The banner placed at the surau to remind people to park their vehicles at the designated parking area at the Taman Austin Perdana mosque in Johor Baru after a fracas broke out there on May 5. The incident highlighted the need for the authorities to ensure their personnel are on hand to control traffic around houses of worship during large gatherings. PIC BY MOHD AZREN JAMALUDIN

A VIRAL video of a fracas outside the Taman Austin Perdana mos-que in Johor Baru recently led to a police case which gained a lot of attention online.

The video, featuring a group of men attacking a driver as the latter’s vehicle manoeuvred its way out of an area with cars parked on both sides of the road, was disturbing, to say the least.

The big crowd was seen hovering around the driver as his vehicle reversed and went forward several times in the incident that occurred just after Friday prayers.

In the background, one could hear the imam reciting what sounded like the doa after the completion of prayers.

Police said the driver honked continuously during the 1.30pm incident on May 5 after he found another car blocking his path.

Johor Criminal Investigation Department chief Datuk Kamarul Zaman Mamat said another man later moved the car that was obstructing the driver’s path.

“The disgruntled driver had honked at the other man as he was moving the car and then gave a passing honk as he left the area.

“Suddenly a group of men approached the first driver and started hitting him with their hands and helmet. The complainant’s vehicle was also damaged,” said Kamarul on the day of the incident.

Since the incident, four suspects have been picked up by police and another seven are still being sought in the investigations under Section 147 of the Penal Code for rioting.

Almost a week after the fracas, the 28-year-old car driver, who is an engineer, openly apologised for his action during a meeting that included him, Johor Islamic Religious Council adviser Datuk Nooh Gadut and other top Islamic religious authority officials.

It was heartening to see that, in the end, cool heads prevailed. Regardless of how it could have turned out and whose fault it was, the case in now in the hands of the police. They acted swiftly when word got out about the incident by deploying personnel to the location.

Less than 1½ hours after the incident, Johor Baru Selatan deputy district police chief Superintendent M. Kumar held a meeting that involved the driver and members of the surau’s committee at the Setia Indah police station.

Knowing full well the impact the case could have on public order, the police made a statement on that day urging the public against making any action that could aggravate the case.

Looking back at the fracas, it must be noted that the issue was dished out to all of us in typical 21st century fashion.

Most of us heard about it first through social media and through the many WhatsApp groups that we are part of.

The case has led to a multitude of reactions online and offline. It has put into focus how tolerance, understanding, mutual respect and common sense must prevail in everything we do.

It was right for Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed to say that the fracas outside the surau would not have occurred if there had been tolerance and understanding among members of the public, including among the youth.

A food stall worker, who had performed his Friday prayers at the surau on the day of the incident, said he was shocked that there was such a commotion.

The stall worker’s younger 17-year-old brother said several members of the congregation were seen trying to calm the situation.

“One of them was heard advising the men involved, and he lamented how they could have resorted to such action,” said the teenager.

Surau chairman Mohd Khaiidzir Ismail had said he wanted to see the matter resolved.

Since the incident, a large banner has been placed at the surau reminding the people to park their vehicles at the designated parking area behind the surau to avoid obstructing other motorists.

The incident highlighted the need for the authorities, such as the People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela), to make sure their personnel are properly controlling traffic around houses of worship during large gatherings.

Rela director-general Zulkifli Abidin said it would greatly help volunteers if more non-Muslim personnel or female Rela members were roped in for traffic dispersals and crowd management at mosques or surau during Friday prayers.

This proposal would be good considering that the Taman Austin Perdana surau’s committee hires four Rela members, who are Malay, to monitor traffic during Friday prayers.

Hopefully, we can learn from this incident and move on to become stronger and more tolerant of each other’s faiths and practices.

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