05/26/2006, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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Hindus protest destruction of their temples by government

A group of protesters gathered outside the capital's town hall to call on the government to stop the demolition of Hindu temples. "We are not asking for a place to play billiards, but for a place to pray".

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Malaysia's Hindu minority yesterday, 25 May, held a rare protest against the demolition of its temples, ordered by the government. Around 50 believers gathered outside the town hall of Kuala Lumpur and threatened to file a civil suit against the government and local councils for "destruction of private property".

The demonstrators prepared placards that said: "Demolishing temples is criminal". During the protest, they chanted prayers to the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva, and smashed a coconut as a sacrificial offering.

The activists who organized the protest said hundreds of Hindu houses of worship have been destroyed in the past 15 years, thanks to the growing "Islamisation" of Malaysia.  Such accusations are rare in a country that takes long-standing pride in its "inter-racial harmony" and its "attention towards minorities".

About 60% of Malaysia's 26 million people are Malay Muslims. Chinese, most of them Buddhist or Christian, represent about 25% of the reminder, and ethnic Indians - mostly Hindus - make up 10%.

The protesters said: "The government's pride is unjustified". P.Uthayakumar, the lawyer representing the group, said: "At least seven Hindu houses of worship have been torn down since late February. We are not asking for a club to play billiards. We are not asking for a prostitution centre. We are asking for our temples to pray." Kamal Pasha Jamal, the capital's police chief, and other government officials contacted, refused to comment about the accusations.

The protesters were turned away by the police who refused to accept the regular petition presented by the lawyer. Public security officials said: "It cannot be regular, because the demolished temples were build illegally on public land."

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