Teng apologises for non-Islamic worship houses controversy

PETALING JAYA: Selangor senior executive councillor Datuk Teng Chang Khim (pix) is taking full responsibility over the state's prohibitive guidelines on constructing new non-Islamic houses of worship.

Teng said he had instructed his subordinates to go through the guidelines and make the necessary amendments but made the mistake of not checking the finalised report.

He said a Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) councillor was to look through it and mark all the clauses deemed not suitable for a multi-religious and multi-racial community.

It was then passed on to the Selangor Town and Country Planning Department, and eventually back to Teng.

"A senior officer at the department gave me the finalised copy and I took the officer's word. I did not double check, for that I am responsible.

"As such, I apologise for the mistake of not checking the manual again before it was tabled to the state executive council," said Teng, who holds the investment, industry and trade, small and medium industries, and transport portfolios.

He said the state government will now discuss the matter with non-Islamic religious organisations and the necessary actions will be taken after its conclusion.

Teng said it will also be brought to the state executive council on Wednesday, April 12, to have implementation of the sections concerning non-Muslim houses of worship suspended until the meetings are done.

He added that the state government had always taken non-Muslims' religious freedom into account and this is shown by the 252 land or gazette application for non-Islamic houses of worship that have been approved, the most in 50 years preceding 2008.

Controversy erupted when it was revealed that the third edition of the Selangor Manual Guideline and Selangor State Planning Standard outlined was extremely prohibitive towards the building of new non-Islamic houses of worship.

These include that such places must be at least 50m away from the nearest Muslim-owned homes and the need to obtain permission of residents within a 200m radius.

Non-Islamic houses of worship also cannot be constructed in commercial areas and must not be taller than nearby mosques.