Church attacks condemned, concerns grow
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8: The attacks on three churches, with a fourth in Kampung Subang being investigated by the police, have shocked Malaysians at home and abroad. Their caring nature and concern for the safety of their family,
friends and fellow Malaysians manifested itself in the form of rapid-fire searches on the Internet.
News websites, such as Malaysiakini, Malaysian Insider, The Star Online, Malaysian Mirror, Harakahdaily and Malaysia Today, experienced huge numbers of visitors, unseen since the height of the Teoh Beng Hock case and the Perak crisis.
But what is done is done. Much as we despise today's cowardly attacks, it has become part of our history - 'a low point' in the words of a prominent civil society leader. It has also been described as a 'test case' and a 'trap'. Not just for Prime Minister Najib Razak and his 1Malaysia plan, but for Malaysians themselves.
Will we do anything about today, Black Friday, or shall we forget - as we have often done in the past - and allow sleeping dogs to lie? Remember, we deserve the leaders we choose, the government we elect. Perhaps, it is time to really reflect and think again of the type of future we want to leave for our children.
Provided, of course, that we are allowed to do so. Indeed, the buzz is growing among pundits that this is deliberate - another Operations Lalang in the making, another May 13, 1969, except that this is January and the year is 2010.
Has enough changed since then? No? Then do something about it.
Harakahdaily appends below the comments of leaders across the political divide and from civil society:
Abdul Hadi Awang, PAS president
We condemn in the strongest way the attacks on the churches. This sort of action contradicts the teachings of Islam. It can only be done by people who do not understand their own religion. We had previously warned Umno against politicisng the Allah issue just to gain mileage with the Malay voters and we are now saddened to see the outcome.
Mahfuz Omar, PAS vice-president
Islam prohibits the destruction of places of worship of muslims and non muslims. I don’t believe such attacks are by true believers of Islam. This is a political act by by certain parties who want to benefit from the issue.
Anwar Ibrahim, Opposition Leader
I urge all parties to remain calm and not descend into hatred. I am confident the people of Malaysia can resolve this issue without conflict.”
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR president
We should all heed the religious teachings of practising tolerance and respect towards all other religions. We sincerely appeal to all quarters to remain calm and approach this issue in a wise and peaceful manner. In light of the emotional nature of this debate, all religious and political leaders, in particular, must act responsibly and not try to score points at the expense of another community.”
Lim Kit Siang, DAP adviser
What many Malaysians had feared would happen and which the Prime Minister and Home Minister had discounted with their far-from-responsible stances – the exploitation of the “Allah” controversy by irresponsible and extremist elements – have unfortunately come to pass.
All top political party leaders should take a common stand to condemn in the strongest possible terms the spate of church attacks in the wake of the “Allah” controversy and ensure that there is no further escalation.
As Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should immediately impress on the Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to take all urgent and necessary measures to protect the good name of the country or be held responsible for any undesirable consequences.
Najib Razak, Prime Minister
Don’t point the fingers at Umno or anyone else. We have always been very responsible. Don’t say this attack is motivated by Umno.
Hishammuddin Hussein, Home Minister
I am assuring not only minorities but all Malaysians that they are safe. The issue of race and religion is always sensitive and it is not something new to Malaysia. We saw the signs, signals, warning after the court made its decision. We have been monitoring the situation.
We never said that the demonstration could go on, do not put words in my mouth.
Musa Hassan, Inspector-General of Police
I have directed all state police chiefs to personally oversee the safety of mosques and churches. Patrols will be carried out for the next three days. Besides this, we will also carry out air patrols throughout the country.
We will not tolerate such actions and will not hesitate to even arrest those responsible under Section 28 of the ISA. I have also received SMSes that vehicles with crosses and rosaries had been vandalised in the Klang Valley. All these are mere rumours
Sam Ang, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship
These actions display their immaturity and intolerance towards others within a multi-racial society. We call on our government to take the necessary steps to educate those who lack understanding and are ‘easily confused’ to be mature minded in a progressive democratic society.
With the Prime Minister’s national agenda of 1 Malaysia, we regret to note that these irresponsible actions will bring much setback to the desired goals and derail the country’s effort to move out of recession.
Ramon Navaratnam, Centre for Public Policy Studies
At this testing time, the government needs to show leadership. Prime Minister Najib needs to show he will put the country first and not his party. He must not bow down to the extremists within his party.
These criminal and religiously-motivated incidents mark a low point in our nation’s history where houses of worship are violently attacked and desecrated. This is a troubling trend that started with cow-head protest where religious sensitivities of the various communities are ignored and issues of religion are not discussed openly.
The strong dissenting voices and misguided violent actions indicates disagreement and points to the dire need of readdressing the issue in a civilised fashion to ensure the preservation of freedom of religion.
John Liu, Suaram
Suaram urges the police to act immediately, stressing that Malaysia has ample laws to deal with such violence and destruction of property without having to resort to repressive laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Police Act and the Sedition Act.
In some of the most blatant examples of religious intolerance, there have been involvement of some leaders of political parties both from the ruling BN as well as the opposition Pakatan Rakyat. And these have been largely tolerated.
These latest incidents once again prove that ‘national security’ cannot be guaranteed by merely threatening actions using repressive laws, such as the ISA, the Police Act and the Sedition Act. Invoking such laws does not adequately address the matter at hand, especially those pertaining to religious intolerance.
The government’s decision to charge the cow-head protestors, for example, clearly did not deter further similar, and even worse, actions as were seen early today.
Chandra Muzaffar, Yayasan 1 Malaysia
Yayasan 1 Malaysia appeals to the authorities to apprehend the culprits and to take stern action against them in accordance with the law.
Ragunath Kesavan, Malaysian Bar Council
It is deplorable and, along with other assaults in recent times that exhibit intolerance, demonstrate a very negative and worrying trend towards extreme disrespect and prejudice. Such behaviour is shocking and offensive. Right-minded Malaysians must condemn it as indecent and unacceptable.
We remain firm in our view that the most effective and progressive way of resolving disputes is to promote dialogue and an understanding of dissenting views amongst all the parties involved, regardless of how complex the issue is. Any reactionary behaviour that encourages any form of disorder must be censured in the strongest terms.