Four people from Finland have been arrested in Malaysia for allegedly distributing pamphlets about Christianity, on a holiday island in the Muslim-majority nation. They may face up to five years in jail.
The majority of people in Malaysia are Muslims, and religion is a deeply sensitive issue in the country.
Two men and two women were detained by authorities after receiving complaints from members of the public that they had been given Christian materials on the popular resort island of Langkawi.
The Finns, aged between 27 and 60, were arrested at a hotel. Police seized pens, notebooks and a bag after they were accused of breaking laws that forbid people from disturbing religious harmony. According to the country’s legal system, if found guilty, they could be jailed for between two and five years. Meanwhile, the suspects have been remanded in custody while police investigate.
The local police chief Mohamad Iqbal Ibrahim confirmed that the “police have arrested four Finnish nationals in Langkawi for allegedly distributing pamphlets related to Christianity in a public place.”
Langkawi, a jungle-clad island in Northwest Malaysia, attracts millions of tourists to its palm-fringed beaches every year.
Malaysia, home to about 32 million people, has sizeable ethnic Chinese and Indian communities who have long complained about rising Islamisation.
In 2010, three churches were attacked with firebombs, causing major, as Muslims sought to prevent Christians from using the word “Allah.”
Issues related to race, religion and language are considered sensitive in Malaysia, that witnessed deadly riots between members of the majority Malay community and ethnic Chinese citizens in 1969.