Freedom of religion is enshrined in Article 11 of the Federal Constitution, and this right is to be respected. The Malaysian Indian community has had its fair share of concerns, and over the years’ issues involving temple demolitions, as well as the use of spaces for religious ceremonies, have proven challenging.
Key Issues & Current Interventions
- Between 2006 and 2007, an estimated 79 temples were demolished, as reported by various news sources. Cases of temple demolition and relocation can be segmented into two types: Pre-Independence temples, involving temples established before Independence, mostly in estates and Unregistered temples.
- At present, the advisory body for Non-Islamic Houses of Worship (RIBI) under the Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing works with stakeholders to mediate relocation-related issues. The work of RIBI would be strengthened if a fair and orderly protocol governing the establishment, relocation and demolition of all houses of worship is communicated and widely recognised.
- Temples should also play a greater part in contributing to the social development of the Malaysian Indian community.
- Another challenge is related to the use of community halls. This is a problem that arises mostly in compact PPR neighborhoods where there is only one common hall and there are sensitivities in the use of the public halls due to differences in religious practice and culture. To address this, the CCIC has instructed the building of 15 community halls and 15 crematoriums in highly populated Malaysian Indian locations.
Moving Forward: Recommendations & Initiatives
To deliver on these targets, this Blueprint aims to effect the following:
1. Establish a National Temple Database
A collaboration between the MIB Implementation Unit, the Department of Urban and Rural Planning (“JPBD”), local councils, State Governments and key NGOs will be instituted to create an extensive temple database which tracks all temples, pre-empting any issues that may arise in the future.
2. Establish monitoring modality for religious institutions
MIB Implementation Unit will undertake a consultative study towards establishing a platform or means by which the social contribution and fiduciary duties of temples and other Malaysian Indian religious institutions may be assessed.
3. Increase supply of public halls and tolerance for shared space usage
As CCIC continues to monitor the completion of the promised community halls and crematoriums, existing multipurpose halls, schools and temples in high Indian-populated areas will be identified for the use of the community. Unit will also collaborate with the Department of Urban and Rural Planning (“JPBD”) and state governments to revise building design guidelines for low cost and medium cost housing developments, particularly flats. Moreover, to complement the above, the unit will implement initiative to improve inter-religious understanding and tolerance, including in the use of shared spaces.