Memali Incident

The Memali Incident (Malay: Peristiwa Memali) or code-named as Operasi Angkara ("Operation Cause") and Operasi Hapus ("Operation Destroy") was a major incident that occurred in the remote village of Kampung Memali, Baling in the Malaysian state of Kedah on 19 November 1985.

Memali Siege
Date19 November 1985
Kampung Memali, Baling,
Kedah, Malaysia
5.815754°N 100.894549°E / 5.815754; 100.894549

Government of Malaysia victory

  • Ibrahim Mahmud killed.
  • Mass arrest of Ibrahim's followers.
  • UMNO-PAS relations worsened until 2019.

Government of Malaysia

Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party
Commanders and leaders
Mahathir Mohamad
Musa Hitam
Mohammed Hanif Omar
Ibrahim Mahmud 
200 policemen 400 followers
Unknown number of armed villagers[1]
Casualties and losses
4 killed[2] 14 killed[2]
159 arrested[3]
Location within Malaysia
Memali Incident (Peninsular Malaysia)

A team of 200 policemen, under orders from the Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam, laid siege to kampung (village) houses in Memali, near Baling in Kedah. The houses were occupied by an Islamic sect of about 400 people led by Ibrahim Mahmud a.k.a. Ibrahim Libya. The siege resulted in the deaths of 14 villagers and 4 policemen.


The Memali Incident followed severely strained relationships between UMNO and PAS, two major political parties in Malaysia. Some PAS leaders had concluded that UMNO members were apostate.[2] In 1981, Hadi Awang, (who was then PAS state commissioner for Terengganu, and has been PAS President since 2002[2]) claimed that UMNO perpetuated the unIslamic rule of colonialism, and therefore the struggle of PAS and its supporters against UMNO is jihad,[2] [4] [5] and that those who died in the struggle are al-shahid (martyrs).[2][5] In the wake of Hadi's claims, there was a serious rift in the Malay Muslim community. In Besut, Terengganu for example, communities were split to the extent that communal prayers were done separately for UMNO and for PAS congregations.[2][6]

Ibrahim Mahmud

Ibrahim was a local religious teacher who had received part of his education at the University of Tripoli in Libya, hence his nickname Ibrahim Libya. The police wanted to arrest Ibrahim Mahmud under the Internal Security Act, for creating discord and disharmony, but he refused to give himself up. Ibrahim was also accused of harbouring two brothers, Yusof Che Mit and Ramli Che Mit, who were fugitives. Revered by the village folks, who called him Ustaz Ibrahim, they vowed to defend him to the death.

Ibrahim attended Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Weng in Baling before furthering his studies in Islamic studies at Sekolah Agama Ittifaqiah, Kg Carok Putih, Weng and later Pondok Al-Khariah, Pokok Sena, Seberang Perai. Ibrahim Mahmud attended the University of Tripoli in Libya. He had also studied in India and at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Upon his return, he worked as a preacher with Pusat Islam. He appeared on television to lecture on topics of Islam. Allegedly, Ibrahim was involved in the 1974 Baling Demonstrations along with Anwar Ibrahim. Ibrahim Mahmud's politics drifted towards those of PAS. His close association with PAS worried the government of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. In 1978, Ibrahim contested the elections for the seat of Bayu-Baling as a PAS candidate. Ibrahim polled 5,081 votes as opposed to the Barisan Nasional candidate who polled 6,169 votes. In 1982, Ibrahim again contested for the same seat but lost by 100 votes.

Pusat Islam looked into his teachings and thereafter banned him from lecturing in the media or to give lectures in mosques and suraus throughout the nation. Pusat Islam also started making allegations of 'deviationist acts' against him. Ibrahim was called a fanatic who challenged the integrity of the Government.[7]


Death toll

The police action left 14 civilians and 4 policemen dead.[2] The villagers were armed with a few guns, machetes, sharpened bamboo rods, and other rudimentary weapons. The police used heavy vehicles.[1] At the height of the assault, some villagers, men and women, came out in the open in a state of frenzy and hysteria. Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam, who was also Home Affairs Minister, announced to the media that 14 'criminals' had been killed in Kampung Memali in clashes with security forces.


Police detained 159 people, including women and children. Thirty-six persons involved in the incident were arrested under the Internal Security Act in January 1986 but later released in June.[3]

Government White Paper

The government published a white paper[1] and showed an official video recording of the incident on national television. The White Paper on the incident said the extremists tried to spread deviationist teachings and disrupt public order.

The Malaysian Government released video footage culled from police tapes of the operation on prime time television on TV1, the primary government television station.[8] The video showed villagers armed with parangs, slingshots and Molotov cocktails taunting and protesting the actions of the Federal Reserve Unit troopers. The video also showed a mortally wounded police sergeant writhing in pain while awaiting help.

In February 2002, TV1 showed the confessions of a man involved in the Memali incident. The Information Ministry's Zainuddin Maidin explained that the man would relate how he was influenced to participate.[9] Zainuddin said the intention of the broadcast was to show the truth. PAS was concerned over plans to air the video clip as it may have implications on a pending court case involving the families of those killed in the incident.[10] A PAS official said they were not worried about the political impact of the video clip because PAS believes the people would not blindly accept it.


