Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kuala Lumpur Church Firebombed over Allah Issue

By Asia Sentinel,

Would a god by any other name smell as sweet?

Youths on motorcycles firebombed an Assemblies of God church in Kuala Lumpur last night, gutting its administrative offices, and threw a Molotov cocktail at a Catholic church in the Petaling Jaya suburb as tensions continue to rise over a decision by a High Court justice that the Catholic Church could use the word "Allah" to represent the Christian god in the Malay version of its news publication, The Herald.

Police later reported that two more churches were attacked as well although at one the Molotov cocktail failed to ignite. Police stationed police cars at churches throughout the city as demonstrations were scheduled at mosques across the country during the Friday Muslim prayer hours. Officials from the United Malays National Organization and Parti Islam se-Malasia, the two ethnic Malay political parties, condemned the attacks and called for calm. By Friday evening, at least 150,000 protesters have signed onto a Facebook protest, with the numbers continuing to grow.

The ruling by Justice Lau Bee Lan was stayed on Jan 6. at the request of Abdlu Gani Patail, Malaysia's attorney general. Lau's decision has generated massive protest across Malaysia, much of it fomented by UMNO, according to critics. Catholic Church officials agreed to the stay out of national security concerns.
There are increasing concerns that the matter could get out of hand. Musa Hassan, the inspector general of police, warned groups planning to stage rallies that they had better cancel or they could face action. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has also called for calm although he also said protesters have the right to rally within the confines of mosques.

"We cannot stop them, as long as it is confined within the mosque area," he told a press conference.

The Muslim youth movement Abim and the National Association of Muslim Students were expected to hold nationwide rallies today against Justice Lau's decision.
Kuala Lumpur is also bracing for rising Malay protest in advance of the trial of 12 so-called "cow's head" protesters who are expected to go to court on April 12 for sedition for an incident that happened last August when they were arrested for carrying a cow's head to the Selangor state government headquarters in protest of a plan to relocate a 150-year-old Hindu temple in what was regarded as an ethnic Malay area. Cows are sacred to ethnic Hindus.

The 12 have hardly backed away from their pugnacious stance. On Dec. 8, shouting "Jangan Memperbodohkan Orang Melayu (Do not hoodwink the Malays'), the 12, accompanied by about 20 more, marched down a busy street carrying a banner depicting leaders of the Democratic Action Party with cows bodies and horns. They threw the banner to the ground and started stepping on it.

Between the two issues, and other accumulated strains in the society, Najib's "1Malaysia" campaign to try to ameliorate the racial tensions that have been rising since March 2008 elections that gave the opposition solid gains faces a rocky time. Najib has assiduously attempted to woo back disaffected minority Chinese and Indian voters who deserted the scandal-ridden Malaysian Chinese Association and Malaysian Indian Congress but has faced continued tension.

Ethnic Malays charge that the minorities, who play a major role in the opposition led by Anwar Ibrahim, are demanding too much in a country where ketuanan Melayu, or Malay superiority, has been a fixture for three decades. The minorities believe that UMNO is behind the rising racial tension in an effort to solidify the Malay vote. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, an elder UMNO statesman, told local media that the party was "bent on fanning communal sentiment and digging itself into an intolerant hardline position with no parallel in the Muslim world."

"I think the danger level is going to rise," said a well-placed ethnic Malay source in Kuala Lumpur. "Many protests and demonstrations are in motion across the country. I think this whole saga plus the protests planned basically means that the Muslim Malay community is fighting back. It's not just Allah, but the culmination of lots of issues."
The Herald, which is printed in four languages, was refused a printing permit two years ago for using the word "Allah" as a translation for "God" in its Malay-language section. It had previously done so in copies circulated in Sabah and Sarawak, which have many more Christian converts than does Peninsular Malaysia, which is predominantly Malay and Muslim.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim condemned the stay and charged UMNO with "politicizing the issue and pandering to its conservative deflect attention from its own political vulnerabilities." In a press release, the opposition coalition said it "has gained popularity by touting a vision of a secular country in which all religions have equal rights. Even the opposition's Islamic partner, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party—which hasn't always supported liberal ideas—issued a statement Monday saying that the Herald's use of 'Allah' is its constitutional right.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also joined the fray, writing a Malay-language statement in his blog "Chedet" saying that the issue over the use of the word Allah "cannot be referred to or resolved by the courts. Laws cannot take into account sensitivities and issues that could trigger tension and chaos amongst religious peoples and of different faiths.

