Saturday, December 8, 2007

Islamisation of Malaysia, persecution of Hindus

Islamisation of Malaysia, persecution of Hindus – Kanchan Gupta
Sunday, December 09, 2007

Malaysia Hindus persecuted

Malaysia, not truly Asia
Kanchan Gupta

Water canons used to disperse protesting Malaysian Indians in Kuala Lumpur
The brutal crackdown on Malaysia’s ethnic Indian community for demanding equal rights and a better deal should have left India incandescent with rage and South Block fuming. Instead, we have heard nothing more than a timid squeak in the form of the UPA Government informing Parliament that it has “taken up the issue” with the Malaysian authorities. There has been no robust statement, nor has there been a gesture of solidarity with Malaysia’s Hindus under attack. Thirty-one of them have been picked up for joining a protest march and charged with “attempt to murder” and equally serious offences which, if ‘proved’ in Malaysia’s kangaroo courts (recall the Anwar Ibrahim trial), could fetch them heavy penalties. The Prime Minister, who spent sleepless nights after an Indian Muslim was detained in Australia for his connections with the two Glasgow Airport bombers (both Indian Muslims), is not known to have shown even the remotest interest in the persecution of Hindus in Malaysia, leave alone utter a single word to register the Government of India’s protest. A conspiracy of silence has been hatched by those who believe even the mildest rebuke would upset the ummah in both Malaysia and India and cast aspersions on the Prime Minister’s ‘Muslims Über Alles’ policy which, funnily though, is yet to swing Muslim votes for the Congress.
It would, therefore, be in order to place on record the salient points made by Mr P Waytha Moorthy, chairman of Malaysia’s Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), the organisation which has been leading the agitation for a more equitable and egalitarian deal for that country’s ethnic Indians. He was in Delhi recently and made an eloquent presentation about the plight of the “forgotten, marginalised and persecuted” Hindu community of Indian origin in his country. Mr Moorthy stressed on four points that outline the situation prevailing in Malaysia:

• The demolition of Hindu temples on the instructions of Malaysian authorities, who are pro-actively involved with the Islamisation drive, has gathered extraordinary speed. At least “10,000 Hindu temples have been demolished” in Malaysia since its independence 50 years ago. Many of the temples were as old as 150 years and integral to Malaysia’s multi-cultural, multi-religious society; more important, they were a part of Malaysia’s civilisational history. By razing them, Malaysia is not only disowning its past but also stripping Hindus of their dignity and self-respect.
• The Government sanctioned Islamisation drive has moved into top gear. While in office, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, backed by his party, Umno, had launched a two-point programme to give Malaysia a distinctly Islamic character. The first part of the programme was aimed at promoting Islamic values, setting up Islamic institutions and embracing pan-Islamism by securing a place for Malaysia on Islamic fora. The other part of the programme focussed on reviving the ‘bhoomiputra’ policy of the 1970s by promoting the interests of ethnic Malays, who are Muslim and form just over 55 per cent of Malaysia’s population. As part of this campaign, Muslims got precedence over others in Government, bureaucracy and education. Simultaneously, shari’ah court rulings are being made increasingly binding on non-Muslims, “especially in matters of inter-faith marriages and religious identity of children”.
This point is illustrated by a story filed by PTI from Kuala Lumpur on September 17, which is reproduced verbatim below:
An ethnic Indian Hindu woman has urged Malaysia’s highest civil court to stop her Muslim husband, who had embraced Islam, from converting their sons to the religion against her wishes.
Subashini Rajasingam, an ethnic Indian Hindu married Saravanan Thangathoray five years ago and the couple has two sons — Dharvin and Sharvind. However, Saravanan told Subashini last November (2006) that he had converted to Islam.
Twenty-nine-year-old Subashini, a clerk, attempted suicide and was hospitalised. When she returned home, she found that her husband had left with their son Dharvin, who he claimed had also converted to Islam.
The woman turned to the courts to prevent her husband from converting Sharvind and from seeking a divorce in a Shari’ah Court instead of a civil court. However, the Court of Appeal ruled in March she should argue her case in the Shari’ah Court. She then approached the Federal Court against the verdict.
• More than two-thirds of the people of Indian origin in Malaysia, living in that country for 200 years and forming 10 per cent of the population, are economically deprived because of their ethnicity and religious identity. Seventy per cent of Malaysia’s ethnic Indians are manual labourers and daily wage earners. This vast underclass is oppressed and suppressed by ethnic Malays with more than a little help from their Government. There are no official welfare programmes for the Hindu minority.
• The number of Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam schools has dwindled drastically, even though the population has increased manifold. The Malaysian Government is deliberately callous about the educational needs of the ethnic Indians. This is because the authorities want to “cut off the cultural and spiritual heritage” of ethnic Indians.
Not surprisingly, our national media with its skewered ‘secular’ agenda has not bothered to publicise the details provided by Mr Moorthy. Horror stories emanating from Kuala Lumpur have been suitably downplayed while outrageous comments by those wielding the stick in Malaysia have been front-paged. The overwhelming view appears to be that India should remain aloof and not get tangled with “Malaysia’s internal issues”. As a principle, this is unexceptionable. But since when has the UPA Government begun to live by principles?
The Islamisation of Malaysia should worry India. In fact, the galloping progress of radical Islam in South-East Asia should scare the daylights out of us. Malaysia has officially embraced Islamisation; Indonesia is Islamised; Thailand is putting up a valiant, though some would say losing, fight; and the Philippines Army is locked in a fierce battle with radical Islamists. Both our western and eastern flanks are now inimical to us; to pretend otherwise would be, to use an old-fashioned cliché, tantamount to adopting an ostrich-like attitude. With the Government burying its head in the sand, India is a sitting duck for Islamists of all shades and ethnicities. We would be well-advised to start losing some sleep over this.
December 9, 2007

