Sarawak Mosque Attacked

Newsgroups: soc.culture.singapore, soc.culture.malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian mosque was vandalised following attacks on
11 churches, threatening to deepen a row over the use of the word

The Saturday incident in the Borneo island state of Sarawak is the
first against a mosque after the arson and vandalism attacks on
churches, and could stoke anger among Malay Muslims who make up 60% of
the country's 28 million population. Malaysia's deputy police chief
Ismail Omar said police found broken glass near the outside wall of
the mosque, and warned troublemakers against whipping up emotions*.
"Don't make any speculation. We are investigating this incident.

The situation remains peaceful and no one should take advantage of
this to create something bad," Ismail said. Ismail could not confirm
whether the bottles thrown at the mosque were that of alcoholic
beverages, which is forbidden to Muslims, but said he believed the act
was vandalism.

The row stems from a court ruling that allowed a Catholic newspaper to
use "Allah" in its Malay-language editions, which caused Muslims to
protest outside mosques on Friday last week. Most of the attacks have
been against churches but a Sikh temple was also vandalised on
Wednesday. The office of the lawyer representing the Catholic
publication in the court case over the use of the word was broken into
and ransacked on Thursday.

The use of "Allah" is common among Malay-speaking Christians, who
account for 9.1% of the population, especially in the Borneo states of
Sabah and Sarawak. Opinions are split, but many Malays have expressed
unhappiness over allowing the word to be used by Christians. A page
created in the online networking site Facebook to protest the use of
the word by non-Muslims has so far attracted more than 220,000 users.

The Berita Harian Malay language newspaper reported on Saturday that
70 Muslim-Malay groups would submit on Monday a memorandum appealing
for intervention from the titular Malay rulers who oversee Islamic
affairs in their respective states. The government has warned that
laws, including the Internal Security Act that allows detention
without trial, would be deployed to keep tensions from boiling over.

A 25-year-old Malay student was charged in court on Friday with
threatening public safety following a comment he reportedly made on
his Facebook page offering to throw petrol bombs.

The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak is appealing the court
verdict and has condemned the arson and vandalism attacks, but
analysts have said he would likely lose votes among non-Muslims
unhappy with the row.

Malaysia's mainly Chinese and Indian non-Muslim ethnic minorities, who
form 40% of the country's population, abandoned the ruling coalition
in the 2008 general elections partly due to complaints over increasing
religious marginalisation. Analysts have said the arson attacks,
though not an immediate risk, are raising worries among some foreign
investors at a time when Prime Minister Najib Razak has pledged to
lure more foreign investment.

Malaysia, which between 1990 and 2000 accounted for half of all
foreign direct investment into it, Thailand and Indonesia, has now
lost its leading position. Najib is trying to woo them back with
economic liberalisation measures.

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