World Bulletin / News Desk
The Vatican's first envoy to Malaysia has opened a storm of controversy by apparently supporting the use of the word "Allah" by Christians, prompting a rebuke from the government and condemnation from nationalist Malay groups in the majority-Muslim country.
The row underlines growing intolerance in the multi-ethnic, multi-religious country following an election in May that deepened the divide between majority Muslim Malays and minority ethnic Chinese, many of whom are Christian.
Archbishop Joseph Marino was summoned to the foreign ministry on Tuesday after his comments last week on the issue.
"Archbishop Marino was advised to be mindful of the religious sensitivities of the host country and that the issue he commented on is still under the Court of Appeal," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Marino, who arrived in the country in April, apologised for any "misunderstandings and inconveniences" his comments may have caused, but some Muslim organisations have demanded a full retraction or the envoy's expulsion.
"The ambassador's comment has touched on the sensitivities of Muslims and should not have happened, more so in the (fasting) month of Ramadan," Hassan Ali, the head of JATI, an Islamic group, was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.
In his first media interview since starting his new role, Marino said last week he supported the arguments made by the Christian Federation of Malaysia on why Christians should be allowed to use Allah.
"In terms of how they presented the arguments in favour, it seems to be quite logical and acceptable," he said.
A Catholic newspaper, the Herald, successfully challenged the government's ban on the use of the word Allah by Christians in 2009. The government, which argued that the use of the Arabic word might offend the sensitivities of Muslims, is planning to appeal the High Court decision.
Scholars say Christians in Malaysia's two states on Borneo island have been using Allah to mean God for over 100 years, mainly as they use Indonesian translations of the Bible.
Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million population, see using the word Allah in Christian publications, including Bibles, as attempts to proselytise.
On Tuesday, the chief minister of Kedah state, Mukhriz Mahathir, said the state government would not allow the word Allah to be used by non-Muslims in their holy books.
"We cannot accept their excuses because hidden behind those excuses is the aim of turning Muslims into disbelievers of the religion," Bernama reported Mukhriz, a son of long-serving former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, as saying.
Christians, including about 800,000 Catholics, make up about 9.1 percent of Malaysia's population. Malays are by definition Muslims and are not allowed to convert.
Crimean Tatars oppose joining with Russia, as they fear a repeat of the events of 1944 when Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ethnically cleansed them from their homeland.
American bloggers Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who like Geert Wilders were also banned from entering the UK after being invited to speak to English Defence League members, will also be on the panel.
Legoland Winsor was due to host a private party for Muslim children on Sunday.
Maksat Hajji Toktomushev has been elected as the new grand mufti of Kyrgyzstan.
Chris Johannides, who is of Greek Cypriot origin, was banned by the Conservative Party after he compared Muslim womens' burkas to black dustbin liners.
Quebec survey says a draft law to ban state employees from wearing religious symbols is targeting women who wear a headscarf.
The council had described the killing of endangered animals as "unethical, immoral and sinful", council official Asrorun Ni'am Sholeh.
The opening of the museum was attended by many notables including Yusuf Islam, formerly known as the musician Cat Stevens. “It is a fantastic project and it is going to grow… it is just going to grow”, Yusuf Islam was quoted by SBS.
A former anti-Islamist politician, Arnoud van Doorn, has started a new Islamic party in Holland after accepting Islam.
'It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care – for their own safety and for the safety of the public,' Boris Johnson said.
The mosque in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is due to be open by 2015.
As well as Muslim women, Sikh men, who are also required to cover their hair, will also benefit from the new rule change.
The new scheme, which is currently being tested at the holy mosque in Mecca, may soon make its way to the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, Islam's second holiest site.
In the video, which is set in Ancient Egypt with the singer posing as Cleopatra, she was seen zapping a man wearing pendant with the name of Allah on it to dust.
Legoland cancels day for Muslim families after threats from far-right extremists.
"[Al-Azhar] will not, under any circumstances, accept the Zionist occupation's control over Al-Aqsa," Ahmed al-Tayeb said in a statement.