Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur church torched
A city church in the leafy Desa Melawati suburb was set on fire at midnight as police warned angry Muslim groups not to protest a controversial ruling allowing Catholic weekly Herald to use “Allah” in its national language section. The attack on the Metro Tabernacle A/G, an Assemblies of God church in Jalan 4/4C Desa Melawati, completely gutted its administrative office on the ground floor. There were no reported injuries in the midnight attack. Police have yet to identify the attackers and no one has claimed responsibility for the attack which could be related to anger over the Dec 31 court ruling. The judgment has been suspended pending government appeal.
According to an eyewitness who had just finished a drink at a coffeeshop located directly across the church, three or four persons on two motorcycles stopped in front of the church.
"They proceeded to break the glass panels on the ground floor before pouring some flammable liquid and setting off a fire," said a statement issued by the church.
The church is housed in a three-storey shoplot with the office on the ground floor. Church officials have lodged a police report over the incident.
Earlier in the night, the judiciary website was defaced and later taken offline.
The Metro Tabernacle is not affiliated to the Roman Catholic Church which had challenged a 2007 order to stop using “Allah” to describe the Christian God in the Herald's Bahasa Malaysia section.
The Herald is tightly circulated among the mainly Muslim country's estimated 850,000 Catholics who worship in English, Mandarin, Tamil and Bahasa Malaysia.
The Roman Catholic Church had agreed not to object to suspend the judgment out of "national interests" as Muslim groups objected to the ruling and threatened to protest.
The groups have organised protests after Friday prayers at two mosques in Kuala Lumpur today despite police orders not to proceed.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his cousin Home Minister Datuk Hishamuddin Hussein have backed the right to protest within mosque grounds to the chagrin of many who have been previously detained at opposition gatherings.
Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohamad Sabtu Osman said it was premature to link the attack on the church to the protests over the Allah ban.
''We are still investigating,'' he told the Associated Press. He also urged Muslims not to participate in the planned protests, adding that police would be stationed at mosques to monitor the situation.
Police limit gatherings in public to five people and usually take tough action, including using tear gas and chemically-laced water from water cannons, to disperse protests.
Friday, 08 January 2010 11:04am