God row spells change ahead
Richard Lloyd Parry; 22/1/10
It seemed to come out of nowhere, it ran its course within a fortnight and the damage inflicted was mild compared with religious conflicts in other parts of the world. But this month’s attacks on churches in Malaysia, which petered out last week leaving one gutted by fire and nine others vandalised, is a sinister development, a portent of great changes afoot in what used to be one of Southeast Asia’s most stable and peaceful democracies. The attacks were provoked by a simmering and, to many outsiders, absurd controversy about the use of the word Allah. Below that, they suggest deep and long-running tensions in a country that has successfully bottled them up for 40 years. The row over whether Christians should have the right to use the word Allah to refer to their god in Malaysian-language bibles and liturgy is just the latest in a series of manifestations of a rising current of conservative Islam.