A new church in Taman Medan (corner shoplot) was forced to remove the cross from its building after a protest by some 50 people who said it was challenging Islam. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, April 20, 2015.
Social media users were up in arms over reports that a new church in Taman Medan was forced to remove the cross from its building after a protest by Muslim residents there yesterday, while Selangor Menteri Besar Mohamed Azmin Ali also condemned the protest as unacceptable and disrespectful.
“The cross is a sacred symbol for the Christian community. To force them to remove the symbol is certainly unacceptable and disrespectful to the Christian community,” Azmin was quoted saying by The Star Online today after a meeting for state government departments.
Meanwhile on Twitter, many condemned yesterday’s protest by a group of Malays said to be Umno members. Some said it was proof that religious tolerance was on shaky ground in Malaysia.
@joethewong said: “The protest over a church cross at Taman Medan is the reason we can’t live in peace.”
“The Cross was on a Church building, where else should it be? Why have we become so intolerant, so sensitive? Be fair and rational #Malaysiaku,” said user @amirfareedrahim.
“Looks like Malaysia is going to fall real soon. Can’t even have a church in Taman Medan. Umm… No freedom,” added @JustinDeLalaKid.
@RajaMohdShahrim also noted: “The cross in Taman Medan church has been taken down after protests. This is NOT Right..!!”
Some 50 people yesterday gathered outside the new church which is housed in a corner shoplot to demand that the cross affixed to the house of worship be removed, as it was challenging Islam, The Star Online reported.
The protesters, led by Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, reportedly said the presence of a cross in a Muslim-majority area posed a challenge to the religion and could sway the faith of the youth.
“After meeting with the priest, the church agreed to take down the cross by next Sunday. If they have the authority to run, we cannot stop it,” Abdullah was quoted as saying.
“But we ask out of concern, being a Malay area, that they take down the cross.”
The cross was taken down by church leaders a few hours after the protest.
Umno leader Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who is also chief executive of Global Movement of Moderates, joined in condemning the actions of the protesters.
Through a series of postings on his Twitter and Facebook accounts, the former higher education minister said demanding that a church take down its cross was un-Islamic, and called on Muslims to uphold the true message of the religion.
“Cara tegakkan Islam ialah dgn bijaksana, pengajaran baik & debat/dialog terbaik (an Nahl 125). Bukan dgn turunkn salib d gereja,” he said.
(The way to uphold Islam is through wisdom, good teachings and the best dialogue/debate. Not by bringing down the cross at a church.)
“Klu kita amal Islam dgn baik,bkn-Islam x ada sbb nk salahkn kita. Klu mrk prsoal azan dsb,baiki/jelaskn. Islam agama nasihat, bkn dendam.”
(If we practise Islam well, non-Muslims have no reason to blame us. If they question about the azan (call to prayer), rectify/explain. Islam is a religion of advising, not vengeance)
He added: “Lookg at d bigger picture: kalimah Allah,seizure of Bibles,d cross,Sedition Act etc): are we upholding Islam tht is mercy to all? (sic).”
Several Twitter users, including social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, also asked how the cross could affect the faith of Muslims, as claimed by the protesters.
“It is a sad day indeed when Muslims start believing that inanimate objects have power over them,” she tweeted.
“Just read about the church’s cross taken down. Man, is the cross affect your solid faith?,” said @nasiruddinayup.
@nedmohd said: “What’s all this brouhaha about a cross in a church?? Aku dulu pi missionary school.. La Salle.. salib berlambak… tak pulak ilang iman.”
Others commended the church for diffusing the situation by immediately removing the cross after the protest.
“Full respect towards the priest of Taman Medan church in the patience and tolerance of handling the stupidity of the Meleis residence there,” said @JeasonJilan.
@ewanroslan13 said: “Props to the church who taken down their cross due to people insensitivity berating about it. You guys stayed true to your teachings.”
Meanwhile, Taman Medan assemblyman Haniza Talha said that the protest had been politically motivated.
“I feel obliged to explain the situation as the actions of the PJS Umno members have caused negative perception towards Islam and the Muslims especially.
“Umno, once again, uses Islam for its narrow political agenda and racism,” she said in a statement today.
She also said that the leader of the protest, Abdullah, who said he was the village head, was lying as he did not live in Taman Medan.
“After investigations, the individuals present have links to PJS Umno, whether they have had posts before or still are holding posts in the branch/division, Youth or Women,” the PKR lawmaker added.
Haniza said that the actions of the protesters had insulted Muslims, especially those in Taman Medan, as they had made it seem as if the faith of Muslims was easily shaken because of the existence of the church and cross in the neighbourhood.
“In fact, the extreme action has given a negative perception towards Islam and Muslims. Now, Muslims are seen as obsessed and extreme by stopping non-Muslims from practising their respective religions.
“Islam teaches its followers to treat those of other faiths well so that Islam is not attacked. Surah Al-kaafirun clearly states that each to his own religion and Islam will not be forced on others.
“I advise those who are involved in the protest of the Taman Medan church to go back to the real teachings of Islam that was brought by the Prophet Muhammad and leave any action that is against the teachings of the religion,” she said.