A Malaysian court sentenced two Muslim brothers to five years in prison Friday for torching a Christian church during the height of a dispute over whether non-Muslims can use the word "Allah" to refer to God.
The firebombing was the first in an unprecedented string of arson attacks and vandalism at places of worship last January that threatened decades of religious harmony in this Muslim-majority country. Eleven churches, a Sikh temple, three mosques and two Muslim prayer rooms were assaulted before the tensions abated.
Two ethnic Malay Muslim brothers in their 20s were arrested and placed on trial for the Jan. 8 attack, which partially gutted a Protestant church. The attack came days after some Muslims were angered by a court verdict that allowed Christians to use the word "Allah" in Malay-language publications.
Komathy Suppiah, a Kuala Lumpur district court judge, convicted both suspects Friday of "mischief by fire" with the intention of destroying a place of worship. They had faced a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but Suppiah sentenced them to five years each.