Friday, August 5, 2011

Controversies over the raid on the Methodist Church in Selangor, Malaysia

Malaysia is a multi religious country with 28.3 million population.

Islam is the official religion in Malaysia where majority of the populations are Moslems.

Issues pertaining to race and religions are still sensitive in Malaysia even after more than 5 decades of independent and even tough the government introduces many programmes to enhance peace, harmony and unity among the multi ethnic populations.

Therefore when an Islamic religious body conducted a raid on a church in Selangor, Malaysia on the night of Wednesday the 3rd of August 2011, that event surely attracted attention and controversies as well.

Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) enforcement officers raided the “1 Malaysia Muhibbah Fundraising Dinner” at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church, reportedly without a warrant after receiving an unspecified complaint, bringing with them a team of policemen.

Between 100 and 120 people, including several Muslims, attended the non-religious event to celebrate an NGO called Harapan Komuniti’s success in helping women, children, HIV/AIDS sufferers and victims of natural disasters.

Immediately after, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim called on Jais to furnish the state government with a full report on the purpose of the raid while giving an assurance that the state government fully respects freedom of religion and rights of religious groups.

But state executive councillor Datuk Hasan Ali defended Jais’s actions, alleging that the words “Quran” and “pray” were used in the presence of the 12 Muslims at the dinner, claiming that this was proof Christians had been proselytising to Muslims there.

In this latest case, the Selangor state government will seek the advice of the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah to resolve the issue.

Tan Sri Khalid said action on Jais will be determined after he has presented a report detailing the incident to the Sultan.

He has also ordered a gag on the issue on all state exco members.

"As soon as Jais gives (me) the report, I will seek an audience with the Sultan to obtain the advice of His Royal Highness to resolve this issue and to ensure that similar incidents do not reoccur.

"Until a decision has been made and the issue resolved, all state exco members are prohibited from making any statements relating to this incident," Khalid said in a statement issued by his press secretariat Friday.

He also reiterated the state government's regret over the incident.

"We are convinced that the people of Selangor felt their rights were not defended.

"Good intention and purpose do not justify actions that fail to exhibit justice and wisdom when leading the community," said Khalid.

Meanwhile, Former Federal CID chief Tan Sri Zaman Khan has come to the defence of the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), expressing “disheartenment” over the late-night raid carried out there this week by Selangor religious authorities together with the police.

Speaking in his capacity as Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) president, he stressed that the dinner raided on Wednesday 3rd August 2011 had been organised for a “good cause” — raising funds to support Harapan Komuniti, whose primary aim is to help Malaysians with HIV regardless of race or religion.

He added that the authorities should take precautionary steps and seek the co-operation from all parties involved in matters that could potentially compromise the integrity of Islam to avoid interracial and religious conflict.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Bar has slammed the raid as “disrespectful” of the right to association, pointing out that there is no law against Muslims entering church premises.

The surprise raid on that church in Selangor, Malaysia happened barely 16 days after Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak met Pope Benedict XVI at the Pope's summer residence at the Apostolic Palace in Castel Gandolfo, outside Rome, on 18th July 2011.

The Pope is the ruler of both Vatican City State and Holy See.

The Holy See is the universal government of the Catholic Church.

As a result of the visit, Malaysia and Vatican agreed to establish diplomatic ties.

The visit by Najib is the second by a Malaysian leader to the Vatican. In 2002 then Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad met then Pope John Paul II.

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