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Malay Hindus stage peaceful protest

Some 20 protestors urged King Jamalullail to help save Hindu temples and shrines in Malaysia.

india Updated: Jun 21, 2006 15:06 IST

Minority Hindus staged a peaceful protest on Wednesday to appeal to Malaysia's king to halt the demolition of temples and shrines by local authorities.

Some 20 protestors, led by members of the opposition People's Justice Party, held a banner outside the palace and urged King Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail to help "save Hindu temples" in the country.

Spokesman S Manikavasagam said thousands of Hindu houses of worship have been destroyed nationwide in the past decade -- including more than 30 this year alone -- to make way for development.

At least six other temples, all more than 100 years old, are being threatened with demolition.

He charged that local council officials were disrespectful and had in some cases used hammers to smash shrines and also buried Hindu deities.

"This act of barbarianism has brought about disturbance to peace and humanity and grave humiliation to the Hindu faith," he said.

"We are not against development but they should give devotees an alternative site to worship. We are very concerned about the fate of the Hindu community."

Hindu activists have held several peaceful protests in recent months. Manikavasagam said they are turning to the king for help because appeals to the government have been ignored.

In a memorandum to the king submitted to a palace official, the activists called for an immediate halt to temple demolition by local councils and for affected land to be set aside as Hindu temple reserves.

They said developers must provide alternative sites and compensation if temples need to be relocated, and urged the king to protect non-Muslims' right to worship.

Allegations of religious discrimination are unusual in Malaysia, which takes pride in its racial harmony and discourages overt disagreements.

Ethnic Indians, who are mostly Hindus, represent about 8 per cent of Malaysia's 26 million people.

Malay Muslims comprise about 60 per cent of the population, and ethnic Chinese account for about a quarter.

All citizens have the constitutional right to practice their faith, but minorities have complained in recent years that their rights are being eroded.