Malaysia: The Al-Arqam sect and its relationship with the government
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||26 March 2002|
|Citation / Document Symbol||MYS38672.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Malaysia: The Al-Arqam sect and its relationship with the government, 26 March 2002, MYS38672.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be7624.html [accessed 1 October 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The Al-Arqam sect, also known as Darul Arqam (Asienhaus Essen 12 Jan. 1998), was formed in 1967 as a "splinter Islamic group" by Ashaari Muhammad (RMA 1 Dec. 1994). The sect initially promoted Islamic teachings among its followers by conducting Quranic classes, aiming to "combat Western influence on the Muslim community," however as the movement grew Ashaari developed his own method of Islamic education, which included the "indoctrination of blind faith and loyalty" among his followers (ibid.).
Al-Arqam published pamphlets and books, which were distributed door-to-door by members (ibid.). It entered into various businesses in the 1970s, setting up communes and over 400 trading companies (ibid.). By 1994, when it was banned by the government for "deviationist Islamic teachings" (ibid.; AI 1 Sept. 1999; AP 9 Feb. 2002; Bernama 20 Feb. 2002), it claimed some 100,000 members (AP 10 Oct. 2001; RMA 1 Dec. 1994). Ashaari and other leaders of Al-Arqam, detained in 1994 for two months by the government, were released following their televised renunciation of the sect's teachings (AP 9 Feb. 2002; Atlanta Journal and Constitution 13 Oct. 2001). Ashaari declared Al-Arqam disbanded in October 1994 (AI 1 Sept. 1999) and the government dissolved the communes run by the sect (AP 9 Feb. 2002). The government had also made unsubstantiated accusations that Al-Arqam had trained some 300 "holy warriors" in Thailand (AI 1 Sept. 1999) for use against the state (ibid.; RMA 1 Dec. 1994).
Recent news articles report that the Malaysian government believes former members of Al-Arqam may be attempting to revive the sect (Bernama 20 Feb. 2002; Atlanta Journal and Constitution 13 Oct. 2001; AP 9 Feb. 2002), and the Straits Times cited Utusan Malaysia as reporting that former members of the sect have "congregated in a town outside Kuala Lumpur under a new grouping called Rufaqa" (18 Jan. 2002). "Rufaqa" is the name of the company founded by Ashaari Muhammad following his "rehabilitation" (AIJAC Aug. 2000). Ashaari, who had been under restricted residence status (ibid.; AP 9 Feb. 2002), has reportedly been "banished" to Labuan island off the west coast of Sabah state (ibid.), and the government has warned that it will "crack down" on followers trying to revive the sect (AP 10 Oct. 2001; Atlanta Journal and Constitution 13 Oct. 2001).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Amnesty International (AI). 1 September 1999. (ASA 28/006/1999) "Human Rights Undermined: Restrictive Laws in a Parliamentary Democracy."
Asienhaus Essen. 12 January 1998. "Die Al-Arqam Bewegung in Malaysia."
Associated Press (AP). 9 February 2002. "Malaysia Moves Founder of Outlawed Muslim Sect to Borneo Island." (NEXIS)
_____. 10 October 2001. "Religion News in Brief; Navy Chaplain Names Jewish Committee's Interreligious Affairs Director." (NEXIS)
The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. 13 October 2001. "Amen Corner; News and Notes." (NEXIS)
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC). August 2000. "The Review: Asia Watch."
Bernama: the Malaysian National News Agency. 30 February 2002. "Be Firm on Attempts to Revive Aurad Muhammadiah, Civil Servants Told." (NEXIS)
Religion in Modern Asia Newsletter (RMA). 1 December 1994. Hock-Tong Cheu. "Islamic Cult Banned in Malaysia."
The Straits Times [Singapore]. 18 January 2002. "KL Uses TV to Fight Extremism – Special TV Programme on Memali Standoff." (NEXIS)
Additional Sources Consulted
US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
US Department of State Report on International Religious Freedom
Internet sites including:
Human Rights Watch