The Light of the Cross Stirs Malaysia

PENANG – During the recent testing of lighting fixtures at a residential high-rise under construction in the city of Penang, a local Muslim mufti complained to local authorities because the resulting pattern was in the shape of a cross. During the recent testing of lighting fixtures at a residential high-rise under construction in the city of Penang, a local Muslim Mufti complained to local authorities because the resulting pattern was in the shape of the cross The mufti insisted that the authorities investigate why the lights had been arranged as a cross and demanded that the lighting be rearranged so as not to offend “the harmony of Malaysia’s multiracial society.” He cited the Malaysian Constitution’s mandate prohibiting the promotion or preaching of Christianity or any other religion to Muslims. The contractor has denied any predetermination or intention to purposely arrange the lights as a cross. Despite the mufti’s protestations it is not illegal to display a symbol of the cross in Malaysia. His argument is built on the allegation that a cross can be seen as a threat and an affront to Islam.

An op-ed author for Free Malaysia Today posed the question of why the cross is considered so offensive to the Malaysian Muslims while Hindu and Buddhist temples are not. He suggested that Christians posing a threat to Islam in Malaysia is “more imagined than real.”

Islam is the official language of Malaysia. The overwhelming majority (61.3%) of Malaysians are Muslim. Buddhists comprise 19.8%. The remaining 18.9% include Hindus, Christians, and followers of traditional Chinese religions.

One assemblyman derided those who were trying to create a racial and religious issue out of something that should not be an issue at all.

Even if the building was lighted up like a cross intentionally (which I believe was not the case), I see nothing wrong with it, as everyone should be free to express their own religious affinity publicly and openly without fear and or having to do so in hiding.

This was not a case where someone had, with deliberate provocation, erected a cross in front of a [compound], mosque or a Muslim cemetery to hurt the feelings of Muslims.

There was absolutely nothing to suggest that this incident was carried out with any deliberate intention to provoke the sensitivities of Muslims in the first place, and hence it is a non-issue to call on the authorities to take corrective action on the matter. This matter should just end there.

In a note of irony, the contractor, whether speaking straightforwardly or facetiously, assured authorities that the incident was unintentional and suggested that the formation of the lights more closely resembled the Chinese kanji symbol for “king.” That symbol, as in the photo of the building above is .

The matter continues to be debated.


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