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Abdullah must stop the “Little Napoleons” in JAWI from imposing a “reign of terror” with their lack of understanding of the Merdeka social contract and contempt for the constitutional rights of all Malaysians, creating inter-religious tension and setting back inter-racial harmony and nation-building

Media Conference (2)          
by Lim Kit Siang  

(Parliament, Thursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi must stop the “Little Napoleons” in JAWI from imposing a “reign of terror” with their lack of understanding of the Merdeka social contract and contempt for the constitutional rights of all Malaysians, creating inter-religious tension and setting back inter-racial harmony and nation-building. 

I refer to the multi-agency raid led by JAWI (Jabatan Agama  Islam Wilayah Persekutuan) to the eating shops in Lorong Maarof, Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, 26th June 2007, at about 11.30 a.m., particularly an Indian restaurant and a mamak restaurant. 

When the raid was made on the Indian restaurant, an eye-witness had emailed the following account: 

“I was sitting in the banana leaf shop this morning having a roti and a coffee when a group of JAWI officers entered the premises. 10 officers to be exact, into this little shop. They spent a good 20 minutes going through the place (and it is a small place!) and finally one officer writes out a writ and gives it to the cashier. They then left. Curious, I asked the cashier what that was all about and he replied that they were not allowed to have their little altars and pictures of their deities in their shop "because otherwise, Muslims cannot come into their shops" . What utter nonsense! Are we still living in the Malaysia that is so "famed" for its "religious tolerance"?? The shop is not a mamak shop. It is an Indian Banana leaf shop. Why would it be surprising that they should have signs of their religious beliefs in their own space? I didnt think that sort of thing was illegal (please correct me if I am wrong). What is wrong with this picture? Will it come down to the point when my Muslim friends should not visit my home just because I have a cross or a chinese altar there? PLEASE!

”Better yet, I discovered as I was leaving , that the JAWI personnel had targetted the other 3 banana leaf shops along that row of old shops. There were at least 4 nos of vans for the officers , ALL double parked on the main road and causing an inconvenience to the other road users. Is there a separate set of laws that govern these people? Notwithstanding the fact that they are trampling all over the definition of religious tolerance in this country, they also flaunt the general laws of the land. This makes me really angry and sad about the state of our country.

”I now find it difficult to speak up for Malaysia when there are arguments comparing Malaysia to other countries. It is sad that  we  can have the once world tallest building and still think like we came out of the jungle yesterday.”

Last night, I received an email from another public-spirited Malaysian who visited Lorong Maarof to check on the complaint.  This is  the account her email after the visit: 

“I dropped by the two Indian restaurants at Lorong Maarof this afternoon to chat with the workers and to verify what exactly happened. The Star and another paper were already there yesterday, they said.  

“I looked at the summons issued to Aiswari restaurant: The raid was done by the Bahagian Hub Halal of JAKIM, together with officials from other agencies, including JAWI, KPDN and HEP (? must be Kementerian P or D (not clear) Dalam Negeri; don't know what HEP is) and DBKL. 10 of them came into the shop, but the cashier said there were about 15 others milling outside the streets.  

“According to the summons, the officers came because of a complaint ( choice of berkala/aduan/susulan). 4 jenis kesalahan were written down:

1. bukan pemegang sijil halal JAKIM (this means their halal logo is from some other source?)

2. arahan tidak boleh menggunakan logo halal dan perbahasan dalam premis (??)

3. Sita?? - ayat ayat Qur'an di buat oleh JAWI?? (four framed ayats, 2 big, 2 small were taken away)

4. tiada pekerja Muslim (? cashier and all workers are Muslim) 

“The cashier who seems to be in charge was quite agitated, esp about the Muslim workers and halal meat served. He is an Indian (national) Muslim, showed the JAKIM ppl his passport with his Muslim name and all the 7 workers there were Muslim and so is the owner. The raiders questioned the "halal" ness of the food served and took the halal certs issued by the meat suppliers. Said he and the workers and owner are all Muslim so why shd they serve non-halal meat and chicken.  

“they also took away all the ayat Qur'an, but I can't figure out what the offence is - ayat Qur'an dibuat oleh JAWI??? Maybe they allege this is not a genuine Halal Muslim place, so they have no right to display ayat Qur'an? 

“At the corner restaurant where my friend’s niece ( the writer of the original email)  was eating, they inspected the place, checked the meat to see if its halal, took pictures,  took the halal certificate, and questioned why they have pictures of Hindu gods and candle on the mantlepiece behind the cashier when they serve Muslim customers. The guy said he told the JAKIM people the meat served is halal and showed him their halal cert from the supplier. Two other restaurants were closed.  

“These seem to be neighbourhood hangouts and people of all races were there when I stopped by at 3 pm. If indeed they were doing the rounds to check on halal certification, why the heavy handed approach and comments and actions on display of religious symbols. (oh Ganesh was still very much there today on the wall, but the ayat Qur'an remains missing in the other place)  My niece's friend said it was very intimidating to have 10 officials walking around, taking pictures, asking questions, picking up food... and in these days of Lina Joy, Revathi, Subashini, Sharmala, it all points out to the same motive. How come everytime women complain about husbands not paying nafkah, or not appearing in court,  the courts keep saying they do not have enough enforcement officers to serve summons on errant husbands/fathers, but plenty of enforcement officers to go on khalwat and halal raids...”

This morning before coming to Parliament, together with DAP MPs Chong Eng (Bukit Mertajam) and Fong Po Kuan (Batu Gajah) and DAP Selangor state secretary Lau Weng San, I visited these two Lorong Maarof restaurants, and verified the complaints and the facts that had been given in the two emails as true and accurate.  

At the corner Indian restaurant, the JAWI-led raid team took away the “halal” sign and served a notice of its infringements, which I have yet to have sight as the owner was not in. 

I understand that this is not an isolated case but such raids and offensive and insensitive remarks about the display of Hindu religious symbols in Indian restaurants had taken place in other parts of Kuala Lumpur. 

The Prime Minister should cause an immediate investigation into the JAWI-led raids in utter disregard of the rights and sensitivities of non-Muslim Malaysian businesses and to suspend the errant officers from JAWI and other agencies like JAKIM.


* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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