Malaysia

On Facebook, fans of Jais church raid swell over 23,000

By Boo Su-Lyn
September 03, 2011

The Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) at the Dream Centre in Petaling Jaya. — file picThe Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) at the Dream Centre in Petaling Jaya. — file picKUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 — As controversy surrounding a church raid by the Selangor religious authorities drags on, a Facebook campaign backing the raid has drawn the support of over 23,000 people.

The Facebook page titled “1,000,000 umat Islam sokong JAIS & Hasan Ali cegah MURTAD” (1,000,000 Muslims support Jais & Hasan Ali to prevent apostasy) was created on August 6, three days after the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) disrupted a charity dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) a month ago on August 3.

The administrators of the Facebook page claimed that impoverished Malays have secretly joined church activities after Christian churches had extended help to them.

“In fact, this underground movement is growing throughout the country, including Kelantan and Terengganu,” said the administrators on the page.

Jais has said that it “inspected” the evangelical church — based in Petaling Jaya — after acting on a complaint that participants at the dinner were trying to convert the 12 Muslims present at the function to Christianity. Proselytising Muslims is against the law in Malaysia.

Selangor executive councillor Datuk Hasan Ali has said that the words “Quran” and “pray” were used in the presence of Muslims there, claiming that this was part of the authorities’ evidence of Christians proselytising to Muslims.

The contentious raid has escalated religious conflict between Muslims and Christians in the country, with Malay newspapers highlighting allegations of Christians trying to convert Muslims through welfare work.

Influential cleric Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, however, said recently that Muslims should take care of their own poor, instead of accusing Christians of proselytising when churches helped needy Muslims.

The Facebook page — which has a profile picture of a figure on a horse holding a flag with the words “Soldiers of Allah” below — has 23,736 “likes” at the time of writing.

“The report on (Jais’s) investigative visit to DUMC on August 3 was completed on August 4. Why is the full report being delayed until the end of September? Should the issue of apostasy in Selangor be silenced?” asked the page administrators on the Facebook wall.

Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said last Tuesday that Jais would complete a report on its raid by the end of September.

The Selangor hearing working group recently met Jais and representatives from NGO Harapan Komuniti — which organised the dinner at DUMC — in a bid to resolve the debacle that has incensed Muslims and Christians against the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration.

Harapan Komuniti — which helps AIDS patients and impoverished single mothers — has said it featured prayer, religious songs and a quiz on Islam at its dinner, but denied it was aimed at converting the Muslims present.

A Facebook group promoting apostasy among Muslims titled “Murtads in Malaysia and Singapore” recently stirred controversy after TV1 allegedly linked the group to Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders last Saturday.

The DAP has demanded that the government sack those responsible for airing the state television channel’s report, pointing out that TV1 did not verify such information with PR leaders who purportedly supported the online group.

“TV1 either were too ignorant to know, or did not want to know the fact that the “add to group” function in Facebook is such that you cannot prevent a group administrator from adding you to any group,” said DAP publicity chief Tony Pua.