Two men on a motorcycle threw two Molotov cocktails at the church of the Assumption in Penang last night, only one of which exploded without causing serious damage or injuries .
the gesture adds to concerns about a possible escalation of tensions between
the Muslim majority and the Catholic community , already heightened by the
controversy concerning the use of the word " Allah " to describe the
The attack is
reminiscent of the wave of sectarian violence that hit the country in 2010,
with dozens of churches and other places of worship (whether Christian or not)
the target of terrorist attacks or acts of vandalism.
bomb attacks followed derogatory banners appearing outside three different
churches in Penang with the inscription: "Allah is great, Jesus is the son of
far no one has claimed responsibility for the act, which has raised outrage
among religious leaders in the area.
believe it is an attempt to provoke Christians using the tactic of "reverse
Malaysian police have
opened an investigation into the events of yesterday and last night.
Minister Ahmad Zahid is appealing for calm and hopes that "Christian and
Muslim" leaders are able to maintain control and prevent further violence.
invite each of you, individuals or groups - he added - not to give in to these
provocative acts. What matters is harmony between religions".
The attack on the
church and the provocative banners come in the wake of renewed controversy over
the use of the word "Allah" for non-Muslims, which began
following the confrontation - that ended up in a court case - between the
editor of the Catholic weekly, the Herald, and the
Last October, a judgment of the Court of Appeal
effectively denied the Catholic weekly directed by Fr . Lawrence the right to
print the word "Allah" when describing the Christian God. The
priest then requested to appeal the sentence.
In Malaysia, out of a
population of more than 28 million people, the majority (60 per cent) are
Muslim, followed by Buddhists. Christians constitute the third largest group
numbering around 2.6 million. A few years ago, a 400-year-old Latin-Malay
dictionary was re-issued.
It shows that Allah was used in the Bible as the
word for God in the local language.
Meanwhile, Fr. Lawrence
is returning to the fray after a brief period of silence following his police
interrogation of 7 January by the police and a possible indictment . In
a lengthy interview Eglise d'Asie ( EDA ), the 68-year old priest said that the
controversy is indicative of a "radicalization " of Malaysian society
in place since the 70's and which was intensified in the recent past.
"racial" or "ethnic" divisions have become "a way of
life , a very common way of being in the country." In
this context, he adds, "it is better not to talk about religion" and it
is no longer even customary for Muslims to wish Christians "Merry
In view of the
hearing on 5 March , Fr. Lawrence
anticipates that "the verdict will be respected ," but the central
point is that "Catholics in Malaysia should be able to continue to celebrate and pray in
the Malay language".
Bible must continue to be printed in the local language, called "Al-
Kitab " (The Book , ed.) .
In fact, Christians are banned from
using 35 words of "common use", and this impediment "constitutes a blatant
violation of religious freedom" guaranteed by the Constitution but
disregarded in practice. In
Malaysia, as in other parts of the world, there is a radical growth of
extremist Islam and the youth of the minorities are increasingly encouraged to
emigrate, to find greater space (and freedom) in more tolerant societies.
the Muslim-majority nations and in comparison with what is happening in the
Middle East - said the priest - Malaysia is no exception in this respect".