Should India care for ethnic Indians in other countries?
Sudheendra Kulkarni
Posted online: Sunday, December 09, 2007 at 0000 hrs IST

My first surprise discovery about Malaysia many years ago was that its national language Bahasa, a derivative of bhasha, is full of Sanskrit words. The second was a recent visit to a Hindu temple at the Batu caves, just 13 km out of Kuala Lumpur, which is indeed one of the wonders of the world. Dedicated to Lord Murugan (son of Shiva), it is located in a cavern atop a 400 million-year-old limestone mountain.

The exhaustion due to the 272-step climb was offset by the sight of marvellous carvings from Hindu mythology, depicting scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the lives of revered Tamil poets. “You should come here at the time of the annual Thaipusam (puja of Murugan’s mother) festival,” my Tamil guide told me. “A million devotees gather here, many of them, like those in north India, coming on foot as kavadias, from far corners of Malaysia.”

Malaysia, as its fabulously successful tourism promotion campaign advertises, is in many ways ‘truly Asia’. Its 2.7 crore population has Malays (60 per cent), ethnic Chinese (24 per cent), ethnic Indians (10 per cent) and indigenous tribes (6 per cent). Like neighbouring Indonesia, Malaysia too has until now displayed remarkable tolerance of religious pluralism, which is rare for a Muslim-majority country. Sadly, a different and unflattering reality of Malaysia has come to light in recent years: how its government has been subjecting the People of Indian Origin (PIOs) in general, and Hindus in particular, to discrimination, injustice and persecution. Islam is Malaysia’s official religion. All Malays are, by the constitution, Muslim. The law bars their conversion out of Islam, but permits proselytisation of non-Muslims. There was the famous case in 2005 of M. Moorthy, an Everest climber who became a national hero. After death, he was buried according to Islamic rites. Reason: the Sharia court upheld the Muslim claim that Moorthy had converted to Islam just before his death, a contention that his widow stoutly refuted. The high court rejected her appeal, saying that since she was not Muslim, she could not testify in a matter pertaining to Islam.

On November 26, for the first time in Malaysia’s history, some 30,000 ethnic Indians held a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur, with posters of Mahatma Gandhi and banners that read, “We want equal right”. It faced a severe police crackdown. Last week, I met P. Waythamoorthy, chairman of the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF), which had organised the rally. Currently in India to mobilise support for the ‘forgotten’ and ‘persecuted’ Malaysian Hindu community, what he said was indeed worrisome.

“Thousands of Hindu temples have been demolished in Malaysia in the last 50 years. Most of these were clan temples built more than 150 year ago by people from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala, who had been brought here by the British to work in rubber plantations. Hindus are stripped of their dignity and self-respect by this vindictive act. There has been a systematic campaign to Islamise the Malaysian state, which has alarmed not only the Hindus, but also Buddhists, Christians and Taoists,” he said.

Moorthy said: “A majority of ethnic Indians are pushed to the lowest rung of the economic-educational-employment ladder. We have the lowest per capita income, highest number of beggars and squatters, highest suicide rate, and lowest intake in government jobs and universities. Indians are treated as third-class citizens.”
Moorthy, however, was quick to add: “Hindus in Malaysia have always been loyal, law-abiding and peaceful citizens.” Three of his colleagues have been charged with sedition — “for speaking the truth” — and 31 others face murder charges, under a law that denies them bail.
The developments in Malaysia — the condition of Hindus in Bangladesh is far worse — pose an important question before India’s political and intellectual class: should India care for ethnic Indians in other countries? Or should our government simply sit quiet on the plea that this is an internal matter of a foreign country, in which it cannot interfere? Since the issue concerns primarily the Hindus, our ‘secularists’ will most likely advise the UPA government to ‘lay off’, which is exactly what Malaysian authorities have told our government leaders. The advice must not be heeded. India has a moral duty to act whenever ethnic Indians anywhere in the world suffer racial or religious persecution.

But will Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi speak out in this matter? And will leading representatives of the Muslim community in India condemn the ill treatment of Hindus in Malaysia? I believe.

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