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Prayer Alert (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Title: Selangor
Description: FYI #64, 2007-1-30 Pray for the States (updated 2008-10-3)

Selangor, Darul Ehsan, Abode of Sincerity

 

Capital                                Shah Alam (Royal Capital: Klang)

Sultan                                 Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah

Menteri Besar                   Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim

 

Statistics (Malaysia Statistics Dept., 2005)

Population 4,736,100 (est.): Malay 50.73% (or 41%), Other Bumiputera 1.46% (Temuan, Mah-Meri), Chinese 28.07% (or 37%), Indian 13.45% (or 19%), Others 1.04%, Non-citizens 5.25% (Indonesian, Myanmar, Bangladeshi, Nepali, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese)

(Selangor State Govt., 2007) 4.96 million (est.): Malay 55.7%, Chinese 29%, Indian 14%, Others 1.3%

 

Religious breakdown (2000) Islam 55.7%, Buddhism 24.4%, Hinduism 12.1%, Taoism/Confucianism 2.0%, Christianity 4.3%, Tribal 0.3%, Others 0.4%, No Religion 0.5%, Unknown 0.3%.

Incidence of poverty (2004) 1.0%

 

Due to its rapid economic growth, Selangor is currently the most populous, riches, most industrialized and most urbanized of all the Malaysian states. It is the 2nd richest in terms of GDP per capita after Penang. On 27 August 2005, Selangor was officially declared the first developed state in Malaysia.

 

 

Historical & Political Development in Brief

The rich tin reserves in Selangor attracted miners, immigrants and colonizers. Among them were different bands of Bugis. By 1700 the Bugis dominated the state both politically and economically and established the present Sultanate of Selangor.

 

 

Economic boom and the growing importance of rubber drew an influx of Chinese migrants. However, the continuous in-fighting between the Bugis contending for control and the presence of rival Chinese clans had created social and economic havoc. In addition, conflicts among the Malay princes had threatened to bring about civil war. All these eventually opened a window of opportunity for the British.

 

 

Selangor was forced to accept a British Resident in 1874 and united with Negeri Sembilan, Perak and Pahang to form the Federated Malay States (FMS) in 1896. The capital of FMS was Kuala Lumpur. The state government was under British management except the administration of Islam and the appointment of religious officials (which remained in the sultans hands).  The first British-backed sultan, Sultan Sulaiman, was installed in 1903. FMS later evolved into the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and Federation of Malaysia in 1963.

 

 

In the 1969 elections, the ruling coalition (Barisan Nasional) suffered great setback. The opposition DAP and the then opposition Gerakan held the victory procession to celebrate their gain. They however deviated from the permitted route and headed through the Malay district of Kampung Baru, jeering at the people. This led to a rally held by UMNO, started from the home of Selangor menteri besar Harun Idris (Gordon, 1991). Clashes involving the Malays and Chinese soon broke out, which became the famously known May 13 Incident. The riots continued for a substantial period of time, and a state of national emergency was declared with suspension of Parliament until 1971.

 

 

In 1970, the city of Kuala Lumpur was relinquished to the federal government.

 

The Sultan is the constitutional head of Selangor, who plays largely a ceremonial role.

 

The 2008 March election ended the reign of the Barisan Nasional state government. The new state government is now under Pakatan Rakyat (a loose coalition of DAP, PKR and PAS) with Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim of PKR as the new menteri besar. 

 

For the first time, a Chinese is being elected as the state assembly speaker, and a woman as a deputy speaker. The new state executive council has also opened a new historical chapter with half of ifs members being non-Malays. 

 

Islamization & Religious Freedom

Selongor is by far the most modernised and westernised state. Yet the emergence of clashes between the religious fervour and religious tolerance and diversity is no less alarming than many so-called conservative states. Religion has also been used to achieve ones political mileage. The menteri besar (MB), Dato Seri Dr Mohamed Khir Toyo, in his attempt to garner support for UMNO, urged the younger generation of Malays to defend their special rights and Islam. Otherwise UMNO would be destroyed, he said (Bernama, 2006-8-27).

 

Deviationists

While religious freedom (Article 11 of the Federal Constitution) is generally respected, it is constrained to those who do not profess Islamic faith. What was said by a Malay woman at a forum some months ago is worthy of note. On behalf of 30 Malay followers of an alleged deviant group, she spoke, We feel oppressed even though we are Malay Muslims because we had chosen to practise religion our own way. This is something that the state agencies hold as a deviation from Islam when our actions are based on the Al-Quran itself& Who has the right to speak for Muslims? Were facing discrimination following our leaders detention by Selangor religious authorities. If they disagree with our way, then just let us be. As a minority group, we feel there is no freedom of religion in Malaysia (malaysiakini.com, 2006-3-13).

 

Believing that deviationist teaching defiles the sanctity of Islam and endangers the community, the Selangor Religious Affairs Department (JAIS) closely monitors groups that are deemed to be heretical. Those who are found guilty are sent to a rehabilitation centre in Ulu Yam. In response to the Sky Kingdom group led by Ayah Pin, some state lawmakers had actually proposed to use Internal Security Act (Star, 2005-7-27).

