About 50 residents of Section 23 in Shah Alam, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, were protesting against the Selangor state government's decision to relocate a Hindu temple into the area. They have every right to do this, of course. But they also promised bloodshed if the relocation went ahead, and dragged the head of a cow (revered in Hinduism) through the streets and stepped on it to emphasise their point.
As disturbing as it is to watch these men taunt followers of another religion in such a grotesque and arrogant manner, the moment in the video that elicited the most revulsion for me was about 3 minutes. A young boy who cannot be older than 12 mimics the older men by kicking the cow's head, grinning. So young, yet already being brainwashed to become part of the next generation of brainwashed bigots.
This incident happened not only during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and prayer, but on Independence Day weekend, which is meant to be a celebration of national unity.
The Malaysian Insider reports:
“I challenge YB Khalid, YB Rodziah and Xavier Jeyakumar to go on with the temple
construction. I guarantee bloodshed and racial tension will happen if this goes on, and the state will be held responsible,” shouted Ibrahim Haji Sabri amid strong chants of “Allahu Akbar!”
Ibrahim identified himself as the Deputy Chairman of the Resident’s Committee against the building of the temple in S23 here, which is perceived by some as being a Muslim majority area.
He told the press that the state should move the temple to Section 22 as
‘originally planned’, and also labelled Khalid a “traitor to the Malay race and
It is understood that the protest is an immediate reaction towards the Selangor MB’s visit to the Hindu temple site yesterday, an act seen by the "residents" as disrespectful to the Muslims of the community.
Mohd. Zurit Bin Ramli, who claims to be the secretary of the "Coalition of Malaysian NGOs" echoed Ibrahim’s stand on the matter, saying that it was irresponsible on the part of the state government to approve the construction as there was apparently a "90 per cent” majority Muslim population in Section 23.
“With a temple on our residential area, we cannot function properly as Muslims. The temple will disrupt our daily activities like prayers in the Surau. We cannot concentrate with the sounds coming from the temple,” stated Zurit.
Now don't get me wrong, I think the vast majority of Malays would find this abhorrent. Indeed, PM Najib Razak himself has condemned the action and ordered the police take action. Condemnation throughout the Malaysian media has been seemingly universal.
But the incident is a symbol of the sense of arrogance and entitlement that some Malays have acquired due to the Government's constant upholding of them as a privileged ethnic group. It threatens to severely damage the relationship between the nation's Muslim Malay majority (who make up just over half the population) and the minorities: Indians, Chinese as well as other indigenous ethnic groups.
UMNO youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin condemned the protest, asking those involved to consider how Muslims would feel if non-Muslims desecrated the Quran.
Well we all know what would happen then. Had those protesters been Indian or Chinese, and stepped on the Quran or thrown a pig's head into a mosque, there would be murder in the streets. Although of course, the police would never allow such a protest to happen in the first place - they would lock up the participants and detain them under the draconian Internal Security Act. Yet yesterday, the Malay protesters acted freely within full view of riot police, who stood by and did nothing.
The protesters' claims are also ridiculous. The population of Section 23 is not 90% Malay but apparently closer to 60%. In any case, even in overwhelmingly Muslim states like Kelantan and Terengganu, Hindu and Buddhist temples exist unmolested, as the vast majority recognise the rights of minorities' freedom to practice. And regarding the claim that the sounds from a temple would disrupt their daily activities - that's crazy when you consider that the azan (Muslim call to prayer) is audible everywhere in Malaysia, even in areas like Penang and Sarawak where Malays are in the minority. Non-Malays put up with it without complaint.
It is to the shame of a nation that barbarians like these protesters are indulged by the authorities in such a way. It is an incident that cuts through to the core question about Malaysian national identity: can the Malay people as a whole ever truly accept that the Chinese, Indians and others (whose history in the country dates back to the colonial era and beyond) are more than mere visitors to "their" country?