Malaysia is supposed to be a place of religious freedom, but - ahem - parallel justice means it is not for Muslims who are subjected to Sharia law and cannot change religion. Members have been jailed for appearing to renounce Islam and then the group's commune was demolished. The group has been around for over thirty years but faces resurgent Islam.
The Sky Kingdom group, which has interfaith leanings preaching inclusive love (and adherents can retain membership of other faiths), has been accused of luring Muslims from their faith and has been the subject of attack by both the mob and by authorities. The latest is another imprisonment.
Its main symbol at its base in the Muslim state of Terengganu was a giant concrete teapot that is meant to express the healing purity of water (there was a vase alongside). It also has the umbrella as a symbol of God and his protection. Architecturally it borrows from Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity. Its leader Ayah Pin is in a polygamous marriage and his problem is that as a Muslim he should not claim a direct link to God but understand that Muhammad is the final prophet.
Kamariah Ali, a 57 year old former teacher, arrested in 2005, has now been sentenced by a Sharia court ahead of dodgy elections. Christians are advising people to vote for those who promote freedom of worship, as liberties are threatened and Sharia law has risen alongside the civil code in a kind of trade off between Islam and the government that has been 'giving an inch' in order to counter Islamic extremism.
This of course has resonances for this country, should Sharia law ever have parallel legal status here (even if individuals could opt out with apparently no consequences for their place in the faith community - as has said the Archbishop of Canterbury).
The rise of such a legal basis of religious conservatism would start to affect wider liberties here, and they are under enough political attack already. The Archbishop may have made his bureaucratic compromises with rampant conservatism, but some of us will not.
It also could be a highly appropriate religion for Britain - so we might look forward in conditions of religious freedom for a giant teapot that can pour pure water into a vase. We could have one to dominate the skyline in Hull, say, which is one of the least religious places in a secularising country. Many British people would understand a religion that worships a pot of tea. They also understand the protective power of an umbrella. I suggest Manchester for that - Hull is a bit dryer.
The danger of such a religion of course is the already established tendency for preachers to spout a lot.
A comment highlights this informed and very useful article:
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