"He's a hypocrite!" cry Facebook users after seeing a photo of Taman Medan's 'ketua kampung', Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, standing in front of a slot machine in a 'casino'
A Facebook user posted three photos of Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, the village head of Taman Medan involved in the Sunday protest that demanded a cross be removed from the facade of a new church. In the photo post, the Facebook cautioned for Datuk Abdullah to "make sure your trips to the casino are well concealed".
Here's a closer look at the photo:
We quickly discovered that the 'casino' was in fact, the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport
Visitors to the Las Vegas McCarran International airport in Nevada will be greeted by the sights and sounds of slot machines upon their arrival. Terminal 3, used for international flights and a number of domestic airlines has almost 300 slot machines.
The interior of the airport is a give-away:
So is the baggage claim sign behind him:
How does sharing a photo of Datuk Abdullah beside a slot machine help the case of the Taman Medan church? Does it matter that he was/was not in a casino before?
No, it matters little. Let's leave aside the need to demonise someone over a photo based on false accusations. There are more worrying things to note about the Taman Medan incident.
Yesterday, Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, was seen with a group of 50 protestors, demanding for a cross affixed to the wall of a church in Taman Medan to be removed. This happened during the church's Sunday service.
Some 50 locals gathered outside the new church yesterday to demand that the cross affixed to the house of worship be removed, The Star Online reported. The protesters, led by Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar, reportedly said the presence of a cross in a Muslim-majority area posed a challenge to the religion and could sway the faith of youths.themalaysianinsider.com
"The people who protested claimed themselves to be residents but all of them were Umno members," [PKR lawmaker Hee Loy Sian] reportedly told a ceramah in Taman Medan last night. "Who was present? The secretary, the former Petaling Jaya Selatan Umno wanita chief who was also a candidate for the Taman Medan state seat and also other Umno division leaders."themalaysianinsider.com
They said the sight of the cross in a 95% Muslim area challenged Islam and could influence younger minds
Asmadi Sulaiman, 37, said that the residents had objected to the church as it had started operating without informing anyone of its intentions. “My child who is only eight once brought home a pamphlet propagating another religion. I am really against that,” he said.thestar.com.my
Did the 50 speak for the majority of the Taman Medan community? There are mixed opinions.
“Everyone has their own beliefs and who are we to deny someone from practising their own religion,” she told The Star Online on Monday.
Van driver Mat Tahir Abdul Rahman, 60, also pointed out that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country: “As long as they don’t disturb anyone, then I don’t see a problem. Those who are strong in their faith wouldn’t feel challenged by the sight of a cross."
Housewife Juraida Jaffar, 48, told The Star Online that most Muslim residents objected to the church.
“We are afraid that our people will be influenced by their teachings. This is a Muslim area and the church doesn’t belong here. We strongly object to the church being here,” said the mother of nine children.
She added that they would continue to demonstrate against the church if it continued operating there.
On that day itself, a few hours after the protest, the church took the cross down
“After meeting with the priest, the church agreed to take down the cross by next Sunday. If they have the authority to run, we cannot stop it. But we ask out of concern, being a Malay area, that they take down the cross,” said leader Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar.thestar.com.my
Datuk Abdullah continues to stress, “We are not against anyone’s religious freedom but they have to be sensitive to the Muslims."
“The next move is this, we want to know if the church has the authority to operate and we will be meeting with the necessary authorities in Petaling Jaya to clarify this. “If the church is found to be operating illegally then we hope necessary enforcement will be taken against it,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
“We had approached them humbly and, thank God, they reciprocated well to us. Why are those outside making an issue out of this when the church has itself settled the matter with us?
On the same day, the IGP, who happens to be the older brother of Datuk Abdullah says, "We don't see it as seditious because it did not touch on Christianity."
“It was just about the location of the church,” [Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar] said at a news conference at the police headquarters in Bukit Aman here. “In this issue we must be very careful. The cross was taken down at the request of the community and was agreed to by the pastor,” he added.themalaymailonline.com
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar is also the brother of Datuk Abdullah Abu Bakar.
But just as we were looking up the amendments to the renewed Sedition Act, Zahid Hamidi says the protest was seditious. "Of course! Yes, yes, yes!"
Above casino claims and placards of weakening faith lies a more pressing concern: the sanctity of our constitutional rights as citizens of a multi-ethnic country
“Under Article 11, all Malaysians have a right to practise their own religion and the cross is an integral and indispensable part of the Christian faith – so it comes under the rights of Malaysians under Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution,” said constitutional lawyer New Sin Yew.
“You need strong and credible evidence to prove that hanging a cross outside a church would constitute propagation of the Christian faith to Muslims. It would be absurd to suggest that hanging a cross outside a building would amount to propagating Christianity to Muslims,” said New.
In Article 11 (1) of the Malaysian federal constitution, "Every person has the right to profess and practice his religion and, subject to Clause (4), to propagate it
Do our constitutional rights only apply when we do not confuse other countrymen?
The Federal Constitution would be “worthless” if the right to freedom of religion is restricted on the basis that people will be confused by another faith, the Malaysian Bar said today in condemning a protest against a cross on a church’s facade.
“The fundamental right to freedom of religion under Article 11(1) read with Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution to practise one’s religion of choice in peace cannot be restricted or abrogated on the basis that some persons may be purportedly confused or others are allegedly influenced,” [Malaysian Bar president Steven Thiru] said in a statement.
Eric Paulsen of Lawyers for Liberty says, "It is quite misguided to say that because an area is majority-Malay Muslim, it is misguided to say that only their rights count." Talking to The Star, Eric Paulsen, co-founder of Lawyers for Liberty said that in any society, the rights of minorities deserved as much protection as those of the majority in an area.
Malaysian Bar president sends us a resounding reminder: this will only polarise and segregate us at the end of the day
“Such a narrow or myopic interpretation of our constitutional fundamental liberties should be rejected as it reduces our Constitution to a worthless piece of paper. It also serves to polarise and segregate us a people,” the chief of the professional legal body added. “These rights should not hinge on the actions of irresponsible persons that cause disunity and disharmony."themalaymailonline.com
Don't let the photo of a man in front of a slot machine get in the way. We have bigger things to worry about.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated inaccurately that the named Facebook user "claimed that Datuk Abdullah was in a casino". The words "claimed that Datuk Abdullah was in a casino" have been removed, because they were our own words. The article has been corrected to reflect this. We regret this error.