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Churches attacked in Malaysia

ICC News: Summary of the church attacks in Malaysia, reaction to “Allah” ruling

By George Conger

1/27/09 Malaysia (ReligiousIntelligence) – Eight churches and a convent school have been attacked by Islamic militants in Malaysia in the wake of a High Court ruling overturning a government ban on Christians using the word “Allah” to describe God.

All Saints Anglican Church in Taiping in the northern state of Perak and Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Miri in Sarawak on the island of Borneo were among the seven Catholic, Lutheran and Pentecostal churches attacked by militants between Jan 8-10.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has denounced the attacks, and promised government assistance in rebuilding the Metro Tabernacle church in suburban Kuala Lumpur, which was badly damaged by petrol bomb on Jan 8.

The attacks follow a Dec 31 High Court ruling overturning a ban on Christians using the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. The government has seized Malay-language Bibles that use ‘Allah’ for God, and has sought to close the country’s Catholic Herald for using the word in its publication.

The government has appealed the court ruling, arguing that making ‘Allah’ synonymous with God will confuse Muslims and aid in their conversion to Christianity.

However, lawyers for the Catholic Church have argued that the Arabic word ‘Allah’ has been used in Christian Bibles for the past millennia and its use in Malay to refer to God is not sectarian. The government’s fear of confusion and potential conversion, they argue, is not shared by other Muslim nations, including neighbouring Indonesia where Christians and Muslims both use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God.

The ‘Allah’ dispute has political repercussions for the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak whose United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party leads the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition of 14 political parties, including the Malaysian Chinese Association and the Malaysian Indian Congress.

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