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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 July 2006, 00:54 GMT 01:54 UK
Malaysia faith forum to defy mob
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Destroyed Hindu temple in Malaysia
Demolitions of sites sacred to non-Muslims have angered minorities
Campaigners for more religious freedom in Malaysia plan to go ahead with a meeting on Saturday, weeks after a mob broke up a similar gathering.

A group of NGOs, known as Article 11, is pushing for Malaysia to honour constitutional guarantees enabling all citizens to practise their faith.

Relations between Malaysia's Muslim majority and members of other faiths have become increasingly strained.

Matters were brought to a head by a recent series of court cases.

In the most controversial case, an Islamic court ruled that a Hindu man be given a Muslim burial against the wishes of his family after Islamic religious authorities presented evidence that he had converted.

Mob threat

Faced with such rulings and amid concerns that Islamists are trying to impose their values on the country, a number of civic groups have banded together with the stated aim of defending Malaysia's constitution.

They say the constitution is secular and allows Malaysians to profess and practise the faith of their choosing.

The group has championed the cases of Muslims who have fought to leave their faith.

In turn, some Muslims are worried that their religion is under threat.

Some have accused Article 11 of being part of an attempt to undermine Islam's place as Malaysia's official religion.

A mob of 500 ethnic Malay Muslims forcibly stopped Article 11's last forum on Penang Island in May.

The group says it intends to go ahead with the meeting in the southern city of Johor Baru on Saturday and hopes that any protests will be peaceful.

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Country profile: Malaysia
30 Dec 05 |  Country profiles

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