On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Lock up the trouble-makers

WE have sick people in our midst. They deserve to be arrested and locked up for their attempts in trying to burn down churches, mosques or any place of worship.

The police must be commended for their swift action in arresting the eight men aged between 21 and 26 for their alleged involvement in the arson attack on the Metro Tabernacle Church on Jan 8.

Last week, police arrested seven men, aged between 17 and 29, for two attempted arson involving the All Saints Church and SMK Church in Taiping on Jan 10.

Police have said that with these arrests, they have solved the arson cases involving these locations.

In both cases, there were similarities as they appear to involve misguided young people who acted after reading in the media about the controversy on the usage of the word “Allah”. They do not belong to any group and are certainly not religious leaders but appear to be mainly trouble-makers.

But one thing’s for sure – they are dangerous because their stupidity can lead to social disorder.

They may like to think that they are acting on religious principles but they have actually shamed their own religion and culture with their mindless and provocative actions.

Several other churches were also similarly attacked following a High Court ruling on Dec 31 last year allowing the Catholic Herald to use the word “Allah” in its publications. The court has since allowed a stay of execution pending an appeal against the decision by the Home Ministry.

But while the attacks against churches have stopped, it is highly disturbing that surau have now become targets.

On Thursday, two separate surau in two villages in Muar were partially damaged in two arson attempts while on Friday, a surau in Klang was attacked three times within two weeks.

Four men, including the son of a policeman, were nabbed in Johor yesterday for attempted arson and vandalism of two surau in Muar.

The case in Taman Menara Maju in Jalan Kampung, Klang, is outrageous because it started on Jan 9 with a stone being thrown at the surau, shattering a sliding glass door. Liquid believed to be urine was also found at the side entrance.

Police have since received more reports on Thursday and Friday.

The police must act equally swiftly against those who attempted to destroy or vandalise these surau.

It is important that non-Muslim politicians and religious leaders have spoken up against those responsible.

MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat described the incident as a “despicable act and an affront to inter-racial harmony”, adding that such attacks not only damaged physical structures but also undermined the social fabric that had bound Malaysia since independence.

Ong expressed sadness over the attacks which had taken place so soon after the arson attempts on churches.

Besides church leaders, Ong’s deputy Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has called for a thorough police investigation as the highly irresponsible acts had tarnished the image of Malay­sians as peace-loving people.

Whether such acts are the work of mentally disturbed people, copy cats, mischief makers or religious extremists, those who vandalised the surau must be arrested as soon as possible.

The quick arrest of such perpetrators by the police, in the case of the church attacks, have certainly renewed confidence in the police.

There were many who doubted that the police would be able to arrest the culprits of the church arson attempts.

But the work of the police isn’t over. Keeping these suspects under remand for further investigation is the first step but gathering enough evidence to charge them in court would be the next step.

They are being investigated under Section 436 of the Penal Code for causing mischief, and Section 295 for defiling a place of worship to insult the religion of any class, which carry a jail sentence of up to 20 years and two years and a fine respectively.

They should consider themselves lucky that the Internal Security Act is not used against them. Certainly, there are many Malaysians who feel that the ISA remains relevant and should be used in cases involving national security.

We must guard our multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural way of life jealously because that has made Malaysia special.

Our plural society is an asset and never shall we let misguided fools tell us otherwise.