Arsonists Attack Fourth Church in Malaysia

Saturday, January 9, 2010

By Worthy News Asia Service

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (Worthy News)-- Arsonists in Malaysia attacked a fourth church in the capital Kuala Lumpur after a High Court decision to end a government ban on the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims, church officials said.

Bishop Philip Loke told reporters that two firebombs were believed to have been thrown at his Good Shepherd Lutheran Church early Saturday, January 9, but missed the glass windows, hitting the building wall instead.

Earlier on Friday, January 8, Muslims protested at mosques and later arson attacks were reported on three other churches in Kuala Lumpur.

The three-story Pentecostal Metro Tabernacle Church was worst hit as its first-floor office was reportedly completely destroyed in a blaze a little after midnight. No injuries were reported.

The attacks were sparked by a December 31 court ruling that allowed a Catholic newspaper The Herald to use the word Allah, in reference to God, in its Malay-language editions.

Father Lawrence Andrew, the editor of The Herald, defended his paper's decision to challenge the government ban on the use of Allah by non-Muslims. "We have been using the word Allah for a long, long time," he said in an interview.


He said the church had already penetrated in what is now Malaysia when the first dictionary appeared here in 1631. "This is a culture and a language we have been using. Why deprive us from this?" he wondered. "We have to continue living our culture. It is not just about the church [but] about the identity of all citizens who are not Muslims."

He added that the court ruling confirmed that Christians "are able to live up to the constitution and enjoy the constitutional rigths."

Yet, observers say the attacks risk dividing the mainly Muslim nation of 28 million people, which has significant religious minorities. They also complicate Prime Minister Najib Razak's plan to win back support from the non-Muslims before the next elections by 2013, according to analysts.

Multi-ethnic Malaysia has kept racial tensions under control since race riots hit the country in the late 1960s. However in recent years, minorities have increasingly complained of government discrimination and argue that the nation's Sharia court, which rules on family matters for Muslims, is unfair to them, news reports said. (Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos contributed to this story).