Wednesday, June 24, 2015


By Mansor Puteh

Churches are being closed all over the world including in Old Europe, some of which had been standing for decades if not more.

They had been turned into masjid and even gudwaras not to say, hotels, motels and restaurants and also discotheques.

I first heard of how an old Catholic church had been turned into a discotheque or restaurant when I was studying and living in New York City.

There was no uproar over the sale of the building to the new owners who had wanted to turn it into a discotheque which was the craze then with the film, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ having just been shown worldwide that encourage that craze.

The remark I heard in the media was that ‘churches have no memory’.

And over the years, more and more old and also new churches in America and in Europe and the United Kingdom began to be sold off to be turned into masjid mostly simply because the congregation had left the church which became empty as more and more Americans and the others whose parents were staunch Catholics or Christians had failed to instill the sense of pride in the religion of their forefathers in their own children causing them to feel that this religion or belief has no bearing in their lives or the world.

Most of them had become agonists or atheists. But soon some of them began to find some measure of solace in their lives by accepting Islam and the other beliefs.

This has caused Islam to be the most favored religion of the new generation of Americans and westerners who rejected the faith of their parents, and it is happening the more Islam is belittled by the anti-Islam fanatics and extremists with some of them who would later embrace the religion that they had tried very hard to get everybody else to reject.

However, in Malaysia and also Singapore there are moves to establish some new churches.

Some bigger groups managed to build centers which are fronts for their churches while the smaller ones opt to establish their own churches in shoplots, with most of them not showing the cross.

Yet, there is now one new church in Taman Medan in Kuala Lumpur that has been opened and they immediately put up a cross, red in color which had caused some Muslims living in that area to see red.

They question why the church was established there and who gave them the permission to have it in a shoplot and to also put up the cross.

The issue is pending some resolution as the authorities, meaning the police are conducting an investigation on the matter.

But the real crux of the matter is one that does not concern the church or cross, but more than that.

Was the real intention of those who had wanted to establish their own church there an act of devotion or was it just an act of provocation?

Some Muslim-Melayu living in Taman Medan thought so; that the main aim for the church to be established in such an area which is Muslim-dominated and especially which in 2001 saw an ugly racial or religious clash.

There are many shoplots that had been used, and are still being used churches in the country, but none seems to have created any controversy some of whom had earlier been rented and turned into shops and even entertainment centers.

I knew a pastor who had such a church in Taman Muda, Cheras and often visited it and mixed with the people of that church by even going there on Sunday morning to see how they perform their Sunday service because it was also meant to be a civic center.

I had also gone there at night to play carom or the drums they use for their service and even slept there.  It’s presence in this area did not attract any distraction from the Muslims because it was located in a Chinese-majority area, most of whom are not Christians too.

This church was later relocated to another area.

But the one at Taman Medan is different. And the reason why it has managed to distract the Muslims living in this area was because they are located at areas where there is no Muslim majority or a Muslim area, and they do not exhibit the cross on the outside of their premises.

The church at Taman Medan has one which can be seen from everywhere.

No wonder it even attracted the attention of Abdullah, the elder brother of the Inspector-General of Police, Khaled Abu Bakar.

Abdullah and some of his Muslim friends living in this area must have seen more than meets the eye that not many who do not live there could see or even guess – the main motive for some to establish their new church there.

Abdullah must a lot to say and the police must have a lot to ask in the four hours that he had spent during the interrogation by the police recently, following the reports filed by some supporters of the church.

Few others were also interrogated for having protested in front of the church demanding that it be closed.

Many Muslims are suspicious each time a new church is established even in a shoplot and in a Muslim-dominated area. They wondered why it could not be opened elsewhere where they won’t attract any controversy.

It is true that the Christians have equal rights to practice their faith, but the manner they do it sometimes cannot be appreciated by the Muslims.

The Muslims have all seen how a small act by the Hindus and also Chinese had caused irreparable damage to their surroundings which is very difficult to overcome or redress.

They asked how did the Hindu temple which started as a shrine in the caves could become a temple and now a huge complex so much so that the Hindus managing it do not allow any development in the areas around it?

For all we know the Hindu Temple Complex at Batu Caves that we can see today, from afar with its golden statue of their deity was merely a shrine when some Hindus put small statues of their deities inside the main cave.

Over the years, more and more deities were added until the cave became the property of the Hindus and from there Batu Caves became a Hindu temple and now a complex.

Many young Melayu kids and their parents then had gone to the caves to play and saw the small Hindu deities but they did not think much of it, until it was too late.

This is also how there are now so many Hindu and also Chinese temples in the country which were created by any Hindu or Chinese and the Chinese shrines especially can be setup at any construction site that they would leave behind for the other Chinese to help develop into future temples.

Some of which also fashion as restaurants even though the temples are not well-attended as the Indian or Hindu community are sparse and well-spread out so that the temples that were built earlier now mostly stand in deserted areas and estates with the Chinese community having become too saturated when they started to leave the Chinese New Villages that were created by the British during the Emergency. But they did not take their temples with them and build new ones instead.    

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