask if they want to shake my hands. If they do not want to shake my hands, there is no problem,” he was quoted saying.
The ruler also criticised the Batu Pahat Public Works Department (JKR) for putting up a notice that warned Muslim women that they would be hung by their hair in hell if they did not cover up.
State Public Works, Rural and Regional Development committee chairman Datuk Hasni Mohammad reportedly said the notice would be taken down.
“Since when is JKR, whether at state or district level, being put in charge of religious matters? Their main job is to make sure the roads are properly maintained and not worry about women’s hair,” Sultan Ibrahim was quoted saying.
“It is not the business of government departments to worry about people’s dressing. Just do what you are paid to do and mind your own business,” he added.