 

In Sept 2006, JAIS detained 2 preachers from Ibrahim Bonjol sect in Sepang for unlawful activities. The sect was outlawed in 1998 (Star). In Nov, JAIS raided a bakery belonged to Rufaqa Corporation in Shah Alam and arrested 107 people. The group was believed to trying to revive the banned Al-Arqam movement (ruled as a deviant group by National Fatwa Council in 1994). While the detainees were released, four key leaders were charged for disobeying a fatwa issued by the mufti (Bernama, 2006-11-26). In Dec 10, the Selangor Fatwa Council issued an edict declaring Rufaqa Corporation illegal. The corporation, in turn, filed a defamation suit against a Selangor exco member, JAKIM (Malaysia Islamic Development Department) and its former legal adviser (Star, 2006-12-28).

 

In Jan 2007, JAIS began its probe on a suspected deviant movement named Gerakan Pemuda Al Kahfi which was said to have targeted young Muslim professionals and executives (NST). 

 

Overzealous religious authorities

Apparently, it is a crime for a Muslim to smoke in Selangor. Cigarette smoking was decreed haram (forbidden) by the Selangor Fatwa Council in Dec 1995 (www.e-fatwa.gov.my); and it is a crime to violate a gazetted fatwa (Islamic decree). Such decree was seen by many as downright unrealistic. It has so far not been enforced.

 

1995 also saw the Muslim womens participating in beauty contest came to a near end. A fatwa was issued by the council in May (www.e-fatwa.gov.my). In 1997, three Muslim girls were arrested by JAIS for taking part in the Miss Malaysia Petite contest. The incident created a storm and drew intense criticism from several quarters stating that the arrest violated fundamental principles of democracy and fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Federal Constitution.

 

The Sultan of Selangor, in response to the raid on an entertainment centre in Jalan Ampang, opined that overzealous interpretation of Islamic laws would only turn younger generations against Islam (NST, 2005-3-9).  

 

Recently in Aug, JAIS raided a pub at hotel in Shah Alam and issued summons to some 100 Muslim customers and workers (Star, 2008-8-18). It is learnt that police were not present.

 

In June, the Selangor PAS Youth movement protested against plans to have rcok queen Ella and dangdut singer Mas Idayu perform at a football match, claiming that a concert by women was inappropriate and would have negative influence on the youth. This upset the Sultan who described the protest as 'hypocritical' and 'trivial' (Star, 2008 6-18). 

 

The overzealousness of the religious officers and some religious enthusiasts has evidently caused enormous distress to those who are not of Islamic faith. Such manner is particularly overt in the handling of cases pertaining to a deceased persons religious conversion. While the nation-rocking case of deceased M Moorthy remained unresolved, a tussle over deceased Kandasamy S. occurred in Banting (malaysiakini.com, 2006-7-18). Discovering that his Mykad had the word Islam, the police took the body from Banting Hospital mortuary with no regards to the feeling of the non-Muslim family members. JAIS later declared the deceased as non-Muslim due to lack of evidence.

 

The scramble over deceased Rayappan A. in December brought great embarrassment to the religious authorities. Followed by an uproar, the Prime Minister (PM) intervened. The claim was eventually withdrawn but not without disparaging remarks from both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

As the Malaysia Hindu Sangam rightly stated in its June press statement, "The non-Muslim community now does not know when the Islamic authorities will claim that one of our family members is a Muslim."

Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili, the then Minister in the Prime Ministers department, indicated to the press that Selangor registered second highest (after Penang) in the number of cases involving social and religious conflicts (Star, 17 Jan 07).

Conflicts of laws

Section 5 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment 1995 forbids conversion out of Islam for the purpose of avoiding punishment. It states that declaring oneself to be non-Muslim to avoid action taken is an offence [fine not more than RM5,000 or imprisonment not more than 3 years or both]. While the states Administration of the Religion of Islam Enactment 2003 has no provision for a Muslim to convert out, Section 61(3)(b)(x) & (xi) of the enactment gives Syariah High Court the jurisdiction to declare a person is no longer a Muslim or declare a deceased person was a Muslim.

 

Civil courts continue to abjudicate their responsibilities to decide on cases relating to conversion. In Aug 2008, the Court of Appeal dismissed the suit of a Christian woman, Lim Yoke Khoon, on technical grounds, i.e. the appellant's Chinese name in the originating summons at the high court no longer existed following her conversion to Islam. Lim made a statutory declaration and a deed poll in June 2003, declaring that she had renounced Islam and converted to Christianity and taken her original Chinese name (NST).  

 

In Jan 2007, a Malay man, Abdul Kahar Ahmad, was granted leave by the Federal Court to legally challenge certain provisions of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Enactment, i.e. they are void under Article 4(4) of the Federal Constitution. He was charged 2 years ago with declaring himself a prophet and ridiculing the Islamic faith. His two supporters also filed a similar application stating that Selangor state legislative assembly did not have the power to make criminal law provisions and that the charges against them violated their constitutional rights to religious freedom (Bernama).In Sept 2008, the highest court declared the prosecution under the Selangor Syariah Enactment valid because the state can 'create offences and punishment of offences on persons professing islam and offences going against the precepts of Islam' (Star).

