KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A Malaysian state has closed down a museum exhibition on ghosts, ghouls and supernatural beings after Islamic clerics claimed it was detrimental to Muslims' faith, newspapers reported Saturday.
The exhibition at the state museum in southern Negeri Sembilan has drawn some 25,000 visitors since it opened March 10. But it has also attracted criticism from religious scholars who charged the show was un-Islamic and based in fantasy, the New Straits Times reported.
Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Rais Yatim also disapproved of the exhibition, saying it was not beneficial to the community.
But the museum has claimed its aim was to educate the public. The exhibition capitalized on widespread fascination in Malaysia with otherworldly creatures from local legends and mythology. Reports said artifacts on display included alleged vampire carcasses and a mythical phoenix bird.
The Negeri Sembilan state government decided to halt the show Friday after the National Fatwa Council ruled it was forbidden under Islam as it could undermine Muslims' faith, The Star newspaper reported.
Some 60 percent of this Southeast Asian country's 26 million people are Muslims, who are subject to Islamic laws and fatwa council edicts even if they have not been enshrined in national or Islamic Sharia law.
Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of the fatwa council which advises the government on Islamic regulations, said spirits and supernatural beings involved the "invisible world" and were beyond the comprehension of the human mind.
"We don't want to promote a belief in 'tahyul' (supernatural) and 'khurafat' (superstition) which we do not know about. We do not need to focus on such things or play them up by having such exhibitions," he was quoted as saying.
Negeri Sembilan state secretary Kamarudin Siaraf, who also chairs the state museum board, was quoted by the New Straits Times as saying the museum would abide by the council's ruling.
"We do not want all the controversy surrounding this exhibition to drag on further, so the best thing is to stop the show," he said.
Calls to the state museum and state secretary's office were not answered Saturday. Abdul Shukor and other fatwa council members also could not be reached for comment.
Last year, a three-month exhibition on "Mysteries, Genies, Ghosts and Coffins" at the museum in central Selangor state drew tens of thousands of visitors but some critics denounced the items as fakes while others accused the exhibition of being un-Islamic.
Among the 100 items on display were objects described as a preserved mermaid, the shriveled skeletal remains of a half-woman, half snake and a goblin trapped in a bottle.