Arson Attempts On 2 Malaysian Muslim Prayer Rooms

January 21, 2010

Author: Julia Zappei

Source: The Boston Globe

Wire Service: AP

Vandals tried to burn down two Muslim prayer rooms in Malaysia on Thursday, following a string of arson attacks on churches amid a dispute over the use of the word "Allah" by Christians.

Religious tensions have risen after a court ruled Dec. 31 that non-Muslims can use "Allah" as a translation for "God" in the Malay language. Many among the country's ethnic Malay Muslim majority believe the word should be exclusive to Muslims, and its use by others could confuse some Muslims and even entice them to convert.

Since Jan. 8, there have been assaults on 11 churches, a Sikh temple and a mosque -- mostly by unknown assailants using firebombs. Police this week arrested eight suspects believed to have orchestrated the most serious attack, which partially gutted a church in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's largest city.