Published on: Monday, January 06, 2014
For the past few days, Selangor Umno had threatened massive protests outside Selangor churches for what they claimed was an attempt by Christians to usurp the exclusive right to calling their God "Allah", a demonstration their chief called off Saturday after being warned they stood to violate a law that bars assemblies within 50 metres of any place of worship.
"This is really overwhelming to see support from Malaysians of all walks of life," the Catholic parish priest, Rev Father Michael Chua, told reporters.
"We feel truly encouraged and supported." Protesters from the Klang Muslims Solidarity Secretariat group, which had promised to rally on against Christian use of the Arabic word for God, were nowhere to be seen outside the church while four policemen stood watch.
The 8am mass, which was conducted in English, saw an attendance of about 900 people, according to church parish administrator E. A. Louis.
Some churchgoers were even seated outside the 86-year-old church under the bright morning sun as pews inside were fully occupied.
Several church members said they felt overwhelmed by the support shown by some 20 people of various religious faiths who showed up in solidarity, including social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, holding a bouquet of yellow carnations, white and red roses.
"That's real 1 Malaysia spirit," church member Datin Mary Ng said.
Siti Kassim, the organiser of the solidarity rally, said that she had organised the event to show that there are Malays who disagreed with the attacks against Christians.
"We want to show that there are a lot of Malays like us who disagree and don't like how Islam has been hijacked by extremists.
The raid was absolutely appalling," she said.
The lawyer was referring to the shocking raid last Thursday by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) office, where Islamic religious officials who were accompanied by the police, seized over 300 copies of Malay and Iban-language bibles.
Marina told reporters that she stood in solidarity with the church to show that "Islam is a religion of peace".
"A protest is a right of everyone, but they shouldn't enter the premises," said Marina.
"The raid is despicable. It should never have happened.
It's completely beyond the pale. Nobody enters the house of worship of another religion without permission," she added.
Marina also said that the word "Allah" "belongs to all.
If we believe that God is one, then the word is for all," she said.
Marina, who is also a member of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), said that the council would be discussing the "Allah" issue today.
Meanwhile, about 100 people representing NGOs and political organisations under the umbrella of the Klang District Muslim Solidarity Secretariat held a peaceful demonstration at the Sultan Sulaiman field in protest.