Malaysia is to launch a damage control exercise by telling foreign envoys that last week’s attacks on churches were aberrations and not representative of the tradition of the Muslim majority multi-racial nation.
The move came as 130 Muslim non-government organisations (NGOs) offered to be “eyes and ears” of the government to keep a watch on the Christian shrines across the country to avoid further attacks.
Incidents of stone throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks occurred last week after a high court judgement upheld the right of a magazine published by the Catholic church to carry the word ‘Allah’ on its masthead.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak condemned the attacks and said that his government would appeal against the judgement.
Home Minister Hishamuddin Tun Hussein has confirmed attacks on seven churches, but said the situation was under control and not serious.
“So far the attacks have involved stone throwing and arson attempts. There is no serious damage,” he was quoted as saying in The Star Monday.
Hussein said: “We need to explain to the people outside the country as the issue has been played up by certain parties. So we will meet the envoys and I will brief them.”
Seven churches were vandalised in national capital Kuala Lumpur as well as Selangor, Perak, Malacca and Sarawak states.
The Metro Tabernacle church in Desa Melawati, Wangsa Maju was badly damaged by fire.
Condemning the attacks in an editorial, the New Straits Times said this should be treated “as a wake up call” and efforts be made to restore harmony among various religious groups.
Fixing the damage done to the shrines would be one way to assuage the public feelings, the newspaper said.
The Malaysian government is concerned that the incidents could affect its tourist traffic and the inflow of foreign students.
Higher Education Minister Mohammed Khaled Nordin said the incidents might have an adverse effect on foreigners thinking of studying here due to the global nature of today’s world.
He said officers would be told to clarify that these were rare incidents that were not consistent with the practices in the country.
“We will be in repair mode,” the minister was quoted as saying in New Straits Times.
–Indo-Asian News Service