Malaysia no longer land of peace and tolerance, says Pakistan website

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Malaysia's global image as a moderate and progressive Muslim country is being tarnished by increasing racial and religious intolerance, and more recently, the attack on a church in Penang, a Pakistan online news website reported today.

Despite the millions of ringgit spent by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to promote this moderate image through his anti-extremist Global Movement of Moderates, the Allah row and incidents stemming from it show that this may not be the case anymore, Pakistan Today said.

The writer, Masood Khan, said for the rest of the Muslim world, Malaysia used to be an "island of peace and tolerance".

"Sadly, it’s no more as an evil eye has cast its bad shadow on a moderate and progressive country," he wrote.

Warning that Malaysia could end up like Pakistan should religious intolerance continue to escalate as seen in the past few weeks, Masood said: "Regardless of any falsified justification, it’s a regrettable action and shall be condemned. Malaysians shall learn from Pakistan what successive governments over there gained by pitching various religious and sectarian groups against each other.

"Such narrow-mindedness created monsters of ignorance and death. Today, no one in Pakistan knows how to put this controlled genie back in the bottle," he said.

Masood's comments came following the firebombing of a church in Penang early yesterday morning when two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the compound of the Church of the Assumption in Lebuh Farquhar.

Tension had already heightened in Penang when banners bearing the words "Allah is Great, Jesus is the son of Allah" were found on Sunday outside five churches – the Victory Lutheran Church, St John Britto Catholic Church, The Church of the Immaculate Conception and the Church of the Assumption on the island and the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Butterworth.

Najib ended his long silence over the Allah row on Friday to say that the 10-point solution still stands in Sabah and Sarawak but in the peninsula, it was subjected to the respective state enactments. His comments drew more criticisms.

Before the Sarawak state election in 2011, the Najib administration crafted a 10-point solution, which among others, allowed for the import and use of Bibles in all languages.

"I really felt sad about Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's statement in which he supported the court's judgment banning non-Muslims (read Malaysian Christians) from using the word Allah in the Bible text and in church services," Masood said.

"What do you call this – the authorities' attempt to distract Malay Muslims, who constitute 60% of the population, from subsidy cuts and rising cost of living, or it’s a simple case of narrow-mindedness to put various religious groups against each other to perpetuate the grip over power," he added.

Monday's church attack was reported by the international media including Washington Post, BBC and International Business Times.

This comes about a month before the Catholic Church's leave application to the Federal Court to appeal the Court of Appeal ruling which last October overturned a High Court decision allowing Catholic weekly, Herald, to use the word Allah. – January 28, 2014.

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