Islamic governments are campaigning against the “defamation” of religion–that is, criticizing Islam. Yet Islamic governments routinely persecute members of minority faiths. Even Malaysia, a reasonably moderate Muslim nation, is not free of past abuse. But a recent surge in violence against Christians demonstrates how even a small number of Islamic radicals can effectively dominate Muslim societies and terrorize non-Muslim minorities.
A ninth church was vandalized Monday in Malaysia in a series of arson attacks that have raised religious tensions surrounding a dispute over the use of the word “Allah” by Christians in this mostly Muslim nation.
“Allah” is the common term for God in Malay-language Bibles, but the government and many Muslim groups insist that the word should be reserved for use in Islam.
The attacks, which began on Friday, came after a court ruling on Dec. 31 that overturned a government ban on the use of “Allah” by Christians. That ruling has been stayed while the government appeals.
This is a moment of truth for the Malaysian government. If it wants to play a leading international role, it must protect its religious minorities–not only their lives, but their right to practice their faith. Otherwise it will have little more moral credibility than Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, true hellholes of religious persecution.
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