What's brewing for MH370 bomoh?

What's brewing for MH370 bomoh?
‘Magic’ in the air: The infamous image of the self-proclaimed Raja Bomoh Sedunia (Shaman of the World) performing his ‘magic carpet act’ with his team to locate the missing plane, at KLIA on March 12, 2014.

A shaman and a Johor woman diverted some attention from the mystery in the sky. We revisit their stories a year after they shot to fame

KUALA LUMPUR - When MH370 disappeared, a medicine man appeared. Controversial bomoh Ibrahim Mat Zin was catapulted to fame and notoriety after conducting rituals at KLIA with coconuts, bamboo binoculars, walking canes, a fishing trap and a carpet.

"I'm more popular now, and so busy that some people wondered if I'd disappeared or fallen into poverty," said the 83-year-old in an interview at his office here.

The premises were filled with posters of the Perak native's new Kopi Mahaguru business, which he said boasted 10 varieties of coffee and used a 1917 recipe enjoyed by Malay Sultans, warriors, village heads and midwives.

Ibrahim claimed the venture cost him RM19mil - with plantations in Sungai Manik (Perak) and Bukit Mertajam (Penang) and a 1,300-strong workforce - along with plans to channel part of the profits to orphans, the elderly and the needy.

He said he had also been involved in three upcoming films featuring fresh faces and silat artistry, namely Hantu Miniskirt 1963 (Miniskirt Ghost 1963), Pendekar Tangan Besi (Iron Hand Warrior) and Keranda Terbang Waktu Malam (Night Flying Coffin).

The seventh-generation bomoh from Pasir Salak, who said he went into the housing and property business after his start in pineapple-selling, defended his role in MH370's initial search efforts, insisting that he "had every right to help".

At the height of his MH370-related fame, Ibrahim was seen with his acolytes in the "White House" and his antics replicated by Lego pieces and nurses at a hospital.

"My presence was politicised and I was taken advantage of. Coconuts are not syirik (deviant). They have pure water. All races enjoy them," said the chatty octogenarian, who sported a shiny 1Malaysia lapel pin on his coat.

Despite a request to perform the rituals five times, he was only granted clearance for two ceremonies at KLIA.

"I can't say who sent me. I didn't come to ask for money. I did my work and prayed using verses from the Quran.

"But it was hard for the public to hear the verses I was praying because of noise from planes landing and taking off," said Ibrahim, referring to opposition from the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

He also bore no ill-feelings towards Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, whom he once wanted to "punch and slap like a crocodile" after the latter criticised him for his rituals.

He reminded his critics of his past contributions, citing the search-and-rescue operations for the Highland Towers tragedy and the Kuala Dipang flood.

"During the Mona Fandey trial, I even went to jampi (charm) the Temerloh High Court so the judge could perform his duty without external interference," he claimed.

Asked for his thoughts on the ongoing mystery, Ibrahim said that the missing plane entered the first of seven doors in the sky, which closed and glittered.

"If the sun can evaporate large bodies of water so that they enter the sky and become clouds and water again, a plane can be sucked in by mysterious and unhealthy things. That's why science and technology has failed to find it," he said.

Though Ibrahim lauded multinational efforts to find the crash site, he understood the frustration of MH370 families as no bodies have been found, and claimed some families had approached him.

"To me, as the Raja Bomoh Sedunia with 70 years' experience, those on the plane are not dead. They have just entered a mysterious realm," he concluded.

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