 

Regardless of the constitutional guarantee to the right to propagate, the state religious authorities have since 1988 placed certain restrictions by ratifying the Non-Islamic Religions (Control of Propagation Amongst Muslims) Enactment. In May 2006, JAIS claimed that Christian and Buddhist missionary groups had, in the guise of social services, spread their teachings to Muslim patients in several hospitals. It counterattacked by launching the Rakan Masjid to encourage Muslim evangelists to frequent hospitals (malaysiakini.com).

 

It would also be interesting to note that the state assembly had in 1989 passed an amendment in the Islamic laws to include automatic conversion of infants or children upon the conversion of one parent to Islam. A public outcry led to an eventual repeal of the law in the later amendment, i.e. 2003. Nonetheless, the conversion of a child is still subject to courts interpretation of the laws as well as the intentional abuse of legal loopholes.

 

Places of worship

In May 2005, it was reported that the local authorities in Shah Alam attempted to demolish a 107-year-old Hindu temple (malaysiakini.com). There were also reports on insensitive manner of demolishing Hindu shrines on grounds of illegally occupying the land (2006-6-8).

 

The state government has authority over the construction of places of worship and the allocation of land for cemeteries. However, there have been complaints that approvals for building permits for those of non-Islamic faith take a long time.

 

Although the Minister of Housing and Local Government announced in 2003 that approval from state Islamic Council would no longer be required, state policies and local decisions have continued to limit the building of non-Muslim places of worship. For example, in May 2005, when the Muslim residents objected to the building of a church in a residential area in Kajang, the local municipal council determined that the proposed site was designated for residential building and rejected the church's application. The construction of a Roman Catholic church was delayed for more than 14 years by the state government before it was completed in 2004. In other words, building churches has not been an easy journey for Selangor Christians.

 

Still, the state governments approval of two sites (Kota Kemuning in Shah Alam and Pandamaran in Klang) for two Methodist churches was seen as an encouraging improvement towards open-minded governance (Star, 2005-8-17).  

 

The first of four controversial forums on Federal Constitution  protection for all was held in Petaling Jaya in March 2006. It called for reaffirmation of the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and the fundamental rights of all Malaysian citizens that everyone is equal before the law. The heartening responses and disturbing reactions towards the first and the subsequent forums were good indicators of the development of the states (and the nations) religious freedom as well as the Islamization trend.

 

In Mar 2008, the new state government introduced quit rent exemption for all registered places of worship. To date, 27 plots of state land approved for places of worship (NST, 2008-10-1).

 

The recent temple demolition in Ampang has created a row among the politicians in particular. After an investigation by the state committee on non-Muslim religious affairs, the deputy president of the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council was suspended. The state government had also decided to allocate a new plot of land to rebuild the temple (NST, 2008-10-1). However various political opportunists rode on the occassion and issued statements on behalf of the temple.  The temple founder has called on all parties to refrain from turning the demolished temple into a political battle grounds. 

 

The Church

It is said that sizable English-speaking churches with marketing savvy and hi-tech cum feel-good worship are found in the Klang Valley. They are financially well off, have the capacity to operate various ministries with attractive evangelistic activities and the ability to organise seminars featuring internationally renown speakers. In other words, they are self-sufficient. However, majority of the local churches in Selangor are modest. Though small in size, they quietly and faithfully serve the Lord and are actively reaching out in their own ways to their respective communities. Migrant ministries are flourishing.

 

Some of the challenges faced by the Church are: the performance-driven inclination, the complacent longtime believers and indifferent second generation Christians, the yet-to-be-reconciled tensions between the modernist-thinking leadership and the discontented intellectual youth with questions not answered, and the rampant consumerism within the church culture.

 

Pray

1)       State government

a.       Transparency, integrity and impartiality for menteri besar and all local authorities in governance

b.      Effectiveness and competence in all policy-implementations.

c.       Wise financial management and good stewardship

d.      Prioritize public interests and public wellbeing

e.       Committed to poverty-eradication

f.        Appropriate development plans without affecting the poor and the environment.

g.       Corrupt officials be removed

2)      Religious freedom provided by the Constitution be upheld and respected by all.

3)      Sensible religious authorities; against the spirit behind religious zealots.

4)      Orang Asli be accorded just treatment and dignity

5)      Decrease in crime

6)      Sense of civic consciousness and environmental cleanliness in the communities; public health awareness to reduce disease-related illnesses (e.g. dengue). 

7)      The Church

a.       Unity; Christ-centric instead of egocentric; Kingdom-centric instead of church-centre

b.      awareness of challenges facing the Church and wisdom to address them  

c.       Effective role in issues affecting the community, excels for God in marketplace, passion in rural outreaches.



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