DIGEST

Attacks on Christian churches raise concerns in Malaysia

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

MALAYSIA

Fears over attacks on Christian churches

Malaysia sought Monday to contain attacks on Christian churches and allay international concerns amid fears that the violence could polarize the country's multiracial society and deter overseas investors.

Police are investigating at least 10 acts of violence in the past four days, including several arson attacks, all believed to be prompted by a Dec. 31 court ruling allowing a Catholic newspaper to use the Arabic word "Allah" to refer to God in its Malay-language section.

"These outrageous incidents are acts of extremism and designed to weaken our diverse communities' shared commitment to strengthen racial unity," Mahmood Adam, the Home Ministry's secretary general, told reporters after briefing foreign diplomats in Putrajaya, near Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia has been largely free of the violence by Islamist groups that has fueled insurgencies in the Philippines and Thailand and attacks on Western targets in Indonesia. Some fear that stability may be threatened by the politicization of religion as political parties vie for the votes of the country's Muslim majority.

Monday morning, scorch marks were found on the main entrance door of a church in Seremban, Negri Sembilan state, the Star newspaper reported, citing police. Molotov cocktails hit a church and convent without causing significant damage in separate incidents Sunday.

-- Bloomberg News

ISRAEL

Fences ordered on Egyptian border

Israel's prime minister has ordered the construction of two massive fences along the long and porous southern border with Egypt, saying he wants to stem a growing flood of African asylum seekers and to prevent Islamist militants from entering the country.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the structure would help preserve Israel's Jewish majority, while providing a layer of protection along an open border with an area suspected of having an al-Qaeda presence.

The two fences will cover nearly half of the 150-mile border. One section will be near the Red Sea port of Eilat. The other will be in southwest Israel, near the Gaza Strip town of Rafah.


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