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Prayer Alert (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Title: Johor
Description: FYI #47, 2006-7-10 Praying for the States
        Author: Research Dept

Johor Darul Takzim, 'Abode of Dignity'



Government:  Barisan Nasional
Capital:  Johor Bahru
Royal Capital: Pasir Pelangi
Sultan:  Sultan Mahmood Iskandar Al-Haj
Menteri Besar:  Dato' Haji Abdul Ghani Othman


Statistics (Malaysia Statistics Dept., 2007)

Population 3,240,900 (est.)

Malay 53%, Orang Asli 1.3% ( Jakun, Orang Seletar, Orang Kuala, Orang Kanaq), Chinese 32%, Indian 6.6%, Others 0.6%, Non-citizens 6.5%

Religious Breakdown (2000):  Islam 58.8.%, Buddhism 28.7%, Hinduism 5.9%, Taoism/Confucianism 3.2%, Christianity 2.2%, Tribal 0.2%, Others 0.2%, No Religion 0.4%, Unknown 0.4% 
 
Incidence of poverty (2004) 2% (Hardcore: 0.3%) 
 
 
Johor has gained much attention as a result of the controversies arising from the now-defunct 'crooked' bridge project.

The southern Peninsula state is linked to Singapore via the causeway that has a road and a railway link, and the Tuas Second Link. The proposed 'crooked' bridge was supposed to replace the Malaysian half of the causeway.

The transport links not only carry important bilateral relationships, economic interdependence and cross-border integration between Malaysia and Singapore, they are very much part and parcel of Johoreans' daily lives (e.g. commuting to work and education in Singapore). It has been reported that Johor Custom officers have to face and deal with more than 30,000 people daily.

The name "Johor" originated from the Arabic word Jauhar, which literally means "Precious Stones".

Historical and political development

The Johor-Riau Empire was the only empire to emerge in the Malay Peninsula after the fall of Melaka. Sultan Alauddin, son of the de facto last ruler of Melaka, Sultan Mahmud, has always been considered the founder of Johor.

In the 19th centuries, during the colonial period, unlike other Malay states, Johor was able to limit the degree of British influence and preserve the state's Malay character. This was largely due to Abu Bakar, the Father of Modern Johor, who successfully combined the English notions of a 'modern' civil servant with the best features of traditional Malay government. Johor became the most westernised of the Malay states. In 1885, a new treaty was negotiated. Abu Bakar was granted the title of Sultan, and Johor was recognised as a sovereign state with its foreign affairs under the Singapore's control.

In his final year, Abu Bakar attempted to ensure the continuity of Johor's special status. In April 1895, he promulgated a written constitution, which spelt out Johor's separate identity, laying down the duties of the cabinet ministers and the legislative council and stipulating that no part of Johor's territories could ever be alienated to any European power. Islam was specified as the state religion. Abu Bakar also developed an efficient administrative system and constructed the Istana Besar, the official residence of the Sultan.

However, political and economic pressures forced Abu Bakar's son, Sultan Ibrahim, to accept a British Adviser in 1914. Certain privileges were maintained, such as the wearing of the Johor uniform and the preference for Johor Malays in government appointments. In general, Johor rulers and their advisers were successful in negotiating a considerable degree of independence.

Johor gave birth to Malay nationalism, which led to the forming of United Malay National Association (UMNO) on 11 May 1946. It was the first state, and currently the only state in Malaysia, that has its own military force called Johor Military Force or 'Timbalan Setia Negeri', a private army of the Sultan of Johor. Johor became the last state to enter Malay Federation and Johor Baru became the last city to fall under the Japanese. Since independence, Johor has been a bastion for UMNO.

Islamisation and religious freedom

Johor was the first Malay state to organise Islam on a bureaucratic basis. The Jabatan Agama Islam Negeri Johor (Johor Islamic Dept) was established under the state constitution, enabling the government to have direct control over religious activities. A section headed by the Inspector and Registrar of Religious Schools took charge of religious education. The Johor Islamic education system should be a model to be emulated by other states, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad during his premiership, in an effort to root out extremist teaching. The menteri besar called on Muslims to recall the glorious day of Islam (NST, 2008/1/11).

In 2004, there were already 537 religious schools directly administered and fully funded by the state government. The state religious department also regulates and supervises the remaining 23 'private' religious schools (Sekolah Agama Rakyat), assisting them with annual financial grants. For many Johoreans, Islamic education is a matter of course to complement the national education stream.

Muar became the birthplace of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in 1951 when the ulamas (Muslim scholars) met to discuss and exchange views on the promotion of religion with a concentration on education.

Although relationships among the people of different religious background are by and large harmonious, Islamic consciousness is evidenced by great demand for religious education as well as the rigorous enforcement of religious principles in many aspects of people's lives, including those of other faiths. For example, in the state capital, written consent of Muslim neighbours must be obtained before renewal or new dog licences can be issued.

In their effort to rein in the deviant group 'Sky Kingdom' and its teaching, the religious department have been closely monitoring two villages in Kluang and Mersing. The authorities are also keeping an eye on any possible Shi'ite activity.

The 1895 Johor State Constitution is worthy of note concerning individual rights. It proclaims, "All the laws and customs of the country shall be carried out and exercised with justice and fairness by all the Courts of Justice and all Officers and Servants of the State between all the people of the country and the aliens who sojourn and reside under its protection, whether for a season or for a lengthened period, that is to say, without their entertaining in the least degree more sympathy or regard to partiality towards those who profess the religion of the country, namely the Muslim religion, or making any difference between those who are the subjects of the State and those who are not." However, modern-day realities indicate otherwise.

