June 20, 2006
Unlicensed temples have been abolished to dust all around Klang Valley recently. Take a look at the following:
Picture from malaysiakini.com and also the following excerpt:
Over the years, local authorities have been regularly demolishing temples saying the structures were built illegally. Most were small wayside shrines.
However, in recent years, several large 100-year-old temples, built during the British colonial era, were demolished not just because they stood in the way of development but simply because they were classified as "illegal structures”.
There have been protests and demonstrations at the time of temple-bulldozing, but to little avail. In the last three temples, nine temples have been brought down. Demolishing these temples have not helped sentiments of the Hindus in feeling welcome, nor part of this country… (doesn't take a genius to figure this one out)…
If the temples are a sacred place of worship, and if the constitution guarantees freedom of worship, then bulldozing a place of worship of a group means acting against the Constitution. Sure, the argument given is that they are illegal and without permit. Authorities could practise a little grace and allow "grace periods" for the temple owners to apply for permits. (How quickly the permit is granted is another story lah) The temples are mostly for those in the lower income group, who are unable to take legal action.
And the picture cries out to me, because for many, these have been their central point of life, their comfort zone, their oasis in the desert of poverty.
I do not know the detailed historical background of this story, and do not claim to, but it is no comedy any longer. If this is called embracing a multireligious society, I can but smile wryly or shed a quiet tear for this increasingly marginalised group.
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