PETALING JAYA: Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol (pic) was given a "VIP-send off" at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Tuesday night after his detention by Immigration officers and questioning by local religious authorities.
A news portal quoted Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) chairman Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa as saying that Akyol had left the country using a special departure hall at KLIA for VIP travellers.
Akyol was in Malaysia over the weekend for several IRF events, including talks entitled Does Freedom of Conscience Open the Floodgate to Apostasy? and Is Democracy Still Relevant?
Akyol was sent off by a group of prominent personalities, including former deputy higher education minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, former treasury secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim and Perak Royal Council member Datuk M. Redzuan Kushairi.
The United States-based journalist expressed shock at the treatment he received by local authorities, as it was his first experience of being detained.
"I never got arrested before for anything, much less for giving a few talks. This was not something I could imagine. I could imagine this happening in Saudi Arabia maybe, but I thought Malaysia was a more open society," he was quoted as saying.
Akyol, in a tweet, commended former Turkish president Abdullah Gül for giving assistance during his detention.
"I am deeply grateful to former President of Turkey Abdullah Gül for his key role in my release from arrest in Malaysia," he tweeted.
He also hoped that this incident would create more future discussions regarding religion policing in Malaysia.
"I hope the 'trending' incident may help initiate some national debate in Malaysia on the 'religion enforcement police'."
On Sunday, the Federal Territories Islamic Affairs Department (Jawi) summoned Akyol for questioning over the breach of Section 11 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act for conducting religious teachings without tauliah (credentials).
He was subsequently detained at KLIA at 9pm on Monday by Immigration after a warrant was issued for his failure to appear before Jawi.
Akyol was then released at noon Tuesday after Jawi completed its investigation and was satisfied that the organiser had not informed him of the need to obtain credentials from religious authorities in Malaysia.
The US-based journalist has written on Islamic issues and politics for Turkish newspapers and the New York Times among others.
His books include Islam Without Extreme: A Muslim Case for Liberty, which has been translated into Turkish, Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia.