Asia-Pacific

Malaysia men guilty in 'Allah' row church attack

Kuala Lumpur police officers inspect the damage to the Metro Tabernacle Church
Image caption The offices of one church were destroyed by a fire-bomb

Two Malaysian men have been found guilty of setting fire to a church in January in a row over non-Muslim use of the word "Allah".

The two had claimed their burn injuries were sustained at a barbecue.

But a judge in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, said this was a fabrication and jailed them for five years.

The attack on the Metro Tabernacle Church in Kuala Lumpur was the first of a series of attacks on houses of worship following the "Allah" row.

Eleven churches, one Sikh temple, three mosques and two Muslim prayer rooms became targets of arson and other incidents.

Raja Muhammad Faizal Raja Ibrahim, 24, and Raja Muhammad Idzham Raja Ibrahim, 22, were both convicted of "mischief by fire".

Judge S M Komathy Suppiah said that their crime struck "at the very foundations and tenets of a civilised society".

Religious tensions in multi-ethnic Malaysia increased after a court ruled in December 2009 that a Roman Catholic newspaper could use the word "Allah" in its Malay-language edition to describe the Christian God.

The government has appealed against the ruling.

Christian groups say they have been using the term in reference to God in the Malay language for decades, says the BBC's Jennifer Pak in Kuala Lumpur.

But some Muslim groups are suspicious of their motives, our correspondent says, saying the use of the word Allah is a ploy to encourage Muslims to convert to Christianity - something that is illegal in the country.

Malay Muslims make up almost two-thirds of the country's population, but there are large Hindu and Christian communities.

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