Four churches in and around Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia have been firebombed in the continued reaction to a court ruling that Christians may use the word “Allah.”
One attack destroyed the first-floor offices of the three-story Metro Tabernacle Church. The Times reported that the worship hall itself was undamaged, but Kevin Ang, a church spokesman, said that the church is “90 percent gutted.”
Ang also reported that witnesses saw two persons on a motorbike who approached the entrance and threw in what looked like a petrol bomb.
Minor damage was caused in petrol bomb attacks on three other churches, one of them Catholic, in the adjacent town of Petaling Java, the Times reports.
Angry protests and cyber attacks on the website of the Herald, the Catholic newspaper involved in the case, followed the Malaysian High Court’s Dec. 31 ruling. The court said that the paper, Malaysia’s largest Catholic newspaper, may use “Allah,” also a traditional Malay word, to name the Christian God.
The high court suspended its ruling on Wednesday in anticipation of a government appeal.
Muslim preachers used Friday prayers to object to the decision, the Times reports.
“We will not allow the word Allah to be inscribed in your churches,” one speaker said at the Kampung Bahru mosque in central Kuala Lumpur. Protesters also carried posters reading “Heresy arises from words wrongly used” and “Allah is only for us.”
Muslims are a small majority in Malaysia, which has large Chinese and Indian populations who follow Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. Most of the readers of the Herald are Christian tribespeople in the states of Sarawak and Sabah in Borneo.
In a Wednesday statement the Herald editor Fr. Andrew Lawrence told the Agence France Presse (AFP) that the paper believed the website attacks were designed to create a “climate of fear” and a “perceived threat to national security” in order to pressure the court to reverse its decision.
“We are Malaysians and we want to live in peace and happiness,” Fr. Lawrence added.