Demands for removal of cross at Malaysian church also draw ire of Muslims

Demands for removal of cross at Malaysian church also draw ire of Muslims
Removed: A building caretaker showing the place where the cross was before it was taken down following the protest.

PETALING JAYA: Muslim leaders, NGOs and moderate Malaysians have criticised the Sunday protest against the placing of a cross on a church in Taman Medan here.

Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said the protection of all places of worship "is a part of jihad, and Islam does not condone any behaviour contrary to that".

"Islam does not teach its followers to disrespect other religions or disrupt their practices," he said.

Dr Mohd Asri said those who were occupying the building had the right to practise their chosen religion, and others should not disturb them.

"If you do not believe in Jesus Christ, you cannot be a Muslim as in Islam, we believe that he is one of the messengers of God," he said.

On Sunday, a group of 50 Taman Medan residents protested in front of a church, demanding it take down a cross displayed on its building.

Van driver Mat Tahir Abdul Rahman, 60, who stays in the flats close to the shoplot said that as a multi-racial and multi-religious country, Malaysians should respect one another.

"As long as they don't disturb anyone, then I don't see a problem. Those who are strong in their faith would not feel challenged by the sight of a cross," he said.

Global Movement of Moderates chief executive officer Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said Islam upheld freedom of religion, but the recent action by some quarters were sending a different message.

"Even if people are not happy, the way to protest is not by demonstrating in front of the church, but directed at the authority.

"If the church is approved by the authorities, Muslims should not protest, unless with very solid reason," he said.

Muslim Professional Forum also condemned the actions of the protestors, saying that the "mindless act of hatred and incitement against another religion's place of worship had no place in Islam".

Saying that there have been well-documented events during the times of the Prophet that spoke of religious tolerance, the group said that it was evident that there was no room in Islam for intolerance towards other faiths and their places of worship.

Sisters in Islam in a statement said: "Their (the protesters') worry that young Muslims' faith in the religion would be threatened is unfounded.

"The cross does not have magical powers that can compromise a person's belief. As Muslims, the protestors should have faith in Allah, and should not be threatened by the symbols of other religion."

1Malaysia Foundation trustee Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye condemned the actions of the protestors, saying that it was the constitutional right of the people to practise any religion that they chose.

Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin Ali said: "The cross is a sacred symbol for the Christian community. To force them to remove the symbol is certainly unacceptable.

"It is disrespect to the Christian community."

Herman Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, slammed the actions of the protestors saying that the council was unhappy with the way the small group of demonstrators had taken the law into their own hands by disrupting the worship of a church and making religiously insensitive demands pertaining to the sacred symbol of Christians.

"The Council is not surprised that yet again such an incident has taken place in the state of Selangor."

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