Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia has revoked the permanent residency status of a Singaporean resort owner who was arrested on a charge of defiling a place of worship after he allowed Buddhists to use a Muslim prayer room.
Syed Ahmed Alkaff, a 45-year-old Singaporean with Malaysian permanent residency status, was arrested on August 11 at Tanjung Sutera Resort in southern Johor state under Section 295 of the Penal Code for injuring or defiling a place of worship.
He had allowed a group of Buddhists from Singapore to use the prayer hall for chanting. Alkaff was later released on bail.
Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said his office had decided to revoke the man`s permanent residency status with immediate effect as he did not respect religious sensitivity.
"The revocation is of immediate effect and the man was informed of this decision while he was remanded. Let this be a lesson to those who the government has graciously and generously awarded citizenship and permanent resident status that they must abide by the law or lose the privilege," he told reporters.
Malaysia, a Muslim majority country, has large non-Muslim ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.
In the wake of the controversy over Buddhists using a Muslim prayer room, an academic has said Muslims in Malaysia should take heed of Prophet Mohammed`s religious tolerance as he actively promoted peace and compassion for all non-Muslim minorities living in Arabia.
Academy for Civilisation Studies Chairman Ghazali Basri said it was unfortunate that many Malaysian Muslims were not well informed about history on the issue of understanding and respecting other faiths.
"Sadly, they are only being taught in terms of ritual worships, but not in the discipline of philosophy of comparative religion," he told the Star Online.
Referring to the uproar over the Buddhists using the Muslim prayer room for meditation, Ghazali claimed this wouldn`t have been an issue during Prophet Mohammed`s time.
Ghazali said Malaysia should learn from other examples of religious tolerance, citing a recent report about a church in Aberdeen, Scotland which opened its doors to Muslims for daily prayers due to space constraint in the mosque.