Police chief's handling of temple attack riles Hindus

IPOH • Malaysia's Hindus are unhappy that the country's police chief had classified a young man who smashed the idols of Hindu deities in a temple in Perak state last week as being "mentally unstable", in what they saw as a criminal attack.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar had said that the 29-year-old Malay houseman attacked the temple when he went berserk after being sacked from a hospital in Ipoh.

No one was hurt in the Sunday attack, but nine idols were broken, Malaysia's The Sun newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The attack occurred around 5pm at the temple located along Jalan Hospital in Ipoh. Dozens of Hindus turned up at the temple in the hours after the attack.

Mr Khalid said the man, whom he did not name, has been consigned to a mental hospital in Tanjung Rambutan in Perak.

"I hope the Indian community in Ipoh calms down. This was done by someone (who is) mentally unstable," he said in a speech at an event on Monday. "This guy is a doctor who was just fired from the Ipoh hospital for being mentally unsound."

Facebook users have shown pictures of the young man and named him. Adding to the concern among Hindus, several Facebook users have shown pictures of the man's car left outside the temple with what appeared to be two home- made flags that looked similar to banners used by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The attack comes at a time when Malaysia is battling to tamp down support for the terrorist group. Security officials have arrested more than 100 people suspected of having links to ISIS and foiled seven terrorist plots last year.

Penang's Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy asked: "How can the police say he's mentally ill when only a psychiatrist can determine that? Or is he a Muslim extremist?"

Mr Khalid on Tuesday warned a Hindu Facebook user for playing up religious sentiment, adding that police would not allow anyone to threaten freedom of religion in Malaysia, The Star daily reported.

Asked about claims that the man had ISIS flags on his car, he said: "Let us investigate and take action according to the law with consideration to his condition. People with unsound minds are capable of anything."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2016, with the headline 'Police chief's handling of temple attack riles Hindus'. Print Edition | Subscribe