video report available on Youtube.
after their prayers today, a group of 50 some Muslim-Malays marched toward the state government of Selangor – the state i live in – to protest the building of a Hindu temple in their residential area. they claimed that the building of this temple was insensitive to the largely Muslim-Malay neighbourhood because the temple’s activities would disrupt their lives. “noises” from the temple would disturb their own praying and prevent them from functioning properly as Muslims. the buidling of this temple in their area, they said, was an act of betrayal by Selangor Chief Executive Sri Khalid Ibrahim.
during the protest, a resident cried that Khalid was a “traitor to the Malay race and Islam”. the deputy chairman of the resident’s committee shouted that “bloodshed and racial tension” would happen if they were not listened to. the severed head of a cow was brandished by protesters as a symbol of their discontent. it was left at the entrance of the State Secretariat.
i only heard about this over dinner from dad. later, i received a link to a news report on the same issue from a friend. while racial issues are commonplace in Malaysia, such extremist cries are not frequent. i was shocked and disgusted at seeing photographs of these racial extremists, who were carrying the cow’s head at the forefront of the protest. it made me really angry to read about the things these people did and said. their acts seem to me utterly tribal and bigoted. that they are banding together in the name of religion and race is not so much the issue. what bothers me is that they are assuming superiority in an area by virtue of mere demographic majority. since when were Malaysians partitioned into separate residential areas by race? why does a majority necessarily justify complete intolerance of existing communities?
on top of all this, it is horrendous that such a primordial and insenstive symbol of violence was touted in an area as developed as Shah Alam. the cow is a symbol of life to Hindus. it is sacred and many indian families abstain from eating beef out of respect for this creature which is sometimes considered to be equal to a family member. even urban indians who are not necessarily religious tend to abstain from eating beef, as though to avoid sacrilege of indian lifestyle. it would have been reasonable for the Muslim-Malay residents to voice their concerns over the building of the Hindu temple on behalf of a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, but the aggressiveness and insensitivity they showed in waving around the severed head of a creature sacred to Hindus is completely unwarranted and unnacceptable. really, any legitimacy they might have had in complaining about the state government’s town-planning decision is completely lost by this disgusting show of intolerance alone.
i don’t think the building of temples or mosques in a conflicting area can be considered a true cause of racial tension if these are authorized and carried out by a board of directors where both ethnic groups are already represented. it is unfair and ridiculously tribal-minded of these residents to call Khalid a traitor to the Malay race. his duty as Menteri Besar isn’t to Malays alone, but to the community as a whole. ideally, his decisions should not be influenced by one race/religion or another. it takes stubborn, selfish, sordid characters who are incapable of thinking in terms of a wider community, who are prone to senseless and cruel acts, to bring about real racial tension.
i wouldn’t be surprised if the Hindu community rises up against this atrocious event. in fact, i think a strong and angry opposition against this group of bigots is warranted. it really upsets me to be reminded that such people exist. i think dialogue on religion in terms of town-planning is extremely important, but the level to which this particular case has sunk is so abominable that i do not know whether i am sad or angry or both. i am comforted by the comments made by Prime Minister Najib and some other Malay politicians condemning the protest, but at times like this i wonder if this is a country i will ever feel truly comfortable living in. they may be singing the right tune, but i am not convinced about the follow-up on the PM’s orders against this event. it wouldn’t be the first time such things were shrugged off the shoulders of the administration and left to ferment in the country’s already putrid air of discontent.