The latest case of arson was the razing of the two-storey Christ Community Centre in Subang Jaya on Saturday. The previous fires at churches were in Segamat, Gurun and Sungai Petani.
The government should be mindful of the extra need to safeguard and strengthen national unity, inter-religious sensitivities and goodwill especially in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks which killed over 5,500 people from 81 nationalities and the US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan entering its fourth week with the mounting toll of innocent Afghan civilian casualties.
With the US aerial bombardments in Afghanistan regarded as a war between the West and Islam in some quarters - despite repeated denials by US President Bush - the Malaysian authorities must be wary of rising religious tensions in this part of the world, as illustrated by the carnage in Pakistan on Sunday, where suspected Islamist gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs attacked a Christian church in rural Punjab province on Sunday, killing at least 16 people, mainly women and children, including a Muslim police guard.
While no group immediately claimed responsibility, Pakistani intelligence agencies suspected that the attack was a response by sectarian Muslim groups to the US military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan as Christians are seen to be products of the same Western culture that launched the air-raids on Afghanistan.
Witnesses say more than 100 parishioners were worshipping when six gunmen drove up on three motorcycles, entered the church, shouted “Graveyard of Christians”, “Pakistan and Afghanistan” and “This is just a start” and sprayed it with gunfire from Kalashnikov rifles for five minutes.
Although the Malaysian police has said that the spate of church arson in the country are not linked to or committed by extremist groups, the authorities should be aware of the rising concern by all right-thinking Malaysians, whether moderate Muslims or non-Muslims and take a serious view of these incidents, including increasing security at all churches.
Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or party affiliation should sink their differences to work together to ensure that the country is not infected by any post-September 11 madness, with everyone on special guard to protect the fabric of our multi-racial and multi-religious society from being undermined by any spillover repercussion of the September 11 terrorist mass murders and the US-led airstrikes in Afghanistan.
Towards this end, DAP is prepared to work with the Barisan Nasional, Barisan Alternative and all religious groups to immediately strengthen and solidify our national resilience and inter-racial understanding, harmony and goodwill.
All political leaders, whether Barisan Nasional or Barisan Alternative, should be particularly careful and circumspect in their pronouncements at this period so as not to cause inter-religious discord or disharmony in the post-September 11 era.
The Sun today reported PAS President, Datuk Mohd Fadzil Noor condemning the US-led bombings in Afghanistan as “a form of Muslim community cleansing” by the western powers.
Nobody can fault PAS for condemning the US-led bombings of the innocent Afghan civilians - and the DAP stand deploring the change of character of the “war against terrorism” against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda into a “war of terror” against the Afghan civilians is very clear - but to describe them as “a form of Muslim community cleansing” runs the risk of precipitating inter-religious discord or disharmony among Malaysians, a consequence which all political leaders must seek to avert.