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Malaysian Muslims stage rally to uphold Malay privileges

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Thousands of Malaysian Muslims are rallying in Kuala Lumpur against any attempt to strip ethnic Malay majority of their privileges, in the first massive street gathering since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s alliance won a historic vote in May.

The rally, organized by opposition Malay parties and nongovernment groups, was initially aimed at protesting a government plan to ratify a U.N. treaty against racial discrimination that critics allege will end Malay privileges under a decades-old affirmative action policy. The plan was eventually abandoned, but organizers decided to proceed with what they called a “thanksgiving” rally.

Mahathir said the government allowed the rally as part of democracy but warned against any chaos.

Scandal-tainted former Prime Minister Najib Razak was among opposition lawmakers at Saturday’s rally, which was held under tight police security.