KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — Lavish Christmas trees at shopping centres show that Christians have freedom of religion in Malaysia, according to the website for conservative Muslim group Isma.
Siti Fatimah Ishak, assistant editor with Ismaweb.net, pointed out that there is a 23m-tall Christmas tree at the Pavilion mall in the city centre decorated with Swarovski crystals, and that Christmas trees are also abundant at other shopping centres and hotels here.
“Are the setting up of Christmas trees and parades part of their religious teachings as in the bible? Or is it an effort to promote Christian symbols in the Malay-Muslim land?” Siti Fatimah wrote in an article on Ismaweb.net yesterday titled “Hari Krismas: Adakah penganut Kristian ditindas di Malaysia?” [Christmas Day: Are Christians oppressed in Malaysia?].
She was referring to rumours that 10,000 Christians had joined a 4km Christmas parade at Dataran Bandar Sibu in Sarawak last Saturday.
“This reality once and for all refutes allegations of irresponsible parties that claim that the Christian minority’s right to freedom of religion has been oppressed by the Malay-Muslim majority,” said Siti Fatimah.
She also pointed out that shopping centres play Christmas carols, many of which she said have verses from the Christian Bible.
“Don’t memorise them and sing along without realising that it will destroy your heart and soul in the long run,” Siti Fatimah warned Muslims.
She also said Muslims have been “too tolerant” with the Christians.
“The proof is that Muslims are able to live with other ethnic groups who are free to practise their religion, culture and beliefs without any restrictions. In fact, the rights and privileges of non-Muslims are guaranteed by the Federal Constitution and no party can touch or amend them as they like,” she said.
The Christian minority have complained about not being able to practise their faith freely. The courts have prohibited a Catholic church from using the Arabic word for God “Allah” in its paper, while the authorities have confiscated copies of the Bible on several occasions.
Christianity is also repeatedly demonised, with Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) hosting another anti-Christian seminar last Saturday despite the uproar the public university caused when it featured a seminar criticising Christianity last year.
According to an article on Christian website Christianity Today, the Christmas tree associated with the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ has its roots as an ancient symbol of life in winter that was used to worship pagan gods.