Three Christian churches were attacked with firebombs on Jan. 8 as tensions rose in a dispute over whether Christians could use the word “Allah” in this largely Muslim nation, reported the New York Times. Later in the day, small crowds rallied outside two major mosques in the capital, in a growing protest over a court ruling that overturned a government ban on the use of “Allah” by Roman Catholics as a translation for God. The government has appealed that ruling, insisting that the ban should remain in force, and made no move to bar the unsanctioned rallies, as it commonly does. Though Malaysia is 60 percent Malay and Muslim, sizable minorities of Chinese and Indians practice Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism in this country of 28 million. Ethnic and religious politics have grown more intense since the government suffered severe losses in a general election last March. Much of the reverse came at the hands of minority voters who were disturbed by the government’s increasingly conservative Islamic tone. During the current dispute, many Muslims have argued that the use of the word by other religions could confuse believers and tempt them to convert from Islam. In the first attack, the police said that a firebomb had destroyed the ground-level office of the Metro Tabernacle Church. Two other churches were attacked by arsonists before dawn, with only one of them sustaining minor damage, according to the police.

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