- Title: MALAYSIA: New laws regulate alternative medicine
- Date: 15th October 2010
- Summary: VARIOUS PRAYING
- Embargoed: 30th October 2010 01:34
- Location: Malaysia
- Country: Malaysia
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Health
- Reuters ID: LVAEHEIWOQ4GJP5P47HM3XOO7CA4
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: As Malaysia's top Islamic faith healer Haron Din began reciting Quranic verses, his possessed patient started to scream and fidget. The woman slammed her fists repeatedly on her lap and finally wept in submission.
The exorcism at the busy faith healing clinic on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital lasted for about a minute.
Faith healing continues to find favour 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.
"When treating, what we are doing is asking God who created the illness and who can cure the illness. Man does not possess the power to heal, what we do is just an effort, it is God who endows healing," said Haron Din, whose clinic draws up to 250 people a day.
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.
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 practising licences from the ministry.
Muslim faith healers will also be subject to guidelines drawn up jointly by the country's Islamic Development Department and recognised practitioner bodies including Haron's clinic.
"There must be a mechanism to control the practitioners, not only on Islamic treatment but any traditional or alternative treatments, which must have a code of ethics spelling out the do's and don'ts," the 70-year-old added.
There have been a steady number of complaints of cheats while others offer amulets, spells and curses using black magic, which is forbidden by Islam.
Malaysia's most infamous case was the gruesome ritual killing of a ruling party politician in 1993, in which his body was chopped into 18 parts.
"They cannot cheat, molest patients and so on, and if they do anything outside of the guidelines we can take disciplinary action against the practitioner," said Dr Ramli Abdul Ghani, head of Traditional and Complementary Medicine at Malaysia's Ministry of Health.
Practising black magic will not be listed as on offence under the proposed law, but those who go against the faith healers' guidelines could be stripped of their licenses.
Only Islamic faith healers will be initially subject to the proposed law, but the government was open to the possibility of expanding its scope in the future to include Chinese spirit mediums.
Famous for entering a trance-like state, mediums are believed to be able to act as intermediaries for deities to communicate with devotees seeking advice.
Wong Kin Tack, 75, chairman of the Kau Wong Yeh Chinese temple in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, said licensing his mediums would obstruct the deities' work.
He said the mediums provided an important service to devotees, who included cancer patients seeking comfort in prayer and advice.
"After all, the spirit medium knows everything even before you ask, and if you have any problem the deities will help you to overcome it," said Wong.
Muslim faith healers will also be subject to guidelines jointly drawn up by the country's Islamic Development Department and recognised practitioner bodies including Haron's clinic.
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