‘Mysterious banners’ escalate religious tension in Malaysia



REPUBLIKA.CO.ID – A Malaysian church was attacked with firebombs early Monday, police said, escalating tensions in a long-running dispute over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims. Penang state police chief Abdul Rahim Hanafi said two men on a motorcycle threw Molotov cocktails into the compound of The Assumption Church. No one was injured.

banners2The attack came after unknown people hung a provocative banner outside five Penang churches, including The Assumption, on Sunday. The banner read in English: “Allah is great, Jesus is the son of Allah.”

The churches said they had nothing to do with the banner and that it was put up to create animosity between Muslims and Christians in the majority-Muslim Southeast Asian nation. They complained to police.

John David, a supervisor with the Penang Catholic Church city parish, said the banner mysteriously appeared outside four Catholic and one Lutheran church on Sunday morning. He said he believed it was the work of individuals out to create religious animosity.

“We are worried. We have been living in harmony all this while,” he said.

Lim Guan Eng and Najib Razak

Lim Guan Eng and Najib Razak

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng condemned the act, saying it was the work of “religious extremists and racial bigots” who want to sow discord in the opposition-ruled state. Police said they will increase patrols at churches.

The wording of the banner was likely to be highly provocative to Muslims. Hardliners and the government object to the use of “Allah” by Christians, saying that it could confuse Muslims.

banners3The government says Allah should be exclusively reserved for Muslims. Christians in Malaysia said the restriction violates their religious rights.

About 60 percent of Malaysia’s 29 million people are Malay Muslims. Christians make up about 9 percent of the population.

Monday, 27 January 2014



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