Malaysian authorities on Wednesday arrested 58 followers of a bizarre cult built around a giant teapot, two days after the sect’s headquarters was torched.
The official Bernama news agency said those arrested were aged between 20 and 60 years and included a New Zealand woman.
Cult leader, Ayah Pin, was not among those arrested and was believed to have gone into hiding after about 30-35 assailants armed with machetes and Molotov cocktails attacked the commune on Monday, torching a car and the roof of a building and scorching the giant teapot itself.
Police have detained a 65-year-old man over the attack.
The sect, which believes the teapot has healing properties, is in Malaysia’s northeast, a devoutly Muslim area that has suddenly lost patience with the cult, headed by the man who says he is God and owner of everything, his “Sky Kingdom.”
State religious authorities have outlawed the teapot sect as a deviant cult.
State religious affairs department Assistant Commissioner Azam Awi was quoted as saying by Bernama that the 58 cult followers had admitted to converting to Islam eight years ago and will be charged in the court of shariah, or Islamic law, on Thursday.
They face a fine of up to 3,000 ringgit (about $789) or two years in jail for flouting a ruling by authorities that Ayah Pin’s teachings and belief were false and had strayed from the true teachings of Islam.
Islam is the state religion in this Muslim-majority country. Malaysia also tolerates followers of other major religions, including Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.