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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        10  May 2011

A religious row in Malaysia

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A fresh religious row has erupted in Malaysia after the Utusan Malaysia newspaper alleged that there was a plot to make Malaysia a Christian country, as a Muslim group Pembela accused “aggressive Christians” of threatening the position of Islam.

The Umno-owned Utusan daily quoted two blogs which alleged that Christian pastors who met in Penang last Thursday had taken a vow to make Christianity the official religion of Malaysia, and to make a Christian the prime minister.

It also quoted the bloggers as saying that the meeting was organized by a division of the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) in Penang.

The daily cited a blog by the name of Big Dog as saying that these were “very dangerous” developments as the DAP was accused of fuelling its political ambitions with a cry to change the country’s leadership from Muslim to Christian.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said these allegations were serious, and that he was awaiting a report about the Penang meeting. “If certain races resorted to raising issues in an excessive manner, it will invite reactions from other races,” he said.

The Utusan report sparked an immediate uproar as opposition parties including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim slammed the daily, while the event organizers denied the allegations.

A police report was lodged by the pro-Malay group Perkasa’s Penang chief Mohd Rizuad Mohd Azudin who said this could “destroy racial unity.”

Relations between Malaysia’s Christians, who comprise about 10 percent of the population, and the majority Muslims have been on edge since their clash over the use of the word “Allah” to refer to God.

Tensions briefly flared last year when a church was firebombed after the High Court allowed a Catholic publication to use “Allah.” The government’s appeal against this decision has yet to be heard.

The issue cropped up again after 35,000 Malay-language Bibles were held up in two ports for the same reason. They have since been released.

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AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
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