Erna Mahyuni

Erna tweets too much on @ernamh. Angry Sabah native, slave to her dog/cat and blogs at ernamahyuni.com

APRIL 20 — Socially conservative, fundamentalist-leaning Islamic preachers are popular in Malaysia and we like them so much we’ll even offer them islands. The preacher I wish to talk about is a local boy for once but of that flavour Malaysian Muslims love and flock to: a convert to Islam. 

This man who calls himself Ustaz Ayub Abdul Rahman is giving a free talk in my home state Sabah, with the title: Perjalanan hijrah dan dakwah: Catatan Kehidupan (A journey of pilgrimage and missionary work: Notes on a life).

He claims to be the former senior priest at the church of St Augustine of Canterbury, in Frankfurter, Germany and previously went by the name Reverend Anthony Samy Perumal Viagulam.

From that sentence alone, you know there is something fishy. Frankfurter, my dear Malaysians who do not partake of pork, is a type of sausage. There is no such place as Frankfurter in Germany. 

The church, however, is real and has an address: Frankfurter Strasse 3, Wiesbaden, Germany. Strasse is German for street, thus the church is on Frankfurter Street and not in a non-existent sausage.

Some of you might argue it was an honest mistake, that perhaps some Malaysian misread the address. Why then did Ustaz Ayub not correct the poster? He is Malaysian, after all, and can read Bahasa as he is Penang-born and bred. 

Here’s the kicker: Ayub claims to be Catholic.

St Augustine of Canterbury is called thusly because he was the first Archbishop of Canterbury and a founder of what is termed the English Church or the Anglican church.

We are apparently supposed to believe a Catholic Indian from Penang somehow ended up heading an Anglican church. He also claimed he was trained at “Benedictine Abbey” in Switzerland.

There is no such thing as an abbey named “Benedictine Abbey.” The Benedictine order is a Catholic order and while the order does have a few abbeys in Switzerland, none of them are named after the order itself.

To say that it is possible for a Catholic priest to become head of an Anglican church in the 70s is implying it’s possible for the Ayatollah to become a spiritual adviser to the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia.

In an article that came out in Utusan, he claims to have lived the high life as a priest — flying first-class and being chauffeured around in fancy cars.

That will be news to my Catholic priest friends out there as, if Ustaz Ayub is who he claims to be and was trained at a Benedictine abbey, he would know that the three vows of most Catholic orders are poverty, chastity and obedience. Unless you’re the Pope or with the Vatican, best believe Catholic priests would be flying coach.

This Ustaz Ayub was apparently even awarded the Tokoh Maal Hijrah Award in Sarawak for being such a good convert to the faith and for his missionary efforts in the state.

What is alarming for me is that with just a few Google searches, I can debunk his questionable life story but apparently none of the bodies sponsoring Ustaz Ayub’s upcoming talk bothered. 

Not Jakim, nor even Sabah’s own university, bothered to research the credentials of this so-called preacher.

Apparently enquiries have been made of the church Ustaz Ayub claimed to have served and the church itself confirmed he has never been a priest there. 

If it was some pretender claiming to have converted out of Islam and went around having a series of talks about his experience, there would probably be protests and maybe a Molotov cocktail or two. 

But here we have government bodies openly sanctioning someone who is clearly misleading people about his background and spreading anti-Christian propaganda.

The sad bit here is that I am very sure that Ustaz Ayub knows very well the difference between Protestants and Catholics, but he is just happy to make up stories to feed a welcoming audience who are ignorant enough to believe that this man was given the gift of faith from God. 

People like Ustaz Ayub feed on the fear in local Muslim circles, taking advantage of their ignorance when it’s already such a problem how little Muslims understand about Christians and Christianities in general.

Christians don’t need to be enemies to local Muslims when this much is obvious — the enemy is among them and charges hefty speaking fees.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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