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Tension in Malaysia over cow head to protest Hindu shrine relocation

world Updated: Aug 30, 2009 21:43 IST

A day ahead of Malaysia's 52nd independence day, authorities were busy on Sunday tackling tension over the display of a severed cow head at the head of a procession to protest the relocation of a Hindu shrine.

The incident occurred on Saturday in Shah Alam, capital of Selangor state, prompting Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to direct Police Inspector General Musa Hasan to investigate the matter.

The Selangor government on Sunday condemned and expressed regret over the "provocative, offensive and deliberate use" of the severed head of a cow by a group of people to stage a protest against the proposed relocation of a Hindu temple to a locality known as Section 23 in Kuala Lumpur.

Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said in a statement: "We condemn the incident and despicable act as it has taken the entire nation a step backward in all efforts towards mutual respect among the various races and religions. It is indeed appalling that such religious intolerance still exists amongst fellow Malaysians."

A group of 50 people claiming to be residents of Section 23 placed a cow's head on the gates of the state secretariat building to protest the proposed relocation of the temple.

Earlier Sunday, four Pakatan elected representatives held a discussion on the incident with Shah Alam district police chief ACP Nor Azam Jamaluddin.

They were Shah Alam member of parliament Khalid Samad, Klang MP Charles Santiago, Pandamaran state assembly member Ronnie Liu and Seri Andalas, state assembly member A Xavier Jayakumar, an ethnic Indian leader.

As Selaqngor was tackling the situation, a word of concern came again from the federal government.

The Selangor government needs to quickly find a solution on the issue of relocating a Hindu temple to Section 23, Shah Alam, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Senator Koh Tsu Koon.

Koh said issues of a religious nature must be tackled wisely to avoid complications for the parties involved.

The manner of the protest has drawn strong condemnation from various parties for insulting religious sensitivities.

Selangor is ruled by the opposition alliance, Pakatan Rakyat. Its Chief Minister Ibrahim asked everyone to remain calm and urged the police to act without fear or favour, The Star newspaper said on Sunday.

Shah Alam district police chief Jamaluddin, who had a discussion with Pakatan Rakyat leaders Saturday, said police had not taken action at the scene of the protest as they did not want to create further tension.

Rodziah said the state government would hold an open discussion on the relocation issue Sep 5 with residents, Shah Alam City Council officials and representatives from the Selangor State Development Corporation.

Removal or relocation of religious shrines is a sensitive issue in multi-ethnic Malaysia.

The Hindus, who form a bulk of the nearly two million ethnic Indian population, have frequently protested against these decisions and acts of the authorities.

The present case pertains to a 150-year-old shrine that has been shifted by the devotees in the past.

The government has held that the temples removed or relocated were either illegally constructed or stood on government land and could not be allowed to continue.