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Missing plane boosts ethnic unity in Malaysia

By Associated Press

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia >> The imam cupped his palms before his face and invited the congregation to pray. “Oh Allah, return to us those who are lost. Oh, Allah, grant safe passage to MH370,” he said.

The prayer was not unusual. The setting was.

Gathered in the courtyard of a shopping mall in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the Muslim religious leader was followed by a Christian reading from the Bible, then a Buddhist monk, a Hindu and finally a Taoist priest echoing the imam’s pleas before hundreds of worshippers in a largely Muslim country where religious intolerance has been on the rise.

The baffling mystery over the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 239 people on March 8 has united Malaysia, a nation of numerous ethnicities, as never before in recent memory.

Tuesday night’s interfaith ceremony would have been inconceivable 11 days ago in the country of 28 million people where religious differences and bigotry have often been on open display. For Malaysians the sight of non-Muslims bowing respectfully as Imam Hilman Nordin said prayers from the rostrum was an incredible step toward unity. While there have been interfaith prayers before, they have always been without a Muslim representative.

Malays, who account for about 60 percent of the population, are almost exclusively Muslim. Chinese, who are Buddhists, Christians and Taoists, represent about 21 percent, while Indians, who are Hindus, Sikhs and Christians, are about 7 percent. 

Muslims have been at loggerheads with Christians and Hindus in recent years, and some sermons last month identified Christians and Jews as enemies of Islam. Hard-line Muslims have called for the burning of Bibles and in January firebombs were thrown into a church compound. A few years ago, a group of Muslims stomped on the severed head of a cow outside a Hindu temple. Cows are sacred to Hindus. 

“In the shared sadness of loss, the tragedy has revealed and reinforced a strong sense of community,” said Bridget Welsh, a political scientist from Singapore Management University. “If anything, this is a silver lining of the tragedy.”

Some of the enmity rises from the right of non-Muslims to use the word “Allah.” The government and hardliners say Allah — the Arabic word for God — is exclusively for Malay Muslims. The Roman Catholic Church has challenged that assertion in an ongoing court case which many Muslims see as a threat to the dominance of Islam. Most indigenous tribes in Borneo are Christians and speak only the Malay language in which the word for God is Allah. 

The case remains unresolved in court and religious tension continues to fester.

In January this year, Islamic authorities seized more than 300 Malay-language Bibles from the office of a Christian group because they used the word Allah. 

This row over a single word has blackened the country’s image for religious tolerance and hardened the longstanding sense of alienation among ethnic and religious minorities who feel discriminated against by decades of affirmative action policies that benefit Malay Muslims in business, jobs and education. 

But such differences have been set aside — at least temporarily — following the disappearance of the plane after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8. A massive sea and air hunt by 26 nations continues.

Thousands of Malaysians of all ethnic backgrounds were also touched by the tweets of Maira Elizabeth Nari, daughter of the chief steward aboard the plane.

“It has been more than 100 hours. Where are you?” she wrote in one tweet. One of her 40,000 followers encouraged her, saying, “Keep on praying, pray to Allah.”

At the interfaith vigil at the Curve in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Damansara Perdana, leaders of several religious groups went on stage to offer their prayers. Many in the crowd wore white T-shirts with the words “Unite for MH370” and held white balloons with handwritten messages of hope.

“Today is a rare occasion for us to bring unity, peace and harmony,” said a Buddhist monk who chanted a prayer for the plane’s safety.

“Please come back home. We are all in tears waiting for you, brothers and sisters,” said Shantha Venugopal, the Hindu representative. The Taoist priest beseeched God for divine intervention while the Sikh leader pleaded for a closure to the plane’s disappearance. 

Teh Su They, whose Global Peace Foundation co-organized the gathering with local singer Reshmonu, a Hindu, said the tragedy showed that “deep inside the heart of every Malaysian, we care for one another, that we are one family. In this difficult time we need to come closer to support each other.”

In a statement, Reshmonu said, “For one night, we forget our divisions and stand united for... faith, compassion and love.”  

