Malaysia charges 3 Muslims for church firebombing

— Malaysian prosecutors charged three Muslim men Friday in the firebombing of achurch — the first suspects in a string of assaults on places of worship amid adispute over whether non-Muslims can refer to God as "Allah."

Arson attacks, vandalism and otherincidents at 11 churches, a Sikh temple, three mosques and two Muslim prayerhalls in recent weeks have been a blow to decades of multiracial harmony inthis Muslim-majority country.

The attacks, which started onchurches, followed anger among Muslims over a December 31 court verdict thatallowed non-Muslims to use "Allah" as a translation for"God" in the Malay language. Many Malaysian Muslims believe the wordshould be exclusive to their religion, and that its use by others could confusesome Muslims and even tempt them to convert.

Three suspects pleaded innocent ina Kuala Lumpur district court Friday to starting a fire that partially gutted aProtestant church on January 8, said government lawyer Anselm CharlesFernandis. It was the first and most serious of all the attacks on churches, mostof which suffered only minor damage.