Disrupted forum — a wasted opportunity?
• A dissenting voice and lessons learned
©The Malaysian Insider (Used by permission)
by Adib Zalkapli
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 9 — Muslim protesters threatened to take harsher actions against the Bar Council if it holds similar forums on religion. The group of about 300 protesters managed to shut down the controversial council forum on conversions to Islam today.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Zulkifli Noordin, who took the lead this morning to address the protesters, said: "If they do it again we will take a stern action."
The first–term Kulim Bandar Baharu MP, who is also a lawyer, declared their protest a success after the forum was declared closed a little before 10am after the police advised the organisers to end it due to the noisy protest outside and in the hall. The forum was supposed to end at 1pm.
The protesters shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great), "Hancur
Bar Council" (Destroy Bar Council), "'Hidup Islam" (Long Live Islam) and "Death
to the Jews".
Before the forum ended, Zulkifli told the protesters that the forum organiser was trying to challenge the position of Islam.
"I have negotiated with the Dang Wangi police to stop the forum at 9.30am or else we will act," he said.
Several participants who left the venue after the forum ended were harassed by the protesters, with a man heard shouting: "Hey, you pig! Traitor!" at a woman wearing the Islamic headscarf as she was walking out of the Bar Council building.
The protesters also attempted to confront the participants who were leaving by the rear entrance. Some of them were even chased by the protesters as they left the building.
"Some protesters just don't understand it; not everyone who attended the forum is against Islam," said telecommunications executive Mohamad Najib, 28, who was there to protest against the public forum.
"Some just participated to voice out their views in defending the position of Islam in the country," he said, adding that he also felt bad about the behaviour of some of the protesters.
Self–employed Abdullah Ahmad, 50, was definitely unhappy with the Bar Council's action. "This forum is about Islam, they want Indians to be Muslims and then Muslims to be Indians," he said.
Confederation of Muslim Students Association (Gamis) secretary–general Muhamad Syaari Rahman said the forum had to be stopped as it was a threat to Islam.
"They have organised similar forums before on Malay rights and if we don't stop them today, they will do it again in the future," he told The Malaysian Insider.
PKR's Badrul Amin Baharum also regretted the Bar's decision to continue with the forum. "We have never interfered with Christian or Hindu affairs," he told the crowd.
Intervention by the police and members of Pas's Unit Amal helped prevent any untoward incidents today. Bar Council officials were also seen asking the police to protect participants leaving the forum.
At about 10.15am, the protesters were seen trying to barge into the building to end the forum but Unit Amal members, who were squeezed between the riot police and the protesters, managed to stop them.
After being assured that the forum had ended, the protesters dispersed at about 11.15am. A police officer told The Malaysian Insider that 110 policemen had been deployed to control the crowd.