Malaysians brace for “Allah” demo

(Free Malaysia Today) KUALA LUMPUR: A church was attacked and the judiciary website  hacked as Malaysians brace for  nationwide protests around noon today against a court ruling on the use of the  term “Allah” by Catholic newspaper Herald.

Although police have issued warnings and  several Umno leaders, who initially gave tacit approval for the protests organised by Muslim NGOs,  have back tracked from their aggressive stand, many Malaysians  fear  the demonstrations could turn ugly.

Pakatan Rakyat leaders, including Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, have urged their supporters to stay away from the demonstrations compared to what Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein have been uttering.

Several church leaders have been calling up their media contacts to find out more details about  Thursday’s attack the Metro Tabernacle Church in Desa Melawati as rumours swirled that several  other churches were burned.

According to local and foreign media reports, the attack on the Tabernacle church occurred this  morning.

The first storey of the building housing the church was firebombed by a group of motorcyclists.

“It is confirmed that Desa Melawati church was burnt, at about 12.25 am in the morning. There were no fatalities. We are investigating the incident and suspect foul play,” said Kuala Lumpur Chief Police Officer Mohammad Sabtu Osman.

It was believed the group of youths on motorcycles rode up to the church, smashed the glass panels on the ground floor of the three-storey building and later threw some materials into the building that started a fire.

Church lay leader Rtd Major Peter Yeow, 62, said witnesses were not near enough to get a closer look at the youths who sped away after the act.

The security guard at the Tabernacle church, 65-year-old V Mariappan, said he had just walked away from the main entrance of the building to use the bathroom when the building erupted in flames.

“When I came back, there was a huge fire inside the church building. There was a few loud explosions like bombs exploding,” he said, adding he saw two motorcycle helmets lying on the road in flames.

The church that was burned was part of a group called “The Assembly of God”. Many churches in Malaysia are situated in residential or retail areas and often occupy a small lot.

The Herald editor Father Lawrence Andrew has warned of a campaign of intimidation including hacker attacks against the weekly’s website, protest plans and widespread criticism in the media over last week’s ruling.

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