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MALAYSIAN CHURCH FIREBOMBED

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A Malaysian church was firebombed, on Saturday 01/09/2010, police and church officials said, the fourth such attack in two days as a row escalated over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in southwest Kuala Lumpur was the latest target. There were no reports of injuries (see also – PERSECUTIONS).

Molotov cocktails were thrown at the windows of the first and second floors of the three-storey building, the church’s Bishop Philip Loke told AFP. “They narrowly missed it, but part of the walls are burnt,” he said, adding “we suspect this attack is linked to the other attacks.”

At least three churches were struck early on Friday in an unprecedented spate of attacks in this mainly Muslim country as a row over a court ruling that allowed a Catholic newspaper to use the word “Allah” in its Malay language editions presented a major challenge to the government.

One of the churches attacked on Friday was badly burned while firebombs thrown at two others failed to cause damage. Selangor state police chief Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed Saturday’s attack, saying it had caused minor damage to the building and police were investigating.

“We believe this attack is linked to the three other attacks but nobody saw how it happened. There were no eyewitnesses,” he told AFP.

Malaysia is mainly Muslim and Malay but there are substantial ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities who primarily practice Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Around 9 percent of the 28 million population are Christian, including 800,000 Catholics.

The use of the word “Allah” to describe the Christian God is widespread in Arabic speaking countries such as Lebanon and Egypt but Malaysian Muslims say the issue is especially sensitive in a country that has large minorities and where they say Christian missionaries will use the word to convert Muslims.

* Five more churches were attacked in Malaysia during Sunday 01/10/2010.  

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