Thousands of Malaysians gather at Merdeka Square in KL in solidarity with Palestine

The event was the third such gathering in 10 days, with observers estimating the crowd at around 10,000 strong.

Azril Annuar

Azril Annuar

The Straits Times


Thousands gathering at a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur's Merdeka Square on Oct 22, 2023, to show support for Palestinians caught in the Israel-Hamas conflict. PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

October 23, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – Thousands of Malaysians marched on Sunday – the third such gathering in 10 days – in a sign that the plight of Palestinians continues to resonate within the Muslim-majority country.

The event was organised by humanitarian non-governmental organisations Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM) and MyCare. Previously, there was a gathering at the National Mosque on Oct 13, and a march to the US embassy on Friday.

At the Sunday gathering at Merdeka Square, Palestinian flags could be seen being waved across the field. Chants of “Free Palestine” could be heard, among others, accompanied by the sound of beating drums.

The organisers had stressed that the gathering must be non-offensive and non-provocative. They asked those present to take down placards that personally insulted individuals, including Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Security, please take down those placards,” VPM chairman Musa Mohd Nordin could be heard saying. “I don’t care if this is your truth,” he told an unnamed protestor.

Observers estimated the crowd at around 10,000. According to Dr Musa, more than 20,000 people attended the event on Sunday. The highlight of the rally was a speech by former Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, daughter of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

She criticised the Western powers, particularly the United States and Britain, for their support of the Israeli military, saying they did so despite the attacks on hospitals and churches in Gaza which resulted in the deaths of civilians, including children.

“This isn’t about religion. Muslims and Christian Palestinians are being butchered. That’s why we are encumbered to fight for the freedom of Palestine and return the moral compass to the world,” said Ms Nurul Izzah.

Mr Anwar has said that Malaysia does not agree with Western pressure to condemn Hamas.

“I said that we, as a policy, have a relationship with Hamas from before and this will continue,” he said in Parliament on Oct 16. “As such, we don’t agree with their pressuring attitude as Hamas won in Gaza freely through elections and Gazans chose them to lead.”

A day later, the Malaysian leader said it is crucial to prioritise the safety of all individuals affected by the conflict.

Israel has launched a “total siege” of Gaza after an Oct 7 cross-border attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants. So far, around 6,000 Israelis and Palestinians have been killed.

A long-awaited convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid crossed into southern Gaza on Saturday for the first time since Israel began the devastating siege on Oct 8.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil said he is seeking advice from Malaysia’s foreign ministry over allegations that social media platform TikTok has been taking down content with the word “Hamas”, among others.

He revealed that complaints have been lodged, and that one user’s content was taken down a minute after it was uploaded on TikTok. According to the user, the content was removed as it had violated community guidelines, Mr Fahmi said.

“I’ve reached out to TikTok for an explanation, but I am unhappy with what they have to say.

“So, I will seek guidance from Wisma Putra on this issue and on other matters,” said the minister, referring to the foreign ministry. He added that he will also hold a briefing session with senior editors next week over the news coverage of the Israel-Hamas war.

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