Malaysia to control faith healers as more seek spirit aid

Thu Oct 14, 2010 3:57am EDT
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By Razak Ahmad and Angie Teo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters Life!) - As Malaysia's top Islamic faith healer Haron Din began reciting Quranic verses, his possessed patient started to scream and fidget.

The exorcism at Haron's busy faith healing clinic on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital lasted for about a minute. The woman slammed her fists repeatedly on her lap and finally wept in submission.

Faith healing continues to find favor in this mainly Muslim country, underscoring the tension between tradition and modernity in Malaysia, a melting pot of Asian cultures with a long history of alternative medicine.

Though uncommon, the continued use of exorcists and bomoh, or faith healers, has in part led the government to draft a law to regulate practitioners of traditional and complementary medicine.

"Because our people use it, we felt the need for control to prevent abuse and ensure that practitioners are qualified," said Dr Ramli Abdul Ghani, head of Traditional and Complementary Medicine at Malaysia's Ministry of Health.

The Traditional and Complementary Medicine Bill, to be tabled in parliament next year, will require the country's 11,000 practitioners in fields ranging from acupuncture to homeopathy to register with and obtain practicing licenses from the ministry.

Muslim faith healers will also be subject to guidelines jointly drawn up by the country's Islamic Development Department and recognized practitioner bodies including Haron's clinic.

"Many faith healers claim to conduct Islamic treatments when they in fact are going against Islam, so we need the mechanism to control the practitioners," said Haron, 70, whose clinic draws up to 250 people a day.   Continued...

<p>Malaysia's top Islamic faith healer Haron Din (L) recites Quranic verses onto his patient at his "clinic" outside Kuala Lumpur October 5, 2010. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad</p>