Mohamed Farith insisted he was not deliberately trying to incite racial or religious tension. — Picture by Azril Annuar PETALING JAYA, Sept 22 — The man at the centre of a controversial video showing him allegedly urging non-Muslims in the Flora Damansara apartments to adhere to Islamic religious norms said he was merely addressing “African residents” there.
Mohamed Farith Mohamed Jamal, 37, told Malay Mail Online that the intention behind the video was to generate awareness and educate residents from the continent of what he claimed was the cultural sensitivities of the Malay community there.
Mohamed Farith also insisted he was not making a case against other non-Muslims especially Malaysians, and was not deliberately trying to incite racial or religious tension.
The financial trainer claimed that based on eyewitness accounts, the ethnic African residents, of whom many are Nigerians, have been drinking alcohol in public, littering the staircases with beer cans, while making a lot of noises at night.
“It’s not that we are against drinking or whatever activities that they want to do. But we want to request that they please do it behind closed doors or at the proper premises. In fact, we invited them to listen to our briefing.
“In the video, we spoke only to the Africans in the restaurant who were not drinking at that time. We were not accusing them, we just wanted them to help deliver the message to their community,” he said, when met at the apartment complex here.
Yesterday, a video went viral on social media showing Mohamed Farith briefing an unknown crowd about Islamic and Malay cultural norms and sensitivities.
Mohamed Farith, who said he was selected by the community as a spokesman due to his fluency in English, was shown telling the crowd that the Malay community objected to drug abuse, public consumption of alcohol, and women wearing revealing clothes.
At the time of writing, the video has been watched over 40,000 times and shared over 600 times. It has received over 200 comments, many of them negative remarks against Mohamed Farith and the Malay-Muslim community in Flora Damansara.
Mohamed Farith said the video was recorded last night and he was accompanied by around 100 members of the community when he made the briefing, in addition to the crew of local channel TV3’s crime investigation series 999.
Dressed in a Liverpool FC football kit and track bottoms today, the man who met Malay Mail Online was a far cry from the one in the video, who was shown wearing a long robe and kopiah, a skullcap, in the video.
“I looked like that because I just came back from my Isha’ prayers at the surau. Otherwise I don’t really dress like that,” said the self-professed Liverpool fan, referring to the Muslim night time prayer.
Despite that, Flora Damansara Resident Association acting president Wan Mohd Zaid Ismail, a 46-year-old businessman, said that the group had acted without the resident group’s knowledge and authorisation.
“What happened yesterday was not on the ticket of the resident association. It happened on an ad hoc basis from a WhatsApp chat group. The community themselves felt the need to speak and address this issue,” he said.
When asked whether he supported their actions, Wan Mohd Zaid said he supports any actions that would bring public good to the community.
Azrin Yaakop, 41, a committee member of the Damansara Perdana mosque — the nearest Muslim congregation to the area — listed down a list of complaints made by Malay-majority residents: alleged reckless driving, public intoxication, sexual harassment, littering and rowdiness, among others.
“This is not the first time we spoke to them. We’ve lodged police reports, we have also lodged a report with the Immigration Department. Flora Damansara has been around for 12 years. Before they moved in, we didn’t have the issues of public alcohol consumption and so on,” he said, referring to the so-called Africans.
Azrin claimed that his checks with the Petaling Jaya District Office revealed that many convenience store operators in the area including 7-Eleven, 99 Speedmart, and KK Mart are allegedly selling alcohol without a valid permit. — Picture by Azril Annuar“Sometimes when they get drunk they get loud or harass some of our women. Many families have moved away out of fear. The ones who are still here have no place to go because we purchased these homes.”
Azrin explained Immigration officials did visit the six block apartment building once, and he said the majority of the African community there “disappeared into thin air” afterwards.
He also claimed that his checks with the Petaling Jaya District Office revealed that many convenience store operators there including 7-Eleven, 99 Speedmart, and KK Mart are allegedly selling alcohol without a valid permit.
According to him, the local community will next submit a letter to the relevant authorities detailing their plight.
James Somoa, a 32-year-old Nigerian resident who had stayed in Flora Damansara for two years, however told Malay Mail Online of his suspicion that some of the locals are just xenophobic.
The business administration student at private institution YPC International College in Cheras, said it is a common culture in his homeland for the society to socialise and drink in public.
“Sometimes, when the locals look at us, they look like they just saw a ghost. But we are not trying to fight with them. Sometimes when we do drink, we do get loud but we are not really disturbing anyone.
“And regarding what the locals think of indecent dressing [for our women], we are going to look into it. They should have just come and spoke to us gently you know,” said Somoa, referring to the video.
Despite being a continent of 54 countries with diverse and distinct ethnicities, cultures, languages and societies, migrants from the continent are commonly pigeonholed using the “African” catchall.
The derogatory label “Awang Hitam” (literally, Black Fellow) is also used by Malay-language dailies in reference to their dominant skin colour.
The negative perception towards African migrants in Malaysia is believed to stem from the frequency of cases of drug smuggling, financial scams, frauds and sex crimes reportedly involving the group.