Zamihan Mat Zin, an officer with the federal Islamic authority, has filed a RM2 million defamation suit against Perlis mufti Datuk Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin for allegedly portraying him as supporting extremism and terrorism.
The Malaysian Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) officer’s suit was filed at the High Court yesterday, Zamihan’s lawyer Datuk Shaharudin Ali told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur court complex today.
In Zamihan’s statement of claim, the 43-year-old accused Mohd Asri of making defamatory remarks against him that were published in two separate news reports.
The first news report cited by Zamihan is an October 14, 2018 report carried by Utusan Online, with the title ‘Bukan Perlis Sahaja’.
The second news report containing Mohd Asri’s alleged defamatory remarks is a February 9, 2019 report by Malaysiakini titled ‘Asri: Sebut Ayob Khan terbayang muka Zamihan’.
Mohd Asri was alleged to have made these remarks during a forum titled ‘Siapa Pengganas & Potensi Salahguna Kuasa’ at the Dewan Sivik MBPJ in Petaling Jaya.
Zamihan is also the president of the Sunni Organisation Malaysia (Aswaja).
In his lawsuit, Zamihan claimed that Asri accused him of having “extreme views and even questioning the Johor sultan”.
Zamihan, who ran programmes by Putrajaya to rehabilitate terrorism suspects, also said that Asri had questioned the government for hiring an “extreme” religious officer.
“His statements are false and implied that I am not a qualified person on issues related to Islam.
“He was also trying to imply I am a terrorist,” Zamihan said, adding that Asri’s remarks were meant to insult him.
Zamihan claimed that the remarks had caused the public to look down on him and diminish his status as a known public figure, further claiming that he had suffered emotional distress as a result of the alleged defamatory.
In this lawsuit, Zamihan is claiming for general damages of not less than RM2 million or an alternative sum that the court deems reasonable, aggravated damages and exemplary damages.
Zamihan is also seeking for an apology and an injunction to stop Mohd Asri from making the same alleged defamatory remarks.
Shaharudin told reporters that two letters of demand had previously been sent to Mohd Asri to seek for an apology and compensation, with the latest dated April 17.
“We didn’t receive any reply from Dr Asri’s office whether to show an amendment, apology, misspoke, or that he did not mean so, we did not receive any response at all from Dr Asri,” he said of the two legal letters.
Shaharudin said the statement of claim will be personally served to Mohd Asri within these two weeks.
Zamihan courted controversy in 2017 over remarks critical of the Johor sultan. He was subsequently investigated for sedition.