Malaysian 'sect' sues government

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - A corporation that the government accuses of reviving "deviant" Islamic teachings outlawed more than 10 years ago, has filed a RM150m ($42.5m) defamation case against Malaysian Islamic authorities.

Islamic authorities in Selangor recently detained some members of Rufaqa Corporation on allegations of rekindling the outlawed al-Arqam sect.

The Malaysian government banned al-Arqam in 1994 on grounds that it was heretical for projecting its leader, Ashaari Mohammed, as a messiah who had the authority to forgive the sins of Muslims.

Ashaari also heads Rufaqa, which runs multi-million-dollar businesses from restaurants to schools.

It has operations in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Jordan.

Rufaqa filed its defamation case against Mustapha Abdul Rahman, the director of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department; Abdul Rahman Palil, the chairman of Islamic Affairs of Selangor; and Zabidi Shariff, former legal adviser to al-Arqam.

Aziz Hashim, the economic and corporate adviser of Rufaqa, told Al Jazeera on Thursday: "Saying Rufaqa is trying to revive [al-Arqam] is simply not true.

"As a company we don't have any belief. We don't practise religion. We are a company only. We don't have a religious agenda. If we have religious agenda, we wouldn't register as a business."

Official stand

Fakrul Azam Yahya, a spokesman for the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (Jais), told Al Jazeera that a book written by Ashaari's wife, Khadijah Aam, titled My Father Ashaari Muhammad Most Miraculous Leader of His Time, contained 36 points that constituted deviant teachings of Islam.

Some of those points overlapped with teachings of al-Arqam, he said.

Fakrul also said an advertisement for the book had linked Rufaqa to the publication.

He expects court proceedings against six members of Rufaqa charged with trying to revive a banned movement and violating a fatwa (Islamic edict) to begin in mid-January.