Malaysia's Multi-Faith Credentials Called into Question

May 16, 2006

Source: BBC News

On May 16, 2006 BBC News reported, "Malaysia is considering its multi-cultural credentials after a crowd of Muslims on Sunday broke up a meeting called to defend the rights of religious minorities.

The country's leaders condemned the disturbances, but the BBC's Jonathan Kent in Kuala Lumpur says non-Muslims feel increasingly beleaguered.

'I'm becoming an alien in Malaysia, in my own country,' says Dr Jacob George.

The president of the Consumers Association of Subang and Shah Alam in Selangor State has been helping to organise efforts to stop the local authorities in the ethnic Malay-Muslim dominated city of Shah Alam from demolishing a 107-year-old Hindu temple.

Earlier in April another 19th-Century temple was demolished a few kilometres away in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The authorities said in both cases the temples' founders did not have permission to build them. But the demolitions are surprising because Malaysia has forged for itself a reputation as a successful multicultural society.

In living memory it has had only two serious outbreaks of inter-communal violence; in 1946 and 1969. But lately, non-Muslims in Malaysia have expressed fears that the delicate balance between themselves and the majority may be shifting.

Malaysia is one of Asia's great melting pots. Sat at the crossroads of the continent, trade and migration have left the country with a rich mix of races, cultures and religions.

It is a secular democracy where Islam is the official religion. Just over half the population is ethnic Malay and, by law Muslim; while the rest is a mix of ethnic Chinese, Indian and indigenous peoples who are mostly Christians, Hindus, Taoists, Buddhists, Sikhs and animists."