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Jan 7, 2010
Focus: Religion
Action Request: Protest
Location: Malaysia

A church was set on fire in Malaysia early Friday, 8 January 2010, by unidentified attackers amid a growing conflict in the country over the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims, officials said.

Only the first floor office of the Metro Tabernacle Church was destroyed in the blaze that started a little after midnight Thursday, said church spokesman Kevin Ang. The worship areas on the upper two floors were undamaged, and there were no injuries.

The church is located in a three-story building on a shopping street in Desa Melawati, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, the main city of this Muslim-majority country.

The attack on the Protestant church comes days after the Kuala Lumpur High Court struck down a 3-year-old ban on non-Muslims using the word "Allah" in their literature. The government has appealed against the court verdict, which allowed a Catholic publication to use the common word for God in the Malay language, and the High Court has suspended its decision from being enforced until the appeal is heard.

Muslims argue that "Allah" is exclusive to Islam, and its use by Christians would confuse Muslims and tempt them to convert to Christianity.

The court decision has resulted in a rash of angry comments and threats by Muslims on the Internet. Dozens of Muslim groups are planning a protest against the court decision on Friday after weekly prayers.

Friday's fire was the first time the controversy turned destructive.

District police chief Zakaria Pagan told the AP "we are still investigating" the fire and said he will issue a statement later.

Another church official quoted a witness as saying she saw three or four men on a motorcycle breaking the main glass front of the church and throw something inside, possibly a gasoline bomb. The account could not be independently confirmed.

About 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million people are Malay Muslims, while the rest are ethnic Chinese and Indians, who follow Christianity, Hinduism and other religions.

The High Court ruling was on a petition by the Herald, the main publication of Malaysia's Roman Catholic Church. It uses the word Allah in its Malay-language edition, which is read by indigenous tribes in the remote states of Sabah and Sarawak.

The tribespeople are Malay-speaking, so Catholic officials say "Allah" is the only word they know for God.

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Posted: Jan 7, 2010 4:35pm
Jul 15, 2009

Dear All,

I am very disappointed about this is happening in my country. I would like you to help me to discourage this sort of activities in my country, thank you.

2 Malaysian Muslims stir anger with church article

AP

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysian authorities are investigating two Muslims who sparked complaints after they pretended to be Christians and took Communion at a church service to research a magazine article, officials said Tuesday.

The investigation poses a fresh challenge for the government in its efforts to reduce religious friction in this ethnic Malay Muslim-majority country, where religious minorities have complained that their rights are being sidelined in favor of Islam.

A churchgoer filed a police complaint last week after reading an article in the monthly Malay-language Al-Islam magazine written by a contributor who described how he attended a Roman Catholic Mass with his friend and hid his Muslim identity.

Police federal crime investigations head Mohamad Bakri Zinin said officials were investigating whether the two men had caused religious disharmony — a crime that carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Mohamad Bakri declined to elaborate. It was not clear which part of the men's actions might be considered a breach of the law. Causing religious disharmony is defined as taking any action that results in ill-will between people of various religions.

The writer said they were trying to confirm rumors that Muslim teenagers were being converted to Christianity in Kuala Lumpur's churches every Sunday. He described how they tasted Communion wafers to blend in with the crowd, but found no evidence to support the rumors.

He also criticized portions of the ceremony and said Christians have strayed from the true faith.

Rev. Lawrence Andrew, the editor of the Herald, the Catholic church's main publication in Malaysia, said the men had "insulted the Christians" through their actions.

"For us, this is a very holy matter," Andrew told The Associated Press. "They have shown disregard, disrespect. ... So we are very upset about this."

Norshamsinor Baharin, the assistant editor of Al-Islam, said the magazine did not want to make any statement for now. Al-Islam writes about Islamic teachings and news.

Church officials would not forbid non-Christians from attending Mass, but they cannot take Communion, Andrew said, adding that Catholics were also unhappy that the men had entered the church under false pretenses.

The magazine article indicated the men had spat out the Communion wafer because they took a photograph of it partially bitten.

Joachim Francis Xavier, the Catholic man who filed the police complaint, said the men had been irresponsible and that their actions could cause religious tensions.

"If everyone starts to intrude into each other's services and write about it, there will be chaos," said Xavier, who is not a member of the church that the men attended.

Christian, Buddhist and Hindu minorities — who comprise about one-third of Malaysia's population — often say their constitutional right to practice religion freely has come under threat from Muslim-dominated authorities. The government denies any discrimination.

Religious disputes include a court battle between the Catholic church and the government over a 2007 order banning non-Muslims from translating God as "Allah" in their literature. The government says its use would confuse Muslims, but Christians say the ban is unconstitutional.

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Posted: Jul 15, 2009 10:52pm

 

 
 
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