A Malaysian court fined 12 Muslims on Tuesday and sentenced one of them to a week in prison for illegally protesting the construction of a Hindu temple and parading a severed cow’s head.
The protest last August stoked tensions among Malaysia’s three main ethnic groups — the Malay Muslim majority and Chinese and Indian minorities, most of them Buddhists, Christians or Hindus who have complained that their religious rights are often sidelined in favor of Islam.
The 12 men were among scores of Muslims who marched with a bloodied cow’s head from a mosque to the central Selangor state chief minister’s office on Aug. 28, 2009 to denounce the state government’s plan to build a Hindu temple in their largely Muslim neighborhood.
Some of the protesters also stomped and spat on the head and made fiery speeches that deeply offended Hindus. The cow is the most sacred animal in Hinduism.