Kuala Lampur -- "Why are the Christians claiming Allah?" asks businessman Rahim Ismail, 47, his face contorted in rage and disbelief. He shakes his head and raises his voice while waiting for a taxi along Jalan Tun Razak, a main thoroughfare in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital.
"Everybody in the world knows Allah is the Muslim God and belong to Muslims. I cannot understand why the Christians want to claim Allah as their God," Rahim says as passers-by, mostly Muslims, gather around and nod in agreement.
The reason for their anger is a recent judgment by Malaysia's High Court that the word Allah is not exclusive to Muslims. Judge Lau Bee Lan ruled that others, including Catholics who had been prohibited by the Home Ministry from using the word in their publications since 2007, can now use the term. She also rescinded the prohibition order freeing the Malay language–edition of the Catholic monthly The Herald to use Allah to denote the Christian God.
After widespread protests, however, the judge granted a stay order on Jan. 7. The same day the government appealed to the higher court of appeal to overturn the ruling.
The anger seemingly turned violent late Thursday night after masked men on motorcycles firebombed three churches in the city, gutting the ground floor of the Metro Tabernacle Church located in a commercial building in the Desa Melawati suburb of the capital.
The attacks, which police said appeared uncoordinated, were condemned by the government, opposition MPs and Muslim clerics alike. On Friday Muslims demonstrated in scores of mosques across the country but the protest was peaceful. In the mosque in Kampung Baru, a Malay enclave in the city, Muslims held placards that read "Leave Islam Alone! Treat Us As You Would Treat Yourself! Don't Test Our Patience!" This, amid cries of "Allah is Great!"...