KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Vandals threw stones at a Sikh temple, adding to religious tensions over a string of attacks on churches in this Muslim-majority country, police said Wednesday.
The church attacks – since Friday eight have been hit with firebombs and one with paint – came after a court overturned a government ban and allowed a Catholic newspaper, the Herald, to use the word “Allah” to refer to God. Some of the Sikh scriptures also use the world “Allah,” but that is a little-known fact outside the community.
Some 20 small stones were thrown into the compound of a gurdwara, or Sikh temple, late Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur’s Sentul neighbourhood, district police chief Zakaria Pagan told The Associated Press.
He said only a mirror in the front portion of the temple, which is more than 100 years old, was damaged and there were no injuries.
Stones also were thrown at a telecom building next door. A temple volunteer and office building security guard were alerted when the stones hit the buildings, but didn’t see any suspects, he said.
Pagan said police believe the incident was “mischief,” and unrelated to attacks on the churches.
Temple chief Gurdial Singh said he was surprised by the attack but not concerned, describing it as an isolated incident by “someone taking advantage of the situation.”
“We have already done our prayers,” he said. “To us, it’s a small issue.” However, Sikhs are not going to stop using “Allah,” he told the AP.
Singh said Sikhs are adamant about using Allah. He said there are some 120,000 Sikhs in Malaysia. Some of their holy scriptures use the word “Allah” to refer to God.
“We cannot change our scriptures… I think the government has not handled it properly. We need dialogue … As far as we are concerned we are doing our prayers (using Allah). There is no way any law is stopping us,” he said.
The Muslim-dominated government argues “Allah” is exclusive to Islam and forbids non-Muslims from using it. The Arabic word, which predates Islam, is routinely used by Christians in other Muslim countries such as Egypt, Syria and Indonesia.
The Malaysian government ban is over the use of “Allah” only in published material and not in everyday verbal use by the country’s various ethnic minorities, who form about 40 per cent of the country’s 28 million people.
About 60 per cent of Malaysians are Malay Muslims. Ethnic Chinese are 25 per cent and ethnic Indians are 10 per cent. Christians are found among both the minorities, but more than 70 per cent of Malaysian Christians are indigenous people of the remote states of Sabah and Sarwak on Borneo. Overall, Christians are 9 per cent of the population
Sikhs, who are also ethnic Indians, number about 120,000. Most ethnic Indians are Hindus while Chinese are largely Buddhists.