Another church attacked as Malaysia in damage control mode

A church was attacked Monday in Malaysia – the eighth such incident in a fortnight – as it sought to launch a damage control exercise by telling foreign envoys that the attacks were aberrations and not representative of the tradition of the Muslim-majority multi-racial nation.

The attack took place in the early hours of Monday at Seremben in Negri Sembilan state. Violence has been triggered by a controversy over the use of the word “Allah” by a magazine published by the Catholic church.

Burn marks were found on the church’s main entrance door. The attack, however, did not affect the church interior and was believed to have occurred early Monday morning, Star Online, web site of The Star reported.

Police were informed about the incident by a man who found the main door of the church with burn marks at about 8.30 a.m.

“A team of police officers, together with the forensic unit and the fire and rescue department went to inspect the incident and found the front entrance door damaged.

“We believe assailants used petrol to set fire to the door but, fortunately, the fire did not spread,” Negeri Sembilan deputy police chief Datuk Abd Manan Mhd Hassan told reporters.

Over 130 Muslim non-government organisations (NGOs) have offered to be “eyes and ears” of the government to keep a watch on the Christian shrines across the country to avoid further attacks.

Incidents of stone throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks occurred last week after a high court judgment upheld the right of a magazine published by the Catholic church to carry the word ‘Allah’ on its masthead.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has condemned the attacks and said that his government would appeal against the judgement.

Home Minister Hishamuddin Tun Hussein has said the situation was under control and not serious.

“So far the attacks have involved stone throwing and arson attempts. There is no serious damage,” he was quoted as saying in The Star Monday.

Hussein said: “We need to explain to the people outside the country as the issue has been played up by certain parties. So we will meet the envoys and I will brief them.”

Condemning the attacks in an editorial, the New Straits Times said this should be treated “as a wake up call” and efforts be made to restore harmony among various religious groups.

Fixing the damage done to the shrines would be one way to assuage the public feelings, the newspaper said.

The Malaysian government is concerned that the incidents could affect its tourist traffic and the inflow of foreign students.

Higher Education Minister Mohammed Khaled Nordin said the incidents might have an adverse effect on foreigners thinking of studying here due to the global nature of today’s world.

He said officers would be told to clarify that these were rare incidents that were not consistent with the practices in the country.

“We will be in repair mode,” the minister was quoted as saying in New Straits Times.

–Indo-Asian News Service

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