At home in Malaysia, refugees celebrate country’s multiculturalism this Eid

Migrants marked the Eid with their families and friends. (AN photo by Nor Arlene Tan)
Updated 12 August 2019

At home in Malaysia, refugees celebrate country’s multiculturalism this Eid

  • There are currently about 180,000 refugees registered by the UN living in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Refugees from across Malaysia celebrated Eid with locals at the Bukit Indah Ampang Mosque, near Kuala Lumpur, on Monday.

“We want Malaysians to come and mingle with the refugees, making new friends and getting to know why they are here in the first place,” said Rahman.

The 11 refugee communities participating in the gathering, he added, including the Rohingya, Syrian, Afghan, Sudanese, Uighur, Yemeni, Somali, Pakistan, Iraqi and Palestinian communities, were pleased with the event. Each community received livestock donated by locals for the gathering.

“We want them to experience the Eid Al-Adha and ritual sacrifice again, as if they were in their own countries. All the 11 communities have to slaughter their own cows and sheep,” Rahman added.

There are currently about 180,000 refugees registered by the UN living in Malaysia, and many more undocumented refugees. Malaysia has become the destination of choice for many Muslim refugees as the country is majority Muslim and sympathetic to their plight.

“It had been a hard struggle because of the war,” Mohamed Ali, 24, a Somali who has been living in Malaysia for the past three years told Arab News.

He claimed Malaysia has been welcoming toward him as a refugee, and that the gathering had brough together Muslims from a diverse group of cultures and nationalities. “Back home in Somalia, I only celebrated Eid Al-Adha with other Somalis. The best experience is the community sharing,” he said, adding that he hoped to share Somali culture such as singing and dancing with his friends.

“I enjoyed my time very much here because I see a lot of Muslims from different countries and I can meet the locals too,” said 38-years old Marzia Parsa.

She told Arab News that back home, she also celebrated Eid Al-Adha with her family and community. “We would slaughter sheep and cows, and cooked dinner and lunch together,” said Parsa, an Afghan Hazara who fled to Malaysia two years ago.

Malaysian activist Zuhri bin Yuhyi, 38, secretary-general of the group “Malaysia4Uyghur,” told Arab News that many of the Uighur community in Malaysia were spread out and the actual number is unknown. However, members of the Uighur community joined the Eid Al-Adha celebrations.

Bin Yuhyi said that unlike other refugee communities, the experience of performing ritual sacrifice for the Uighur community is relatively new. “They have not had the chance to practice their religion in Xinjiang,” he said.

“Refugees have pride and they do not want to just be on the receiving end.  At this event, they got to participate and feel that they are part of the community in Malaysia.”

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”