2033: We round off this dark day with a statement just released by the Aliran exco: ‘Bigotry in the name of Allah’.
The silver lining in all this is that the crowds at the various protests were not as large as many had feared, and the vast majority of Malaysians simply walked away and refused to join in. Many groups and netizens issued statements and comments condemning this lapse into momentary madness. Therein lies a glimmer of hope for a better Malaysia that many of us believe is possible.
Another bright light can be seen over here, where blogger Dr Rafick, a Muslim, has initiated a donation drive to raise funds to repair the Metro Tabernacle Church.
1928: IGP Musa Hasan denied reports that a fourth church was attacked, according to the Insider. He said three demonstrations were held in Kuala Lumpur, two in Pahang, four in Selangor and one in Terengganu and they all ended within 15 minutes. He urged the public not to believe rumours spread by SMS and over the Internet.
1853: Only 25 people protested at the Kampong Baru mosque this afternoon, according to one eye-witness. A Malaysian Insider twitter update put the figure at 20. Malaysiakini put the figure at 50 and noted that other Muslims leaving the mosque told the protesters to “just go home!”
1829: St Francis Xavier’s Catholic Church in PJ will be holding an all-night vigil to pray for peace in the country. The prayers will begin at 8.00pm and go on throughout the night until the 6.15am Mass.
1805: Anwar Ibrahim, speaking on mainland Penang, has sharply criticised the Home Ministry and Umno for their poor handling of the issue. He said they should have initiated a dialogue between church leaders and Islamic groups to discuss the issue, according to a journalist.
1800: Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng visited the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Penang this evening. Blog reader SamG reports from the Cathedral:
CM reiterated the key message of keeping calm and not to get carried away. Also reported that he had had a meeting with the CPO who had assured all Penangites that they will provide additional security. No demonstrations were reported in Penang as per the briefing by the Special Branch Head who was also present.
1750: Aliran’s Dr Mustafa K Anuar has issued a statement here condemning the attacks.
1650: A fourth church in Kg Subang is said to have been targeted, according to the Insider. But I am unable to obtain further confirmation/verification from church sources. Most press reports say only three churches were targeted.
1450: Najib has condemned the attacks and those reponsible because “this will destroy the harmony of the country”, reports the Insider, which also updates via Twitter:
- Kg Baru mosque protest finishes. 7 minutes ago
- National Mosque protest finishes in 15 minutes, speaker appeals to Catholics to bring matters regarding Islam to Syariah Court. 9 minutes ago
- Earlier in Kg Baru, a group of Muslims urged others not to join the protesters, called them fanatics & accused them of church arson
- A group of 300, mostly from Perkasa, gathered in front of National Mosque to shout “Allahu Akbar”. The rest have walked away.
1430: The crowd disperses as usual after Friday prayers at USM in Penang.
Over in KL, church lawyer Annou Xavier appears satisfied with police co-operation in beefing up security around key churches.
1350: The Friday sermon, heard over the USM mosque loud-speakers in Penang, questions the Herald’s use of the term Allah. A similar sermon was screened on TV1, says one viewer.
1239: Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has asked police to be at all churches. “Police will deploy officers and are cooperating with us,” a church lawyer informs me.
Meanwhile, the FRU have been spotted in Kelana Jaya heading for the Federal Highway, according to an eye-witness.
1237: “I think (what has happened) is very, very unfortunate. This is exactly what we do not want to happen,” says Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, deputy president of Jamaah Islah Malaysia (JIM).
“As good religious people, we know that each religion stresses tolerance and respect for one another’s practices. We should let the court process go on but at the same time we should calm our people, Muslims and non-Muslims, to ensure we always act in the interests of all and the country.”
“I think the word ‘Allah’ is something which is mulia, to be respected by all. Allah represents God for all. In other words, the use of the phrase should be done in a tactful and respectful manner without any bad intent.”
1152: An attempted attack at the Life Chapel in Section 17. A molotov cocktail again. No real damage. “It’s the same modus operandi,” says Rev Hermen Shastri, the General Secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia. “There is a pattern.”
Church reps want the police to station personnel at all churches in the capital, whether Catholic or Protestant.
Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim is with a church lawyer at the Assumption Church.
1127: Some 21 police personnel along with a forensics team are at the Assumption Church along Jalan Templar to inspect the failed arson attack. They have assured church reps that there would be more police patrols around churches.
Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim is said to be on the way to visit the church.
1000: Woke up this morning to text messages on the fire-bombing at the Metro Tabernacle Church in Desa Melawati and the failed kerosene attack on the Assumption Church in Jalan Templar.
The world of Twitter is abuzz with messages expressing outrage.
This could be a long day. A few elements are obviously out there bent on stirring trouble. It is important for political and religious leaders from across the spectrum to condemn such attacks. Thus far, the political leadership of this country on this issue has not been inspiring, to put it mildly.
I am sure Malaysians of all spiritual faiths and those of goodwill will abhor attacks on any place of worship.
In the face of some trepidation ahead of expected protests, let’s look to the young for some hope for the future. This is an excerpt from a Malaysiakini report:
In a show of solidarity, Muslim and Christian students in Universiti Malaya (yesterday) came out with a consensus over the ‘Allah’ row.
In a statement, PMIUM (UM Association of Muslim Students) and PKVUM (UM Varsity Christian’s Association), the umbrella organisations that represent students of the respective religions, said the two groups had reached an understanding over the matter.
PMIUM president Shazni Munir Mohd Ithnin and PKVUM president Benjamin Ong both signed the statement listing down the guidelines that they have agreed upon:
- That dialogue and discourse is the best and respectable way to handle the issue.
- That proper education to the adherents of the different faiths must be given in order to ensure the proper understanding of tenets of each religion.
- The legal system is not the only proper way to solve the issue, especially when it is open to manipulation by certain parties.
- Religious institutions and leaders must take the proactive step of meeting and engaging in discourse in order to promote greater understanding among the different faiths.
They reminded all parties not to manipulate the issue and condemned those who use it to provoke public sentiments.
The public must use discretion and proper education to avoid prejudice towards the followers of other religion.