Malaysian opposition condemns closing of Saudi-backed anti-terrorism center

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Malaysia opposition leading lawmaker Hishammuddin Hussein, who was formerly defense minister, condemned Tuesday, a decision taken by its country’s new government to shut down a Saudi-backed anti-terrorism center.

Current defense minister Mohamad Sabu said in a written reply to a question in parliament on Monday that the King Salman Center for International Peace will cease operation immediately, just over a year after it was launched. He did not give a reason for the closure.

Hishammuddin Hussein said that the move to close the center was a loss to the nation amid growing terrorism in the Muslim world. He said the center was aimed at putting predominantly Muslim Malaysia at the forefront of the fight against violent extremism and ideologies together with Saudi Arabia.

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The center, which aims to draw Islamic scholars to combat extremist views and promote tolerance, has a temporary office in Kuala Lumpur while awaiting the construction of a permanent building in Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya.

The decision added more tensions that have already increased in the country since May 9 elections that saw the Barisan Nasional coalition, led by ex-prime minister Najib Razak, defeated for the first time since independence from Britain in 1957.

Malaysia’s king has, recently, appealed for calm amid growing racial tensions in the Muslim-majority country.

Also Lokman Adam, a UMNO supreme council member who led some 300 party members in a noisy protest near parliament, told recently AFP that race relations between Malays and other minority races were strained.

“Race relations are a bit tense. Malays are restless. We feel Islam is being treated badly (by the new government).”

Experts have warned recently that fundamentalists may capitalize on some recent statements and actions made by the new government.

with Associated Press