Four Malaysian churches were attacked with firebombs, causing extensive damage to one, as Muslims pledged Friday to prevent Christians from using the word "Allah," escalating religious tensions in the multiracial country.
Many Malay Muslims, who make up 60 percent of the population, are incensed by a recent High Court decision to overturn a ban on Roman Catholics using "Allah" as a translation for God in the Malay-language edition of their main newspaper, the Herald.
The government says Allah, an Arabic word that predates Islam, is exclusive to the faith and by extension to Malays. It refuses to make an exception, even though the Herald's Malay edition is read only by Christian indigenous tribes in the remote states of Sabah and Sarawak.
At Friday prayers at two main mosques in downtown Kuala Lumpur, young worshippers carried banners and gave fiery speeches, vowing to defend Islam.