Prayer hall case: KL revokes Singaporean's PR

Mr Syed Ahmad (in orange shirt) being led to court in Kota Tinggi on Tuesday.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has revoked the permanent resident (PR) status of Singaporean Syed Ahmed Alkaff after he allowed a surau (Muslim prayer hall) at his Johor resort to be used by Buddhists from Singapore.

Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on Saturday said the revocation was a warning to those given residency and citizenship to abide by the law. He made the announcement amid a debate on whether the surau at the Tanjung Sutera Resort in Sedili Besar village, Kota Tinggi, should be demolished just because it had been used by people of another faith.

The PR revocation was not unexpected, as the incident came soon after two others that had led to calls by Muslims for the government to take strong action against those insensitive to the country's official religion.

On July 31, Muslim dog trainer Maznah Muhammad Yusof was arrested over a video of her washing and feeding her dogs in a Hari Raya greeting, which the authorities deemed an insult to Islam.

That same month, sex bloggers Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee were arrested for posting a Ramadan greeting with a picture of them eating pork, which is forbidden in Islam.

The latest controversy erupted two weekends ago when a video posted on YouTube showed 14 people kneeling and chanting in the surau before a Buddhist painting.

Datuk Seri Zahid said: "Let this be a lesson to those whom the government has graciously and generously awarded citizenship and permanent resident status that they must abide by the law or lose the privilege."

Mr Syed Ahmed, 45, will still be allowed to come to Malaysia like other tourists or expatriate workers, Mr Zahid told reporters at a Hari Raya open house in Putrajaya.

Prime Minister Najib Razak last Friday called on Malaysians and visitors to understand the religious sensitivities in the country to avoid controversies, according to Sin Chew Daily.

A resident living near the Kota Tinggi resort told The Sunday Times over the phone that it has been closed since Mr Syed Ahmed's arrest. Should the surau be torn down?

"I do not think it is a good idea to demolish the surau just because there was a (Buddhist) meditation session there, and it is unlikely that the group was trying to insult Islam," Dr Mohamad Hashim Kamali, chairman of the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, told The Star newspaper.

Johor Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin said the surau will be demolished because the state government will abide by the order of

Sultan Ibrahim of Johor, who decides on Islamic issues.

Additional reporting by Cheong Poh Kwan

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