Malaysian Govt threatens to use security laws over religious instability

Reacting swiftly to a protest outside a Church after false rumours of a mass baptism of Muslim converts, the Malaysian Government has threatened to use sedition and internal security laws against those who stir up religious instability in the multi-ethnic nation.

The Malaysian Star reports that police have interviewed five persons in connection with a widely circulated SMS alleging that a group of Muslims were to be baptised at a church here.

State police chief Dept Comm Datuk Aziz Bulat revealed that the five were from Perak, but declined to say if they were linked to any organisation or political party.

"They are not suspects, but people whom we believe can assist in our investigations," he told reporters after attending a monthly state police gathering here on Tuesday.

The police, he added, would speak to more people in the course of investigating the SMS, which sparked off a four-hour protest in front of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Sunday.

"If there is a need to go beyond that, we will do so," DCP Aziz said, adding that no arrest had been made so far.

About 1,000 people, including members of political parties and non-governmental organisations, had gathered in front of the church as early as 7.30am that day to protest against the alleged baptism only to find out it was actually the first Holy Communion for 110 Catholic children.

The Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) and the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), praising the police for their swift action in averting any untoward incident at the church, called for an investigation to uncover any malicious intent to disrupt harmony between people of different religions.

"The CFM fully supports the actions taken by the Perak police, especially the investigation to uncover the malicious intent of the culprit(s) to disrupt harmony between the different religions and ethnic communities in Malaysia," CFM chairman Bishop Paul Tan, Catholic bishop of Johor, said in a statement.

CCM president Bishop Tan Sri Dr Lim Cheng Ean and secretary-general Rev Dr Hermen Shastri said worshippers attending church should not be subjected to "trepidation caused by unruly mobs".

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak have lashed out at those responsible for spreading the SMS and said the culprits should be severely punished.

Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan had said the police would charge the culprit under the Sedition Act for sending out the offensive SMS, which also implicated national mariner Datuk Azhar Mansor.

Deputy Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum also threatened to use the country's notorious Internal Security Act "to deter people from repeating or disseminating such lies and rumours".

"Remember, ours is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation. Any malice-intended content could lead to untoward incidents," he told reporters after visiting the Terengganu state police headquarters here on Tuesday.


Govt considering using ISA to deal with culprits instigating instability (The Star, 7/11/06)

Police interview five in connection with SMS alleging Muslims were to be baptised in church (The Star, 7/11/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Silibin (Diocese of Penang)

Malaysian Church besieged over conversion rumours (CathNews, 7/11/06)
No joy for Malaysian Muslim convert to Catholicism (CathNews, 25/8/06)

8 Nov 2006