Police have detained 49 men - mostly foreigners, to facilitate investigations into a viral video that showed a crowd praying outside a surau in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, in conjunction with Hari Raya Aidiladha yesterday.

According to state police chief Mohd Shuhaily Mohd Zain, the suspects were 48 Bangladeshis and a local man, aged all in their 20s and 40s.

"They were picked up in various locations in Juru today," the New Straits Times (NST) quoted Shuhaily saying last night.

A probe against the video was initiated after it showed more than 200 Muslims congregating outside the surau yesterday morning, to perform their Aidiladha prayers.

This was in violation of COVID-19 lockdown standard operating procedures (SOPs), which allow only 100 devotees to gather at any point of time.

Earlier yesterday, Shuhaily apologised to Penangites for failing to stop the gathering from happening.

He said that investigations revealed that the crowd outside the surau were those who were asked to leave the surau after it had reached the 100 person capacity.

"However, the management of the surau did not disperse the crowd, knowing full well the sensitivity of the Aidiladha prayer. They also did not alert the police of the matter.

"This resulted in the more than 200 congregation, mainly foreigners, to gather spontaneously outside the surau for the Aidiladha prayer, whilst observing physical distancing. They left after prayers about 9am," Shuhaily said.

According to NST, Taman Pelangi, where the incident happened, has a population of about 8,000 people - about 70 per cent of which are foreigners working in the nearby industrial area.

After the video went viral, Home Minister Hamzah Zainuddin asked the Penang police to furnish him with a detailed report and explanation on the SOP breach.

For the record, there have been instances of religious gatherings triggering new clusters of COVID-19, previously.

Source: NST
Photo source: FMT