"I hope the government is very careful over this issue so that this multi faith country does not fall into disarray," he wrote.

Bonded Indian labourers in bahau - Latest case(Malaysiakini)

Teens escape the clutches of tyranny (Malaysiakini)
Teens escape the clutches of tyranny

Nineteen-year-old R Priya, given a new lease on life after being a slave for 14 years, is still apprehensive about her future.

Priya and her younger brother Guna, 16, who were entrusted to their guardians by their single parent, were put to hard labour when they were five and three respectively.

Their now deceased mother, unable to care for them, had little choice but to given them away at a tender age.

In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini, the siblings related the story of their “escape” from the clutches of their guardians in Bahau, Negeri Sembilan.

They were rescued by DAP member D Kamache from a friend’s home in Karak, Pahang where they had been taking refuge.

“Fourteen years ago my mother had left me with the couple and my nightmare had not ended since that day,” said Priya, when asked to describe her life with her guardians.

bahau child abuse 060110 priya Priya (right) was given daily household chores and when she became more capable was put to work at a small-scale glove factory owned by her guardians.”In the mornings we had to finish work at the factory and in the evenings, I had to finish the chores at home. Only then was I allowed to eat anything.

“From young I was forced to do housework all day long and beaten up if I refused to do as I was told,” she said, adding that both of them were not paid.

Priya and her brother Guna are illiterate and only able to converse in Tamil.

“My brother and I did not go school and although I asked them, I was not allowed to attend school,” said Priya.

Unable to hold back her tears, Priya blurted out that all she ever wanted was care and love from her caretakers.

Neighbours would sometimes reprimand her caretakers for beating and using abusive language on them, but that’s as far as they would go as Priya claimed that her guardians were ‘influential’ people.

“Last year, when I attempted to run away, I was caught. Once we got back to the house I was tied up in the bathroom and beaten with rattan cane,” she said.

She suffered a bloody head injury on that occasion, and instead of taking her to the hospital for treatment, her guardian placed coffee powder on the wound.

Priya said that she was never let out of their sight after the incident and kept confined to the home ever since.

Took rat-poison to escape torture

“I could not take it any more and I attempted suicide by consuming rat-poison to escape their torture,” she said tearfully.

However, Priya said she was forbidden to relate the incident to the doctors who had treated her and was forced to say that she had accidently consumed the lethal chemical.

bahau child abuse 060110 gunaHer brother Guna (left) was more fortunate. He escaped on Dec 11 with the help of a friend by hitch-hiking on a lorry travelling from Bahau to Bentong.

Guna, then with some help from some locals found his way to Kamache and recounted the torture both the siblings had undergone.

Kamache immediately lodged a police report in Bahau and Priya was brought to the police station with their guardians on Dec 28.

“When she came in and the cops were questioning her (Priya), she said everything was all right and their were well cared for by their guardians but it didn’t look like she was telling the truth,” said Kamache.

“I insisted that the police interrogate her in another room and assured her that she did not have to fear them and that she will not be sent back with them if she told the truth,” she said.

Only then did Priya relate her 14-year misery to the cops, according to Kamache. The guardian was then remanded for alleged child abuse and for not paying their wages.

A check with the police station in Bahau, revealed that the guardian had been released on police bail pending investigations.

According to the investigating officer, the police are still taking statements from Priya and Guna, as well as their custodians and neighbours.

Both teenagers are currently in the custody of Kamache as they have refused to be placed in the Welfare Department.

Priya, is now employed by a furniture outlet and is under the care of a family in Karak.

bahau child abuse 060110 kamacheMeanwhile, Kamache (right) has identified a foster home for Guna and is awaiting clearance from the Welfare Department.

“I want what is best for them… after the cruelty they have undergone, I just want to ensure that they are given a good life from now on,” said Kamache.

She also urged that the police complete their investigation soon as possible as there are other children under the custody of the same people.