Sunday, January 24, 2010

Arrests over Malaysia church fire

Malaysian police say they have arrested eight people over the firebombing of a church earlier this month.

No-one was injured in the incident, but it was the first in a series of attacks that have highlighted religious and political divisions.

The attacks followed a 31 December court ruling allowing non-Muslims to use the word "Allah" for God, which the government is appealing against.
Some politicians have insisted on exclusive rights for Malay Muslims.

Word divisions

Bakri Zinin, the federal police chief of criminal investigations, said that the eight suspects had been detained overnight in connection to the 8 January attack on Kuala Lumpur's Metro Tabernacle Church.

Tensions flared after Malaysia's High Court ruled that a Roman Catholic newspaper, the Herald, was permitted to use the word Allah to describe God in its Malay language editions.

Some Muslim groups have argued that Christians using a word so closely associated with Islam could be a ploy to win converts.

Other Muslim groups, such as the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) have said there is no bar to Christians and Jews using the word Allah.

Malays, who are required to be Muslim in Malaysia, make up a majority of the country's population alongside substantial Chinese and Indian minorities.
The Malaysian constitution gives primacy to Islam but allows the free practise of other faiths.

Under the slogan "One Malaysia", the government has made racial harmony a central policy. Its commitment to that policy is now being severely tested.
The "Allah" ban is unusual in the Muslim world. The Arabic word is commonly used by Christians to describe God in such countries as Egypt, Syria and even nearby Indonesia, which is the world's world's largest Muslim nation.

Story from BBC NEWS: Published: 2010/01/20 05:43:24 GMT. © BBC MMX

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