PAS called those who died as al-shahid, those who have achieved shahid (martyrs).[2] Ibrahim Mahmud is called al-Shahid Ibrahim. This was in stark contrast to the Government's stand of calling those who dies as "criminals".[11] The Kedah State Fatwa Council took the dramatic step of issuing a Fatwa saying that those who died were not al-shahid as claimed by PAS.[12] The National Fatwa Council on 3 February 1986 also ruled that the deaths of Ibrahim Libya and his followers were not martyrdom. [13]

Al-Mau'nah founder and leader, Mohamed Amin Mohamed Razali was allegedly present during part of the Memali Incident.[14][15] The incident became part of his motive for the Al-Ma'unah establishment, to overthrow the Malaysian government.

Kamaruzaman Yusoff views that the "Memali Incident entailed the interpretation and materialisation of the concepts of jihād and syahid. A re-interpretation of these two concepts has manifested itself in the recent Al-Mau'nah Incident and the activities of the Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (Malaysian Militant Group) that tried to effect political changes through unconstitutional means; and this is certainly in contrast to PAS' willingness to participate in the Malaysian electoral process."[16]

At the time of the incident, media reported Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was away on a visit to China, and identified Musa as the Acting Prime Minister. That story remained unchanged until 2014, nearly 29 years later, when Musa revealed that Dr. Mahathir was in fact still in his office in Malaysia. Musa categorically denied he was the Acting Prime Minister at that time.[17] In response, Dr. Mahathir confirmed that, contrary to past news reports, he was in Malaysia on the day of the siege.[18] Following these revelations, PAS called for formation of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to probe the Memali incident and to retract the white paper on the incident, but this was rejected by Parliament.[11] As of April 2014, survivors were continuing to seek an explanation of the incident from the government.[3]

Memali fund

A fund known as the Memali Fund was set up to collect donation for the next-of-kin of Ibrahim Libya and those who died during the Memali Incident. PAS through Harakah had urged generous donations to the fund to help the families of Ibrahim and his men which the party regarded as martyrs. A PAS member lodged a police report against alleged misappropriation.[19] This led to a public outcry and prompted PAS president Fadzil Noor to investigate.[20]

See also


  1. "Peristiwa Memali: Kertas Perintah 21, Tahun 1986" (PDF) (in Malay). Ministry of Home Affairs. 25 February 1986. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  2. Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid (9 March 2007). "Islam and Violence In Malaysia" (PDF). S. Rajaratnam School of international Studies Singapore.
  3. Looi Sue-Chern (5 April 2014). "Memali families still seek answers, want closure after 30 years". Malay Insider. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  4. Joseph Liow; Michael Leifer (20 November 2014). "Hadi Awang, Abdul (Malaysia)". Dictionary of the Modern Politics of Southeast Asia. Routledge. ISBN 9781317622321. Briefly summarizes "Amanat Haji Hadi"
  5. "Memali - a democracy in rubbles". 19 August 2010. Retrieved 10 April 2016. Contains full text of "Amanat Haji Hadi", along with an English translation
  6. T. N. Harper (9 April 2001). The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya. Cambridge University Press. p. 376. ISBN 9780521004657. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  7. "Menjawab Perkara-Perkara Yang Dibangkitkan Mengenai Jabatan Perdana Menteri Ketika Perbahasan Atas Titah DiRaja (1986)". Dr. Mahathir Bin Mohamad. Archived from the original on 7 May 2005. Retrieved 14 August 2006.
  8. LAWASIA human rights bulletin, Volumes 5–10, Law Association for Asia and the Western Pacific
  9. "TV1 to air video clip on Memali incident". New Straits Times. 29 January 2002. Archived from the original on 5 May 2016. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  10. "PAS may sue RTM over Memali clip". 9 February 2002. Retrieved 10 April 2016.
  11. "Memali incident: I don't remember Musa asking me to stay - Dr M". 10 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2016. Dr. M: "The Memali incident occurred on November 19, 1985...Four policemen were killed and 16 criminals."
  12. Joseph Chinyong Liow (7 April 2009). Piety and Politics: Islamism in Contemporary Malaysia. Oxford University Press. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-19-970382-1.
  13. Yap Mun Ching (11 March 2002). "Religious body will not act on alleged abusers of Islam". Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  14. Archived 23 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  15. "Comunitŕ di Sant'Egidio – News". Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
  16. "Islamic Radicalism in Malaysia: the Middle East connection)" (PDF). YUSOFF KAMARUZAMAN. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 August 2006. Retrieved 14 August 2006.
  17. Dina Zaman (21 March 2012). "An incident that 'should not have happened'". Malay Insider.
  18. "Dr M confirms was in KL on day of Memali killings". 10 April 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  19. "PAS Memali funds siphoned: CN Al-Afghani lodges police report". Rakyat News. 8 February 2013. Archived from the original on 19 April 2016. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  20. Victor, Cecilia (16 June 2012). "Kelantan highway fund, another Tabung Memali?". Archived from the original on 29 July 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2014.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.