Seafield temple fracas: How is your faith?

Opinion  |  S Thayaparan
Published:  |  Modified:

“Every man who has in his soul a secret feeling of revolt against any act of the State, of life, or of destiny, is on the verge of riot; and so soon as it appears, he begins to quiver, and to feel himself borne away by the whirlwind.”

– Victor Hugo, Les Misérables

COMMENT | Saying the temple protests in the last two days were proof that “good gestures are not always appreciated”, Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin called on Malay groups planning to hold a rally next month to oppose Malaysia’s joining of the global anti-discrimination treaty, Icerd, to instead hold a rally for “Muslim survival”.

People always ask me, what is the issue the Malay/Muslim far right have with temples? That is an easy question to answer. Hindu temples are all over the place. It is a fact that some of these structures are “illegal”. While some have a history like the Seafield Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, others have less of a pedigree.

Hindu temples are in your face. While Christian places of worship are subject to strict rules when it comes to Islamic sensitivities – the cross for instance apparently has a debilitating effect on some people – Hindu temples are gaudy architectural provocations for people who believe in the supremacy of their faith

But forget about this for a moment. If this was a mosque of more than 100 years old, and a court ruled in favour of corporate interest, what do you think the consequences would have been for the corporate entity when it came to this piece of land? I love the way how some people talk about legal judgments as if they are made in a vacuum when it comes to vested political and corporate interest. As usual, when it comes to an Indian issue, people have faith in the system.

The Perlis mufti, for instance, thinks that the BN government was too soft with these illegal Hindu temples. He wants the Harapan government to uphold the rule of law when it comes to a historical site which is essentially what the Seafield temple is. He believes this so strongly that he uses this incident to call for the Dec 8 anti-Icerd “celebration” to be one for Muslim survival.

I have very little interest in temple committees. I think that they are a bunch of parasites who use their office to further their own economic agendas that have very little to do with religion. In the Seafield temple case, for instance, I have no doubt that temple committee intrigue is part of the problem. There are more informed people who should have the courage to speak up on this issue than me.

Having said that, when it comes to religion in Malaysia, everything is racial. Asri, for instance, prefers to use the law against what he believes is an existential threat to the Muslim community. Meanwhile, the “gangsters” who trespassed into this Hindu place of worship were relying on the weakness of the institutions to facilitate whatever they were allegedly hired to do.

Eyewitness reports claim that the state security apparatus was lackadaisical in containing the situation, while the state security apparatus claims that it had to be restrained because this was a place of worship and to do otherwise would add fuel to the fire. Who do you believe? How does your experience inform you about your faith in the system? Not an easy question to answer...

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