Source: Hindu American Foundation
The Hindu American Foundation Director of Public Policy, Ishani Chowdhury, testified on recent events in Malaysia at a briefing held by the Congressional Task Force on International Religious Freedom (TIRF) today on Capitol Hill. Entitled "Matters of Life and Death in Malaysia: Does the Recent Election Point to a Trend Toward Religious Tolerance?," prominent panelists included Dr. Bridget Welsh, Assistant Professor in the Southeast Asia Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University-SAIS; Angela Wu, International Director with The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; and Mickey Spiegel, Senior Researcher with the Asia Division at Human Rights Watch.
At the briefing attended by representatives of the U.S. Department of State, staffers of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Malaysian Embassy, Chowdhury flayed the Malaysian government on its record of persecution and discrimination of the country's substantial Hindu minority, constituting 7% of the population. "With a 40% minority population, Malaysia needs to include the minority population in dialogue and address grievances such as the violent responses to peaceful protests, judicial onslaughts against faith, and destruction of temples," stated Chowdhury. As noted in the Foundation's report 'Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Report: 2006', 76 Hindu temples were demolished, desecrated or forcibly relocated by the Malaysian government. The most prominent case is that of the destruction of the 100-year old Sri Muthu Mariamman temple, which was located on a rubber plantation and home to approximately 1,000 families.