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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Malay NGOs protest against 'possible' mosque attack


A group of about 150 Malay NGO members held a protest outside the Bayan Baru mosque last night on suspicion that certain quarters were planning to "attack" the mosque.

It is learnt that 10 NGOs, including Persatuan Belia Merong, Persatuan Mukabuku Pulau Pinang, Persatuan Kebajikan Insan Mulia, Perkasa, Squad Rejam, Gabungan Pelajar Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS) and Al Ehsan, were involved in the protest at about 8pm outside the mosque.

They condemned the banners displaying the word ‘Allah’ found outside five churches in Penang on Sunday although church officials have lodged police reports denying they were responsible for the banners.

Carrying banners claiming exclusivity in the use of ‘Allah’ by Muslims, the group later marched to nearby Bayan Baru police station to lodge a report over the matter.

Photos of the protest can be found on blogs and Facebook but it is uncertain who the organisers were or whether police have been informed about it as required under Section 9 of the 2012 Peaceful Assembly Act.

When contacted, Bayan Baru police confirmed that a report was lodged at the station last night against the use of the word ‘Allah’ in Malay-language bibles.

The officer-in-charge however declined to comment further beyond saying, "Please get more details from state police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi in the morning."

Yesterday’s protest came a day after five controversial bannerswith the words "Allah is great, Jesus is the son of Allah" were found outside that gates of five churches, including one in the mainland on Sunday.

The churches are Assumption Church in Farquhar Street, St John Britto Church in Sungai Pinang, Church of the Immaculate Conception in Pulau Tikus, Victory Lutheran in Island Glades, and Church of the Nativity in Butterworth.

Several hours later, about 1.30am, two Molotov cocktails were hurled into the compound of the 229-year-old Assumption Church.

There were no casualties but Abdul Rahim said so far, 16 reportshave been lodged over the incident and eight individuals questioned by the police.

He added that four investigation papers have been opened - three under Section 4(9) of the 1948 Sedition Act related to inciting racial and religious tension, and another under Section 436 (5) (ii) of the Penal Code for mischief using fire.

A special taskforce comprising 283 police officers, including 73 senior ranking officers, will be patrolling the streets with special attention on churches and mosques.

Plot by the ‘usual suspects

In an immediate response, Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin said yesterday’s protest was part of a plot by the usual suspects.

He added that these groups have been going around trying to raise racial tension in the city.

"Since it was related to the mosque, with due respect I asked the informants to notify the police," he told Malaysiakini.

Sim (left) said he seriously doubted that the Bayan Baru mosque would be attacked as claimed by the groups.

"If the threat is real, I will not hesitate to call upon non-Muslims to stand together with our Muslim brothers to protect the mosque," he said.

"We will not let extremists threaten places of worship, mosques, churches, and temples alike," he added.

Yesterday, at a press conference in Penang, state Umno liaison chief Zainal Abidin Osman advised supporters not to be provoked by rumours on the controversy, urging those who came across such information to check with the relevant authorities before acting on their own.

Relations between several Muslim groups and Christians have been edgy since a court decision prohibited Catholic weekly The Heraldfrom using the word ‘Allah’ in its Malay section.

On Jan 2, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided the office of the Bible Society of Malaysia in Petaling Jaya, seizing 320 bibles in both Malay and Iban languages.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Najib Razak has announced that the ban on non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ to refer to ‘God’ will stand in states which have such provisions under law.

The 10-point solutionwhich was mooted by the government in 2011, allowing Malay bibles to use the word ‘Allah’ was also subjected to such enactments, Najib added.

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