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Radicalism in a peaceful world: now Hindus threaten to enforce fundamentalism

Editorial Staff

A Facebook campaign, apparently by a Hindu who seems to be acting alone or with a tiny number of supporters has tried to cause intra-faith trouble in Malaysia for the festival of Thaipusam.

Malaysia's Hindu population is often frustrated by lack of political muscle and, with less justification, economic disadvantage. But aside from an occasional demonstration, there is rarely any trouble.

But that is threatened by the attempt to encourage Hindus to assault, with spray paint, any woman who attends a Thaipusam festival or celebration wearing traditional dress that reveals skin.

A facebook group has been created. It's called “Thaipusam Spraying Group” and it threatens "“Advance Warning to Hindu Female Patrons coming to Thaipusam festival, beware of being sprayed with Arosal (sic) paint if found inappropriately dressed."

The post carries a series of photographs of what it considers inappropriate sarees: mostly, they display bare backs far above the waist and bare waists, in the Hindu tradition.

It appears that the group was started by a Facebook user going by the name "Henry Barnabas" but it is not clear if this is one of Facebook's millions of fake accounts. On the page in the name of Henry Barnabas, there are supporting posts.

“Who to blame? Boys trying to protect girls but girls behaving like call girls and at the end of the day, when they are in trouble they will blame the guys.”

Claiming that he intends to protect the "culture and heritage" of Hindus, the post goes on:

"Let’s spread the positive message through this group so they will also get knowledge and respect the meaning of Thaipusam.

“Most youngsters these days don’t know our history. Thaipusam for them is just to be glamorous, dancing, etc. Let’s bring some awareness among the youth and the upcoming generation,” he said.

The posts appeared in early January but Thaipusam is celebrated next week. Malaysians are dismayed that such threats would be made. Like many countries with Indian populations, Malaysia has had its share of acid attacks on young women, although there have been none reported in the past couple of years. Malaysians see intra-racial attacks as a blight on Malaysia's (popular, if not religious and political) unity. The first significant group to express outrage and demand the originator's arrest was the Malaysian Chinese Association.

Four days ago, police in Selangor, near Kuala Lumpur, the country's capital, arrested the man who is reportedly from Penang, some 300 km away. By then, his group had collected 680 members, says local newspaper Malaysiakini.

The police have warned that any attacks will be be regarded as criminal assaults but there is also a history of prosecutions for anti-social behaviour as sedition or other offences.

Thaipusam will be celebrated on 9th February 2017.



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