Building Temples, Churches Test Malaysia's Minorities

April 2, 2007

Source: CNN International

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) -- The cavernous pink Putra Mosque with its soaring minaret is one of the most commanding sights and popular tourist photo backdrops in the city of Putrajaya.

A house of worship for thousands of Muslims in the eight-year-old administrative capital of Malaysia, it is a showcase of the nation's dominant faith -- Islam.

But the mosque also highlights the lack of a single church or temple in Putrajaya -- which minority Buddhists, Hindus and Christians see as one example of the second-class treatment other faiths get in this Muslim-majority country.

Religious minorities have long complained about obstacles in getting government permission to build places of worship in Malaysia. But their frustrations have grown amid recent accusations by activists that authorities are destroying non-Muslim shrines, heating up racial bitterness that has simmered for decades beneath a veneer of multicultural harmony.

"There is much disillusionment" among non-Muslims, said P. Uthayakumar, a Hindu lawyer who has launched a court battle to prevent authorities from demolishing temples. "Every time a temple is demolished, the people's confidence is shaken further."