Malaysian Church Attacks Damage Ties Between Christians, Muslims

January 11, 2010

Author: Eileen Ng

Source: The Detroit News

Wire Service: AP

Eight churches have been attacked over three days amid a dispute over the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims, sparking fresh political instability that is denting Malaysia's image as a moderate and stable Muslim-majority nation.

The unprecedented attacks have set off a wave of disquiet among Malaysia's minority Christians and strained their ties with the majority Malay Muslims. About 9 percent of Malaysia's 28 million people are Christian, most of whom are ethnic Chinese or Indian. Muslims make up 60 percent of the population and most are ethnic Malays.

The attacks were a blow to racial unity espoused by Prime Minister Najib Razak under his "1Malaysia" slogan since taking power in April, and posed a headache for him as he seeks to strengthen his ruling coalition after its losses in 2008 general elections.

"It showed that, after 52 years of living together, nation building and national unity is in tatters," said Charles Santiago, an opposition member of Parliament. "The church attacks shattered notions of Malaysia as a model secular Muslim nation in the eyes of the international community.