Malaysia Bans Islamic Sect
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Malaysia today banned a 100,000-strong Islamic sect, claiming it had become a threat to national security.
The ban on the Al Arqam sect covers covers its ideology, religious practice, publications and other businesses, said Hamid Othman, a government spokesman.
The sect, which began as a small commune on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the capital, in 1968, operates 40 communes and 257 schools, factories, shops and other assets worth $116 million.
It has spread to Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Thailand. At a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, officials from Indonesia, Brunei and Singapore said they would follow whatever decision was made by Malaysia on the sect.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused the sect of deviating from Islam’s true teachings. Officials have also accused it of establishing an armed wing.
But a spokesman for the group, Rodhi Daud, denied the allegations and vowed to continue the group’s activities.
About half of Malaysia’s 18.8 million people are Muslim. Islam is the official religion.