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Joint Statement of Civil Society – Malaysia Will Not Bow to Acts of Violence
January 9, 2010
We the undersigned Malaysian civil society groups from different spiritual, cultural and ideological backgrounds condemn unconditionally in the strongest possible terms the arson against at least three churches following the controversy over the use of the word Allah.
We express our solidarity with the Metro Tabernacle Church at Desa Melawati, Church of the Assumption, Petaling Jaya and Life Chapel, Petaling Jaya, and other churches that have received threats, and to the Malaysian Christian community at large.
Nothing warrants such deliberately provocative violent acts, amounting to terrorism, on places of worship. Such violence however must not be seen as a communal conflict of Muslims and Christians. It is as much an affront to Islam and to all religions as it is to the Christians.
While we celebrate freedom of expression, no demonstration must be carried out to intimidate others who hold different opinions.
These acts are truly a blot on the image that we promote of ourselves as a harmonious multiracial and diverse society. It is also tantamount to an attack on the cardinal principle of the Rule of Law and the institution of the Judiciary who must at all times be left to decide on a case without fear, favour or intimidation.
We denounce those who shamelessly manipulate ethno-religious sentiments for their political gains. This sad situation has escalated due in part to the irresponsible responses from the Administration, which appears to be practicing double standards.
We further deeply regret that in postulating their grievances to advance their agenda, those quarters have sought to convolute the real issues touching on the constitutional right of expression and to practice one’s faith and, with the aid of certain segments of the media, both mainstream and otherwise.
We expect the police to now pursue the culprits in the serial arson attacks with their highest diligence and professionalism. Until the criminals are brought to book, the image of the Najib Administration and his “1Malaysia” slogan will be associated with violence and terrorism. We however categorically reject the proposed use of ISA against anyone. The arson suspects must be charged and tried in open court to delegitimize their barbaric act.
We call upon all groups with different views on the issue to seek rational dialogue and reach consensus.
No issue is too sensitive for rational debate in a democratic society. The threat of violence should not be used to kill democratic debate.