The oil-rich state of Terengganu, Darul Iman (abode of faith), is endowed with charming natural landscape of beaches and fascinating islands, along with generations of splendid cultural and traditional heritage. Tourism has been one of major sources of income.
The state capital and royal town, Kuala Terengganu, used to be a thriving trading centre in 18th and 19th centuries. There has been plan to transform the capital into a metropolis and a hub for economic development (NST, 2005-7-12).
In the 19th century, Terengganu prospered as a vassal state of Siam with its sultan remaining independent. In 1869, Baginda Omar was the first ruler to establish direct relation with Britain in his effort to prevent Terengganu from being invaded by Siam in Riau-Lingga politics. Years later, Sultan Zainal Abidin agreed to the 1909 Anglo-Siamese treaty after being assured that a British agent would only have consular power. However, the treaty saw Terengganu becoming British protectorate. In 1928, a peasant rebellion broke out and was quickly suppressed by the British force. During World War II, Terengganu was transferred back to Siam, but after the defeat of Japan, it returned to British control. Terengganu became a member of the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and a state of independent Malaya in 1957.
In 1999 following decades of rule by BN, Pas won the local election and ruled Terengganu. However, it was recaptured by BN in the 2004 general election.
After the general election in March 2008, Terengganu faced Menteri Besar appointment saga. The federal government recommended Idris Jusoh who seemed to receive majority support of the state assembly, but the Sultan announced the appointment of Ahmad Said on 22 March. The prime minister claimed that appointment was unconstitutional, and Said was subsequently stripped of his UMNO membership for disobedience.
On 26 March, after meeting with the Sultan, the prime minister accepted Sultan's appointment of Ahmad Said.
The state executive councillors are: Toh Chin Yaw (the Industrial, Trade and Environment); Datuk Abdul Rahin Mohd Said (Youth and Sports); Datuk Mohd Awang Tera (Rural, Entrepreneurial and state Co-operative Development); Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman (Education, Higher Learning, Science, Technology and Human Resource); Yahya Khatib Mohd (Infrastructure and Public Amenities Development); Asha'ari Idris (Welfare, Women and Community Development); Datuk Za'abar Mohd Adib (Tourism, Culture, Arts and Heritage); Khazan Che Mat (Religion and Information); Rozi Mamat (Agriculture and Agro-based Industry) and Dr A Rahman Mokhtar (Health, Unity and Consumer Affairs).
Terengganu state has long been part of the spiritual and religious heart of the country. Before the arrival of Islam, it practiced a Hindu-Buddhist culture combined with animist traditional beliefs, although it has been popularly claimed that Terengganu was the 1st Malay state to receive Islam (as attested to by a stone monument dated 1303 with Arabic inscriptions found in Kuala Berang).
In 1863 Baginda Omar laid the basis for an expansion of Islamic judicial system governed by syariah law. By late 19th century, the state was already known for the vitality of pondok schools, the movement of religious teachers, and an established religious education. The 1911 Constitution, with its insistence on Islam as the State and Official Religion, was an important manifestation of Malay identity.
Efforts to enforce Muslim precepts and eliminate unislamic practices were accorded continuing priority. In 2000, the former PAS state government introduced a dress code for government employees designed to "protect the image of Muslim women and to promote Islam as a way of life.
On 8th July 2002, the State Legislative Assembly approved the Syariah Criminal Offence (Hudud & Qisas) Bill. It was then gazetted in October 2003 authorizing stoning, flogging, and amputation for offenses by Muslims including theft, adultery, and consumption of alcohol. Since the Barisan government took over in March 2004, there had been talks on whether the law should be repealed and the Prime Minister was also reported to have said that all laws enacted by PAS would be reviewed (The Star, 2004-03-29). The Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) later undertook the study of Terengganu Syariah Criminal Offence laws. To date, decision has yet to be made.
Islam grips the hearts and minds of those who take pride in Terengganu Islamic legacy. The religious leaders (ulama, imam) and teachers (ustaz, ustazah) remain influential. The BN state government administration continues to reflect a strong Islamic identity.
Religious Freedom & Rights
In February 2004, Muslims were barred from attending entertainment programmes hosted by non-Muslims. A few months after the general election, the new state government banned all concerts except nasyid performances. The new Menteri Besar Dato Seri Idris Jusoh claimed that the ban was only temporarily until guidelines were determined (Star Online, 2004-6-7).
It was also reported that 2,383 followers of deviant groups were being rehabilitated at Malaysia Islamic Development Department (JAKIM)'s rehabilitation centres in Jelebu and Kuala Terengganu (Bernama, 2005-06-30).
A mob attacked the commune of Sky Kingdom religious sect in July 2005. Police failed to arrest anyone involved. However, driven by state-level zealous and vigilantes, the hand of government was forced into an official action against the sect. 45 members were detained and charged in August with violating Islamic precepts under section 10 of the Terengganu Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 2001.
