Malaysia's opposition pact rallies against US' Jerusalem move

Malaysia's opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) held a rally outside the American embassy yesterday to protest against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Led by opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad, the demonstration in downtown Kuala Lumpur was held after Friday prayers, exactly a week after Malaysia's ruling party Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) had their rally, which drew over 1,000 supporters.

The PH rally drew just over 100 supporters despite the attendance of other top opposition leaders like Dr Wan Azizah Ismail.

In Jakarta, fewer than 100 people protested outside the American embassy and burnt US flags, while calling for President Joko Widodo to order the American ambassador to leave the country. There have been near daily protests in Jakarta over the Jerusalem issue.

"Trump's a bully. He's picking on the weak," Tun Dr Mahathir told the KL crowd. He urged Prime Minister Najib Razak to confront Mr Trump and tell him: "Hey Donald, stop bullying. Go fight somebody your size."

Other opposition politicians and leaders of non-governmental organisations also spoke at the rally.

Dr Mahathir also called for Muslim countries to "break off diplomatic relations with Israel", but did not express support for calls by some Muslims to boycott American companies.

"We have to study carefully, because we don't want to cut off our nose to spite our face," he said about the boycott movement.

Malaysia's political leaders have denounced Mr Trump's move, with Datuk Seri Najib saying at Umno's annual assembly last week that the country "strongly rejects the proposal".

Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday said Mr Najib and PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang will hold a rally next Friday at the country's iconic Putra Mosque in the administrative capital Putrajaya.

The two former political foes joined hands last year in a mass protest against the violence towards Myanmar's Rohingya but maintained that their relationship is based on religious grounds.

PM Najib attended the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) emergency summit in Turkey this week to discuss the matter, which included Mr Trump's plan of having a US Embassy in Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, the OIC declared that East Jerusalem is Palestine's capital.

• Additional reporting by Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja in Jakarta

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'Malaysia's opposition pact rallies against US' Jerusalem move'. Print Edition | Subscribe