Muslims rally to defend privileges in multi-ethnic Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 8: Tens of thousands of banner-waving Muslims rallied in the Malaysian capital on Saturday to defend their long-cherished privileges, at a time of growing racial tensions in the multi-ethnic country.
About 55,000 people dressed in white flooded a historic square in downtown Kuala Lumpur, according to police, chanting "God is great" and brandishing banners that read "Long live the Malays".
Large numbers of police were on the streets and major roads were closed for the event, which was the first major rally since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad won a shock election victory in May and toppled the scandal-mired old regime.
Race and religion are sensitive in Malaysia, which is home to sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, and the Muslim Malay majority appears to be feeling increasingly insecure under a new government that is more representative of minorities.
The rally was originally intended as a protest against a plan by the government to ratify a UN convention which aims to eliminate racial discrimination.
Authorities abandoned the plan after opposition from conservative politicians and Malays, who feared the treaty could erode their privileged position in society. -AFP