In December 2005, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear an application by two self-confessed apostate members of Sky Kingdom who sought a declaratory release that they were no longer Muslims.
Apostasy offences had yet to be verified under the Syariah Criminal Law, but a more explicit law on apostasy and deviant teachings was being fine-tuned by the Attorney-Generals Chambers, according to Prof Datuk Dr Abdullah Md Zin, minister of the Prime Minister Dept. (NST, 2005-9-14).
Section 29 of the Terengganu Administration of Islamic Law Enactment of 1996 provides: “Any Muslim who attempts to renounce the religion of Islam or declares himself to be non-Muslim, shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding RM3,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both”.
Kamariah Ali was convicted of apostasy by the state syariah court on 17 Feb after a long tedious ordeal. She was arrested in 2005 for joining the Sky Kingdom cult. Earlier, she was convicted of deviant practices and sentenced to 20 months' jail in 1992.
The Terengganu Takzir enactment of 2001 allows for the sentencing of people who do not pray 5 times a day (The Sun, 2005-3-26/27).
Although it contributes to most of the countrys oil revenue, Terengganu remains one of the poorest and least developed states in the country. The lack of infrastructure developments, among others, holds back investment in recent years.
BN's special manifesto on Terengganu pledged to set up a university, upgrade the Islamic college, expand the airport, and create more employment (STI, 2004-3-24). It was also reported that the government would undo the mess under PAS systems to ensure Terengganus progress was on par with other states (NST, 2004-4-18). Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, however, called upon the state government to focus on helping the poor. He said that intensive development would be meaningless if many people remained poor (Bernama, 2005-9-13). There is also shortage of low-cost houses.
Terengganu Health Department estimates an average of 300 to 400 cases of new HIV/AIDS every year. As of last June, 6718 HIV patients and 577 AIDS patients has been recorded in Terengganu. 95.6% of the HIV carriers are male, while 92.4% of the AIDS patients are male. The incident of incest is high.
Terengganu was also implicated in a foreign report that some individuals were providing moral, logistic and financial support to the separatist movements in South Thailand.
The visit of a missionary to Kuala Terengganu in 1828 sheds some light on the earliest Christian contacts in the region. This missionary was frequently called upon to discuss religion with Sultan Abdul Rahman Shah who was later discovered possessing a Malay translation of the Bible.
There are 10 churches of different denominations in Kuala Terengganu. 9 churches are located in shop-houses without proper places of worship; only the Terengganu Presbyterian Church has a dedicated church building. However, assurance was given to non-Muslims in December 2004 that the state government would consider their requests for land to build places of worship (Star Online, 2004-12-23).
There is a need for the churches to see beyond their walls and be a blessing to their community. Some churches have no pastors or leaders. Many Christians from other states who are posted to Terengganu for work purposes have yet to catch the vision of being a blessing to the unreached.
Recognising the needs and importance of unity, as well as expressing their concern for the state, churches have gathered to pray for Terengganu on every 1st Friday of the month since the year 2002.
1. For the head of state, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin and the royal family.
2. For the current state government under Chief Minister, Datuk Ahmad Said to run the state with fear of God, wisdom, integrity and without favour.
3. For economic sufficiency, just distribution of wealth and eradication of poverty
4. For more investments and job opportunities.
5. For the people be freed from all forms of spiritual deception and bondage of occult.
6. Against immoral activities e.g. prostitution, incest and abortion. Those who are caught in bondage may experience freedom in Christ.
7. Against religious radicalism.
8. The Church, as Ambassador of Christ,
a. To have the mindset of Christ towards others regardless of religious/ethnic background.
b. To actively involve in reaching those who live in poverty and helplessness: their physical needs be met and spiritual needs be fulfilled by Christ.
c. To engage and support government projects in eliminating poverty and creating employment.
d. To be committed in Terengganu as a mission field
a. For unity across denominations
b. For more full time pastors/leaders
c. For committed tentmakers
d. For favour with the local governments and neighbours
Government: Barisan Nasional (BN)
Sultan: Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin (now 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong)
Regent: Tengku Muhammad Ismail (co-reigns with 3-member Regency Advisory Council)
Menteri Besar: Datuk Ahmad Said
Statistics (Malaysia Statistics Dept., 2007)
Population 1,067,900 (est.)
Malay 94.4%, Chinese 2.5%, Orang Asli 0.32%, Indian 0.21%, Others 0.27%, Non-citizen 2.3%
Religious Breakdown (2001)
Islam 94.5%, Buddhism 4.4%, Tribal Animism 0.5%, Christianity 0.2%, Hinduism 0.2%, Taoism/Confucianism 0.1%
Incidence of poverty (2004): 15.4% (Hardcore poor: 4.4%