KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Ahead of a planned protest by Muslim groups outside a Klang church this morning, a group of Malaysians of different religions have decided to band together to protect and support the Christians there.
Azrul Mohd Khalib, one of the co-ordinators of this “solidarity gathering” at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Klang, said it was born out of concern over the state of religious freedom in Malaysia.
Last Thursday’s raid of the Bible Society of Malaysia’s office by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) was the latest in a series of stand-offs between the Christians and Muslims in the country.
“Basically this proposed gathering outside the church tomorrow is where a lot of people have decided that enough is enough and we need to be able to protect our brothers and sisters.
“Malaysians have every right to practise their religion the way they see fit. We should not be in any way restricting or preventing or involving ourselves in any way which prevents them from doing so,” the human rights activist told The Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday afternoon.
Azrul explained that the “solidarity gathering” was “inspired” by the events in Egypt during the toppling of the government there, where “Muslims held hands to form a band around churches that were threatened by the violence that was going on.”
A Facebook event page for the gathering titled “IN THE NAME OF ALLAH” was only started yesterday morning, but over 200 Malaysians including social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir had confirmed their attendance, Azrul said.
Malaysians have every right to practise their religion the way they see fit. We should not be in any way restricting or preventing or involving ourselves in any way which prevents them from doing so. — Azrul Mohd Khalib
“There’s more than 200 persons who have confirmed going there to show solidarity with the Christian community in Klang,” he said, saying that the group cuts across religious and ethnic groups.
Marina confirmed that she intends to attend today’s gathering with some of her friends to show solidarity for the Christian community.
“I think it’s a terrible thing to protest at people who are going to a house of worship. We want to go and show solidarity to them,” the daughter of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said when contacted yesterday afternoon.
When asked about the solidarity movement’s plans, Azrul stressed that it was not a rally and would be a “quiet, peaceful gathering” to avoid disrupting the church service.
“Basically it’s just to show solidarity, it is not to demonstrate or do some sort of a march,” he said, saying that the group will make their intentions and plans clear to the police officers stationed at the church.
“If it’s necessary that they join hands and form a human chain around the church, then it will happen,” he said.