Ex-madrasah now a ‘factory’

Still in use: The building in Ulu Tiram, which was previously the Luqmanul Hakim madrasah, is now said to be a food factory. It could be demolished soon. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

JOHOR BARU: Hidden in a village some 30km away from Johor Baru is an old building that was once the centre of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) movement in Malaysia.

The two-storey building, which is now said to be a food processing factory, was once a madrasah established by the group’s Indonesian founders, Abu Bakar Bashir and Abdullah Sungkar.

They reportedly founded the Luqmanul Hakim madrasah or Sekolah Tarbiyah Islamiyah Luqmanul Hakiem in the early 1990s when they fled their home country and became fugitives in Malaysia.

After recent events, even the food factory is set to go. Johor religious authorities are reportedly planning to demolish the building to ease fears of militancy in the country.

Noordin Mohammad Top, once dubbed the most wanted terrorist in Asia, was among those who attended the school.

The building, in an enclosed private area in an isolated part of Ulu Tiram, was also linked to Noordin’s associate and bomb expert Dr Azahari Hussin.

This was also where Indonesian terrorist Hambali, once known as the “Osama bin Laden of South-East Asia”, met his Sabahan wife Noraliza Abdullah @ Lee Yin Len.

In 2002, the school was shut down by the Home Ministry, and 12 of its teachers, including the headmaster, were detained on suspicion of being linked to Kumpulan Militant Malaysia (KMM).

The school’s 155 students were transferred to other institutions.

Although it has been over two decades since the school’s closure, the building is intact to this day - but not for long.

However, there are signs of people living inside, although there is no signage outside the building.

A resident living in the fenced up private area told The Star that the building has been turned into a factory.

The man, in his 70s, who only wanted to be known as Abdul, said despite JI is no longer active here.

“Yes, this was the madrasah, and yes, the madrasah was associated with the JI group,” he said.

“However, that does not mean that all of us are members of the group or are linked to them.

“They (JI members) no longer live here. Some moved out after the closure of the madrasah while others have died of old age.”

The quiet village recently became the centre of attention after a 21-year-old masked man barged into the Ulu Tiram police station and launched an attack.

Two policemen were killed, and one was injured. The attacker was also shot dead in the early morning incident last Friday.

Abdul, who has been living there for over a decade, said the attacker and his family, who have also been arrested following the incident, are private people and do not mix around with others.

“People continue to associate us with the attacker and JI when we do not even know them.

“In the years that I have been living here, I have never even spoken to him or his family,” he said, claiming the family was from Batu Pahat and Singapore.

Abdul said he was among 46 people who were called in for questioning by the police following the attack.

“They just wanted to know what we knew about the family or if we had any connection with them,” he said.

Attempts to gain further information from Abdul and other residents were not successful.

A common response from residents of the private area was: “Just refer to the police. We have nothing to say.”

There are about 10 to 15 houses in the private area, and some of them appear abandoned.

State Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Mohd Fared Mohd Khalid confirmed that the madrasah has been closed since the early 2000s.

“The madrasah has not been in operation since then. Since its closure, no application has been made to renew the registration of the madrasah,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement, Johor police chief Comm M. Kumar said two out of seven suspects who were arrested in relation to the attack have been released.

“They are a 22-year-old male who is a student at a private college, and a 21-year-old woman who is a student at a training institution.

“They were released after we received instructions from the Attorney General’s Chambers.

“However, the investigation on the five other suspects, who are family members of the attacker, is ongoing,” he said, adding that their remand will end tomorrow.

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Jemaah Islamiah , Factory , Madrasah , Police


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