In 1991, the state passed the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non- Islamic Religions Bill. Section 4 of the Bill indicates that a person commits an offence if he persuades, influences, coerces or incites a Muslim to become a follower or member of a non-Islamic religion. The penalty is a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 4 years or both. Among others, the bill also restricts the sending, delivering and distributing of non-Islamic religious publication to Muslims.

In 1992, Johor mandated that all building applications, including applications to construct churches, be approved by seven state agencies, including the Islamic department. In December 2005, the state authorities demolished a church of the Orang Asli in Kampung Orang Laut Masai settlement on grounds that the church was built illegally on state land.

Johor also houses one of the country's two detention centres. More than 1,000 individuals are detained under the Emergency Ordinance at the Simpang Renggam Rehabilitation Centre. Amnesty International has recently called on the government to close down the two detention centres and either charge or release all those detained without trial (2006-5-24). (The other centre is in Kamunting, Perak.)

Orang Asli (OA)

In 1997, the OA community received a morale booster in the case of Adong bin Kuwan v Kerajaan Negeri Johor & Anor when the High Court declared that the OA of Sg. Linggiu had common law rights besides their rights under the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 over their ancestral lands. These rights are protected by the Federal Constitution. Regardless, development plans along the coast overlooking the Tebrau Straits have often forced the relocation of OA communities. They continue to face land issues, and many remain poor and uneducated. The reluctance to change lifestyle and inability to face modern challenges are the main hindrances. Many villagers are not keen to work in plantation because they are not used to the fixed working hours. They prefer hunting and collecting forest produce.

To enable social and economic development for the OA in Johor, state Local Government and Health Committee chairman Datuk Halimah Sadique reportedly said that the people would be relocated under a new resettlement exercise (NST, 2005-12-21).

Terrorism

Wan Min Wat Mat, currently detained under the Internal Security Act, admitted to having been involved in the Bali bombing. He was the head of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) chapter in Johor and was said to have carried out secret military training in the jungles of Gunung Ledang and Gunung Belumut from 1994 to 1998. He was also said to have set up Luqmanul Hakiem in Ulu Tiram in 1998 (closed down by the government in 2001). The school was financed by JI. Imam Samudra, Mukhlas and Indonesia's Abu Bakar Ba'asyir are all said to have taught there.

Of the 10 Malaysians recorded on the Al-Qaeda associates and members list, four  Mohd Nasir, Amran, Nordin, Yazid  were born in Johor.

Other issues

Syndicates specialising in selling luxury cars and corrupt practice in the timber industry are frequently reported. Pasir Gudang Port in Johor is said to be used by the syndicate to smuggle high-value timber sourced from Sumatra.

According to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices released early this year, human trafficking is a problem in Johor. Johor has also been recording high number of reported incest and rape cases since 2000.

In March 2006, at the Dewan Rakyat, the state capital was labelled as "sin city" and "crime city" by a Johor MP. It is believed that the security aspect in Johor Bahu has reached a worrying trend. The Singapore media has highlighted the issue with reports depicting Johor Baru as unsafe for tourists. In April, the state government sought an urgent meeting with Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Bakri Omar to address crime.

The eastern coast between Kota Tinggi, Penggerang and Mersing is one of the major entry points for illegal Indonesian migrants. Many of them have contributed to social problems in the communities.

Johor's supply of water to Singapore, which revolves around price and how it is calculated, remains one of the outstanding issues in the bilateral relationship between Malaysia and Singapore.

The Church

Presbyterianism grew through Chinese churches in Johor. The Johor Baru Holy Light Church, founded in 1886 by a missionary of the Presbyterian Church of England, is the oldest Protestant church in Johor. A Catholic church was founded in 1883.

There are more than 150 churches in the state capital. Unity among the churches is evidenced in the strong pastors' fellowships. The largest congregation in a single locality has about 2000 members. Recent years have seen consistent and steady growth, particularly in the Chinese-speaking churches. It is said that 80% of Chinese Johoreans attend Chinese schools, at least at the primary level. There is a huge pool of foreign workers coming mainly from Vietnam, Indonesia, Burma and Bangladesh. Ministry to the Vietnamese workers appears to be the strongest. Few churches are active in social ministry while many are dynamic in short-term mission involvement, both abroad and local. Church leaders believe that Johor churches could be more vibrant and zealous in reaching out and at the same time be faithful to the Lord.

Pray:

 

  • The people find their true dignity in God and not on status or background.
     
  • The police force in Johor Baru in maintaining law and order, and against all kinds of crime and immorality.
     
  • Amicable relationship with Singapore and a solution to the water supply issue.
     
  • Financial recovery and wiser management of state funds.
     
  • Authorities to properly address the plight of Orang Asli communities in all development projects that involve resettlement.
     
  • Authorities to effectively curb all illegal incursions.
     
  • Against the spiritual forces behind extremism.
     
  • Authorities and public to uphold religious freedom for everyone, and respect the Federal Constitution as the supreme law of the law.
     
  • Church: unity in reaching out to the lost; renewed vision for the community; effective outreach among the foreign workers; against complacency and materialism among believers.
     

 



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