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Anti-apostasy rally dangerous and will sow tensions

Unlike Bersih, Himpun gets super-fast
permit but denies Umno links
Despite denials of being linked to Umno, Himpun organisers were given super-swift access to a permit to hold their Gathering of a Million Muslims on October 22 inside a stadium in Selangor.

This is in sharp contrast to the long drawn out saga involving the Bersih 2.0 rally for free and fair elections, which was outlawed and ended up with Prime Minister Najib Razak reneging on his promise to allow the rally to take place in a stadium of Bersih's choice.

"The government is going to get into serious trouble for showing so much unholy haste in granting Himpun a permit because there is bound to be comparison by Malaysians and by the international community to the way it responded to Bersih's application for a permit to walk to a stadium," Christian lay leader Ramon Navaratnam and past president of Transparency International told Malaysia Chronicle.

"I support the right of Himpun to hold any peaceful gathering. However, the granting of the permit when Bersih was denied one shows the blatant double standards. It proves the Home Minister and the police do abuse their power. It also proves that BN approves of this rally and pro-BN groups are behind it," PKR vice president N Surendran told Malaysia Chronicle.

Ibrahim Ali, Ezam, Zul not involved

Police have confirmed the Himpun permit was approved last week. OCPD Asst Comm Zahedi Ayop insisted the event would be 'safe' as it would be held most likely inside the Shah Alam Stadium. Police officers would be stationed in and outside the stadium to ensure no untoward incidents occurred, he added.

"We have taken into account all aspects of security and approved their application," Star reported Zahedi as saying on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Himpun organizers insisted they had no "hidden agenda" and the even was solely a Muslim gathering of a religious nature without links to politicians such as Perkasa's Ibrahim Ali, Umno Senator Ezam Mohd Noor and Kulim Bandar Baru MP Zul Noordin.

“I will not allow this initiative to be sullied with hidden agendas from any parties, and will take a firm stand on this,” Himpun chairman Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid said in a statement.

“Zulkifli, Senator Ezam Mohd Noor and Ibrahim Ali are not involved in the leadership of Himpun. Neither are they speaking at the event. Any statements issued by them regarding the event does not represent the organisers."

Unable to allay fears

Mohd Azmi also insisted he would not allow the event to be hijacked to pit the different races and faiths at each other. But his strident tone belied his words.

“I would like to also remind all that the evangelist movement has been on the rise globally, regionally and nationally. The efforts to approach Muslims to get them to change religions cannot be denied,” he said.

The Himpun chief also asked Christian leaders to accept that proselytizing even in the name of evangelising was "unacceptable" in the "context of Malaysia and the federal constitution. We cannot belittle the fact that there has been a rise in incidents of ‘planned apostasy’,” he said.

And although, Mohd Azmi admitted that proselytization took place also because Muslims did not understand their own religion well, he blamed it on the government's "liberal attitudes".

“This resulted in poor policies and liberal attitudes taken by the authorities and the national leadership which still refuse to implement the teachings of Islam as a whole,” he said.
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The efforts by the Himpun chief are unlikely to allay any fears, especially when they seem to be more provocative than reassuring.

"What we see is a flare-up and surge in narrow religious thinking in many parts of the world that can be alarming. We should show the quality and level of our adherence to our religion by refraining from any action that can create further animosity amongst the various faiths," said Ramon.

Written by  Melissa Lee

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