HAF Condemns Continuing Destruction of Hindu Temples in Malaysia, Calls for Support to Protesting Malay Hindus

Washington D.C (Nov 19th 2007) - On October 30, 2007 the 100-year-old Maha Mariamman Temple in Padang Jawa was demolished by Malaysian authorities. Following that demolition, Works Minister and head of the Malaysian Indian Congress Samy Vellu, who is of Indian origin, said that Hindu temples built on government land were still being demolished despite his appeals to the various state chief ministers. According to Mr. Vellu, the Hindu community had no choice in the past but to build their temples on private or government-owned land, as they did not own any land of their own to build the temples. He said that the Malaysian government should not penalize people who merely wished to practice their religion. 

According to local newspaper reports, four people were hurt and dozens detained following scuffles between devotees of the Mariamman temple and the city authorities.

Such temple destructions in Malaysia have been reported in the 2006 Hindu Human Rights Report published by the Hindu American Foundation. Malaysia is a self-declared Islamic Republic and Islam is the official religion of the country despite Malaysia being a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country in which Hindus, Christians and Buddhists are significant minorities. The report noted that the Hindu population faced increased discrimination and intimidation, including the destruction of temples and places of worship. The government continued to treat pre-independence era Hindu temples differently than mosques from the same era, and gave preference to mosques in the allocation of public funds and lands.

Following the latest temple destruction, HAF urged Malaysian authorities to allow the gathering of Malay Hindus on November 25, 2007 to submit a petition to the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. The petition refers to the class action suit filed by the Malaysian Indian community against the Government of United Kingdom for its failure to protect the minority Indian community rights when it drafted the Constitution of Malaysia 50 years ago. 

The petition points out that the Government of Malaysia Restricts Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association contrary to Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Article 10 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, and that the application filed by Malay Indians to hold gatherings have been arbitrarily denied by the police. The Government has also tried to suppress a campaign launched by a Non-Government Organization, the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) to obtain 100,000 signatures in support of a civil suit against the Government of United Kingdom.  HINDRAF has accused the Malaysian government of intimidating and instilling fear in the Indian community. The tactics of the government include the following:

      a) Threat of arrest under the draconian Internal Security Act.

      b) Threat to demolish temples (if gatherings are held in the temples).

      c) Threat of arrest and criminal prosecution of venue owners for aiding in holding events.

      d) Sealing of temples and all access roads leading to the temples.

      e) Placing hundreds of riot police fully armed, etc.

"Malaysia authorities should stop the rightward slant of its policies on religious and cultural issues, and it should pay heed to the urgent calls of the Hindu minority community. Temple destruction should be stopped forthwith and a high-level committee be set up to systematically deal with issues relating to land on which temples stand, and to the rights of Hindus to worship at their temples," said Ramesh Rao, Research Fellow, HAF.

The Hindu American Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3), non-partisan organization, promoting the Hindu and American ideals of understanding, tolerance and pluralism.