08/13/2010, 00.00
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Two Muslim youths sentenced over Church fire

In January, the Metro Tabernacle Church was attacked with stones and fire bombs. Now two young men have been sentenced to five years. The court also wanted to give a warning against interfaith attacks that exploded at that time.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Two young men from of eight arrested shortly after the January arson attack on the Metro Tabernacle Church, Assembly of God, have been sentenced to five years in prison. On January 8, some people threw stones and incendiary objects at the building, located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, creating serious damage (see photo).

The brothers 24 year old Raja Muhammad Faizal Raja Ibrahim 24 and Raja Muhammad Raja Idzham Ibrahim, 22, were found by police with apparent burns and defended themselves by saying they were from a barbecue.

The judge described the act as "disgraceful" and said that the convicted had "disgraced the country."

The attack was the first in a series of attacks against places of worship in Kuala Lumpur (11 churches, three mosques, a Sikh temple and two Muslim prayer rooms), which last January endangered inter-religious and inter-racial coexistence in the capital. The attacks came after a court in December 2009 had authorized a Catholic newspaper to use the word "Allah" to refer to the Christian God, which radical Islamic groups consider blasphemous.

The Government supports this extremist position and has even appealed against the December ruling, although its use is entirely normal in orthodox Muslim countries like Egypt and Indonesia, and despite the fact that Christians in Malaysia have shown that there is evidence of the Christian use of this term since the 17th century.

According to analysts, government support of Islamic groups has political purposes. Siding with them, the majority party, UMNO hopes to have greater electoral support. The opposition Islamic party, PAS, advocates the use of the word for Christians and Jews.

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