“Because of this tragedy, we stand as one and respect one another’s religion. I see this as Allah’s wisdom behind this tragedy to reunite all Malaysians,” said Nurul Arfarina Nasir, a 28-year-old housewife wearing a headscarf and holding a white balloon.






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mitt_grund wrote:
The sense of community is temporary. The resentment and hate against infidels, especially the Chinese elite in Malaysia has been longstanding.

There is perhaps a great need of the Malaysian government to suppress any true investigation as the result may result in negative effects for the Malaysian economy.

In earlier comments, I hypothesized that If the guilty party hero-worshipped a certain deceased leader, Osama bin Laden, and wished to sacrifice 154 hated souls as servants to that man in a Muslim heaven, the location he may have been heading for may have been the Arabian Sea, where the US Navy buried the Muslim martyr. As some people see Snowden as a hero, the perpetrator may have seen bin Laden as a quixotic Muslim Robin Hood.

The Wall Street Journal (March 11, 2014) tweeted that "...[a] total flight time of five hours could put the flight's final destination at the Indian Ocean, the border of Pakistan or EVEN THE ARABIAN SEA...". If the US Navy saw the Arabian Sea as a great site to bury bin Laden's body undetected, wouldn't it follow that a person bent on vengeance would have felt it poetic justice to crash Flight MH370 there?

The choice of flight was one of happenstance when the perpetrator found that MH370 would have on board 154 infidel PRC Chinese. A number were Chinese calligraphers of national repute, who were living national treasures. Fortunately for US citizens. there was no similar US tour group of that size as the perpetrator may have chosen that flight instead.

Muslims worldwide feel they are under attack and jihad is being actively promoted. Currently, Muslims in China, the Uyghur, are accelerating their terrorism against the Chinese population -- from Tiananmen Square violence to a mass stabbing of passengers in a heavily-used Kunming train station in China -- in a bid for independence of heavily-Muslim Xinjiang Province. Would a world-wise, jet-set, literate Muslim in Malaysia know of this? Would he identify with the Uyghur?

So, has anyone checked the Arabian Sea yet? (Update: Report came out on March 18th that residents on an island in the Maldives saw a low-flying jet with red markings flying over making a roar that brought people out from their houses. A witness said the jet was so low that he could clearly see the door of the jet.

The Maldives mark the SSE boundary of the Arabian Sea. However, the jet was seen flying in a line to the southeast of the Maldives toward the deeper waters of the Indian Ocean, immediately adjacent to the Arabian Sea. Flying that low consumes fuel due to drag of the heavier atmosphere at low altitude, so fuel was probably very low and time running out.)

Why no written declaration of the deed? Why no need to boast? Let's look at the pilot. He was considered a thoughtful individual of great faith. Could a man of great faith become a true martyr, one who would choose to bring about his version of Sharia justice WITHOUT the need to claim personal glory? Or, could a man of great faith do the deed without crowing, without fame or notoriety, with only heaven being his reward?

(E.g., the Egyptian pilot who was found to have committed suicide several years ago took all the passengers and crew members on his flight to their deaths without any consideration of their humanity or families, nor did he seek public recognition. To him, his decision was personal. He was content to die without claiming glory for the lives he took with him. The voice recorder in the cockpit had his last utterance -- "Allahu Akbar" - God is Almighty. )

So, look at the pilot, co-pilot, or third-party hijacker in that light - no need for glory, just the satisfaction of wreaking justice for a perceived injustice. His/their place in heaven was assured (Do Muslims believe in angels? In heaven, he might receive real wings). In addition, if this involved either the pilot or co-pilot, there was no need to heap this deed on family, or, more likely, visiting possible financial repercussions and ostracism on them, as well. He or they left a simple challenge - prove that he/they did it - with no proof-positive, no one would ever be able to show a pre-meditated scenario and sue or harass family left behind.

May the 239 souls so tragically lost rest in peace.


on March 19,2014 | 04:48AM
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