Destruction of Hindu Temples in Malaysia

via published on March 9, 2007

In 2007, Malaysia will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Independence from British rule. But we wonder how much the Hindu community in Malaysia will be celebrating?

While Malaysia is mostly lauded in the press with praise of how wonderful the country is, how beautiful it is, and how all races there live in harmony, it is far from the reality. The increasing destruction, desecration and removal of Hindu temples in Malaysia has highlighted an ugly side to a nation which has been much vaunted as both an economic success story and as a successful model of multiculturalism.

The destruction of large numbers of Hindu temples in Malaysia has long been an important and emotive issue for Hindus in that country, and is increasingly becoming recognised by sections of the worldwide Hindu community as a serious security problem, akin to what Hindus face in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Malaysia is home to approximately two million Hindus and has thousands of Hindu temples and shrines, many built on private or plantation land before the country gained independence in 1957.

Hindu temples, many of which have historical value, have been being bulldozed at the rate of at least one every few weeks to make way for new developments. Generally the land that the temples stand on is acquired by local councils or state authorities, who then deem the temples to be illegal buildings and knock them down.

Hindu groups have undertaken street protests and have appealed to the government to halt the destruction and respect the rights of religious minorities in mainly Muslim Malaysia. Concern is growing that the situation will become volatile.

Hindu groups say the nationwide destruction of temples has been going on for at least two decades, but that demolitions have accelerated lately. They claim that most of the demolitions are unnecessary for the new developments that the temples are supposed to pave way for, and have demanded that alternative sites be allocated for relocation of temples before any are removed.

It is further alleged that some local councils have been deliberately provocative by the manner in which they carry out the demolitions, using hammers to smash shrines and burying Hindu deities.

Malaysia is an Islamic nation that has Shariah (Islamic law) courts running parallel to civil courts. The country’s 26 million people are roughly 55 percent Muslim Malay, with mostly Hindu Indians making up eight percent of the population and ethnic Chinese most of the remainder. Though all citizens of Malaysia have the constitutional right to practice their faith, but in recent years the rights minorities have been increasingly under threat.

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