Fresh religious tensions brewing in Malaysia

Houston Chronicle
By SEAN YOONG Associated Press © 2011 The Associated Press
May 9, 2011, 1:38AM

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia’s government sought to defuse new religious tensions Monday following allegations that church leaders were conspiring to make Christianity the official religion in this Muslim-majority country.

Christian officials insist the accusation is a lie intended to create suspicion between ethnic Malay Muslims and religious minorities, but several Muslim activists have filed police complaints demanding an investigation into what they consider a threat to the position of Islam.

A string of religious disputes in recent years, often involving minority complaints of discrimination, has triggered persistent feelings of insecurity among both Malaysian Muslims and minorities about their religious rights in a country that prides itself on multiethnic peace.

The allegation by two anonymous political bloggers about a plot by Christian leaders received little attention until the country’s leading Malay-language newspaper reported it on its front page Saturday under the headline “Malaysia a Christian nation?”

The Utusan Malaysia newspaper is owned by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Malay-dominated ruling party. It said dozens of pastors were believed to have pledged at a recent meeting to make Christianity the official religion of Malaysia and have a prime minister elected from the Christian community, which comprises about 10 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million people.

Najib said late Sunday authorities will investigate the claim, but stressed the issue should not be sensationalized.

“Calm down until we get the facts,” Najib said. “If there is anyone who tries to jeopardize national peace, we will not allow it to happen because what is important is national harmony.”

Christian groups acknowledge there was a meeting last week, but say it was meant to honor some Christian pastors and discuss regular religious issues, not politics.

The accusations are “insidious, provocative and malicious lies” that have “the effect of creating religious disharmony, inciting hatred and heaping odium on Christians,” Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, who heads the Catholic Church in peninsular Malaysia, said in a statement.

Opposition politician Lim Guan Eng warned Monday that the government would have to “bear full responsibility for any undesirable consequences on the Christian community in Malaysia” because of Utusan’s report.

Tensions surged briefly last January when 11 churches suffered firebomb attacks and vandalism amid anger among some Muslims over a court verdict allowing minorities to use “Allah” as a translation for God. Some Muslims say the use of “Allah” in Christian literature could be used to convert Muslims, who comprise nearly two-thirds of the population.

  1. #1 by cseng on Monday, 9 May 2011 - 5:44 pm

    I like the idea of Obama elected as the president of USA.

    Similarly, I like the idea of MCA leaving the government if not chosen by majority of Chinese. If MCA can go one more step to drop the middle C and out of BN’s racial politic, much better.

    I do not have problem if the PM is Christian, Muslim or others, in fact, I do not have problem if PM is Malay, Chinese, Indian, as long he is Malaysian, do you?

    What type of Malaysian are we? Depending who you asked, if you asked Umno, we are among the extremist and racist, we are the destroyer of this country.


  2. #2 by on cheng on Tuesday, 10 May 2011 - 10:26 am

    Christian cannot even hv their bible in bahasa indonesia for so long (stuck at custom), then hv to get stamped n serial nos, so how can Christian threatened others???
    If a party/person want to be a fool, go ahead, Don’t try to fool 25 million Malaysian !
    Christian cannot build a church with their money without a long, long wait for approval (as long as 17 years, or even never approved), so how can they threatened others, so real brainless report ! Only idiots would believe such report.

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